North Cascades National Park

Overview

Jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers adorn the North Cascades National Park Complex. Three park units in this mountainous region are managed as one and include North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. These complementary protected lands are united by a contiguous overlay of Stephen Mather Wilderness. Outdoor activities, scenic vistas, and educational opportunities abound. Stop by a visitor center and enjoy an interpretive talk or a walk with a ranger. Visit the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and stretch your legs at one of the stops along the scenic North Cascades Highway. Have a picnic, or go camping with the family. Take a trip into the wilderness for a premier backpacking or climbing experience. Ride the Lady of the Lake to the historic and unique town of Stehekin in the heart of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Take a class from the North Cascades Institute at the new Environmental Learning Center. Go fishing in a lake or river. Perhaps, even take a rafting trip down a river! Have a horse? Stock are welcome on many of the trails. The name "Stehekin" is based on a local Native American word meaning "the way through". The Stehekin Valley has long served as a passageway for travelers, linking Washington's interior wilderness to the rugged Cascade Mountains. Today Stehekin offers vistors an escape from the hustle of the modern day world. Nestled at the headwaters of Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in America, the Stehekin community lives life a little slower. Connected to the outside world only by foot, boat or plane, the voyage to Stehekin is part of your experience and once you've arrived a variety of historical, cultural, and outdoor activities will connect you with the majestic surroundings. Stehekin serves as a hub to explore the 61,958-acre Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and a gateway to the rest of the North Cascades National Park Complex, Stephen Mather Wilderness, and adjacent National Forest Wilderness Areas.

Map

Seasonality / Weather

North Cascades National Park is open every day of the year. Winter weather however, tends to dictate when most visitor facilities and roads are open. Generally from late May to late October, facilities are open to welcome the increase in summer visitors.

The best weather for visiting the North Cascades generally occurs between mid-June and late-September. Snow is off all but the highest trails by July. Autumn and Spring are becoming more popular for visits since car tours of the Skagit, Okanogan and Stehekin Valleys are enticing for color and wildlife during the less busy "shoulder seasons." Day hikes are excellent and give a great taste of the wilderness, whenever the weather is good. Storms are common: always be prepared for a few days of rain and wind. Warm, waterproof clothing and a tent are necessary for spring, fall and winter trips into the backcountry. Heavy snow and rain, at high elevations, characterize the North Cascades every winter. Avalanches are common in winter and spring in these steep mountains and even in places along the North Cascades Highway.

The east side of the Cascade Mountains (such as Stehekin in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area) is drier and warmer in the summer than the west side. Summer temperatures at Stehekin reach the 90s F. Winter at Stehekin and at all elevations above 2,000 feet throughout the park complex may be snow covered from late fall into spring.

Directions

Driving: 

Primary access to the North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake National Recreation Area is off of State Route 20, which connects to I-5 (Exit 230) at Burlington. From November through April, SR 20 is closed from Ross Dam Trailhead to Lone Fir. The only road access to the shore of Ross Lake is via the Silver-Skagit Road (gravel) from near Hope, British Columbia. There is no car access to Stehekin and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Take Highway 2 to Chelan where passenger ferry and plane access is available. There is also trail access off of SR 20.

Flying: 

The nearest major airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Seatac) near Seattle, Washington. Chelan Airways (509-682-5555) provides floatplane access to Stehekin in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

Public Transport: 

Greyhound (1-800-229-9424) offers transport along the I-5 corridor in Western Washington and to Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. Connections to county bus systems for Skagit and Whatcom Counties (SKAT and WTA) are possible but do not reach into the park complex on the westside of the mountains. From Wenatchee, the Link Transit public bus system (no Sunday service) in Chelan County (1-509-662-1155) connects to the passenger ferry at Chelan allowing foot passengers to visit Stehekin by boat. A van shuttle is available in the Stehekin valley from the Stehekin Landing and runs to various lodges, camps and trailheads up valley.

Passenger boats provide round-trip service between Chelan and Stehekin with scheduled stops at Field's Point and Lucerne. Daily service is available form mid-March through early fall with reduced service during the winter months. For more information including current schedules visit www.ladyofthelake.com.

Amtrak (1-800-872-7245) offers transport along the I-5 corridor in Western Washington and to Wenatchee in Eastern Washington. Very little of the park is accessible via public transportation. Contact the park (360 854-7200) for more information.