Best Things to Do at North Cascades National Park

One of America’s largest, North Cascades National Park located in Washington, 3 hours from Seattle, is famous for its breathtaking views. But this is not only the reason that it has been the favorite destination of many. The history it beholds attracts people from around the world to study its early settlers and their culture. It was first settled by Paleo-Indian Native Americans, and when the European-Americans arrived, it was inhabited by Skagit Tribes. But apart from learning, this park offers you to enjoy a variety of activities like boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and much more. Once you are here, you have ample things to do at North cascades national park, as it has something to entertain everyone.


How to reach north cascades national park?

It is located near Ross lake and lake Chelan national recreational areas. You can travel by car or public transport from Seattle, it is 3 hours from there. Or you can access it from the State Route 20 corridor. SR 20 connects with Interstate 5 at Burlington (exit 230). From the east, the highway intersects with US 97 at Okanogan and with SR 153 at Twisp.  

Remember, in winter the State Department of  Transportation closes the portion of the road between Ross Dam Trailhead and Lone Fir campground. And if you plan a visit to Lake Chelan National park Recreation Area, then it is accessible by ferry or plane from Chelan.

Things to do at North Cascades National Park

The beautiful hills, waterfalls, and lakes of the north cascades welcome you to explore nature in the most adventurous way. You can go on hiking and along enjoy the breathtaking view of deep forest valleys and over 300 glaciers. Or you can just relax alongside a lake and reconnect with nature. Given the ultimate serenity it offers in the lapse of nature, north cascades have been the favorite of all of its visitors. Though not very populated, the number of reviews tells you that it is a place you can visit during the summer holidays or between May and September. Below are a few things to do at North Cascades national park:


As the reviews mention,  North Cascades is great for hiking with different lengths and levels of trails. From accessible trails and short strolls to steep mountain hikes, People can choose the one according to their time and resources. Though open throughout the year, the best hiking experience is offered in the summer months from mid-June to September. 

Sometimes the higher elevation trails often remain snow-covered till July giving you the most amazing view of snow-covered mountains. Also, note that precipitation and snowfall are greatest from November through march so carry the proper hiking gear along if planning. Check out our blog for hiking gear. The few mentioned trails are Skagit River Loop, Blue Lake, Rainy Lake and the Trail of the Cedars, and many more. check out our hiking guide here.

Camping :

The first and foremost thing to do if planning for camp at North cascades, is to make a reservation. All the campgrounds along State Route 20 are allotted based on reservations that are accepted during specified seasons. You can book through They can be even open before or after the season date and will be allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can enjoy drive-in camping and boat-in camping as well. Some of the campgrounds to mention are:

  • Newhalem Campground is a comfortable facility close to town the Visitor Center
  • Gorge lake campground is located next to the cascading Stetattle Creek.
  • Goodell Creek Campground is situated on the banks of the Skagit River.
  • Lower Goodell Creek group Campground on the banks of Goodell Creek.
  • Stehekin offers camping from lakesides to quiet roadside camps.

Points to remember for Camping:
  • Camping is limited to 14 days from July 1 through Labor Day (the first Monday in September) and to 30 days the rest of the year.
  • Also, the Campsite occupancy is limited to eight people, three tents, and two vehicles per site.
  • Overnight camping or parking is only allowed in designated campgrounds or campsites.
  • Pack all the camping essentials as firewood, ice, gas, and other services are not available in the park complex.

North Cascades national park bisected by Ross Lake National Recreation Area, consists of two districts northern and southern. It is located in portions of Whatcom, Skagit, and Chelan Counties in the U.S. state of Washington. With multiple lakes and streams through this park, it let you enjoy Kayaking, canoeing, and motor boating. 

A few lakes to mention are Gorge, Diablo, Ross lakes, and Lake Chelan. Ramps and launches are located at Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake, the north end of Ross Lake at Hozomeen, and Lake Chelan.

Note that Ross lake is not accessible by car from State Route 20. The Ross lake resort rents boats, motorboats, Kayaks, Canoes, and water taxi services for Ross Lake.  

Points you must note before going boating:
  • Wear a fitting Life jacket
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Wear light synthetic clothes.
  • Boating under the influence is illegal and not permitted.

North Cascades National Park with its much of undiscovered routes, allows you to explore the region on your bicycle.  It can be exciting and sometimes challenging as the riding routes may vary. It can be sometimes Leisure and quiet like in lower Stehekin Valley and sometimes steep and crowded like in Skagit River gorge on Highway 20.

Remember that bicycling here is only permitted on roads open to public vehicles and not on trails. And cyclists should always be ready with food and water as State Route 20 is very remote. Don’t forget to carry essential equipment required to make roadside repairs.

Cyclists can also enjoy camping on two bicycle campground sites, Newhalem Creek Campground site A3 and Colonial Creek south site 115. The sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, free of cost. And campers with vehicles can also occupy this site for one night if it remains unoccupied after 8 pm.

Points to remember:
  • Cyclists should be prepared to experience variable weather.
  • Carry sunscreen, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and water to keep you protected from the sun.
  • For night bicycle riding, a white front light (not a reflector) visible for 500 feet and a red rear reflector are required.
  • Carry waterproof clothing and warmers. Water-resistant hand gloves and socks will come in hand

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