North Cascades National Park

Biking | Boating | Camping | Climbing | Fishing | Hiking




The North Cascades National Park Service Complex includes North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas. North Cascades National Park contains some of America's most beautiful scenery -- jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls and over 300 glaciers -- within its 505,000 acres (202,000 hectares). Ross Lake National Recreation Area (118,000 acres, 47,200 hectares) is the corridor for scenic Washington State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, and includes three reservoirs: 12,000-acre (4,800-hectare) Ross Lake, 910-acre (364-hectare) Diablo Lake, and 210-acre (84-hectare) Gorge Lake -- water gateways to more remote areas. Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (62,000 acres, 24,800 hectares) rests in a glacially carved trough in the Cascades Range. Lake Chelan is one of the nation's deepest, reaching a depth of 1,500 feet (450 meters). It offers boating, fishing, and lakeshore camping. The average width is less than two miles (3.2 kilometers), but Lake Chelan extends 50 miles (83 kilometers) into the Cascade Mountains. The lake's northernmost four miles (6.4 kilometers) are in the National Recreation Area, including the remote community of Stehekin and the Stehekin River Valley.

Over 93% of the three areas comprising the Complex are included in the Stephen Mather Wilderness, established in 1988 (Public Law 100-668). This Wilderness was named in honor of the first director of the National Park Service.



Park Information

Hours/Sesons:  The park and recreation areas are always open, but access is limited by snow in winter. Note that State Route 20 (North Cascades Scenic Highway), the major access to Ross Lake NRA, is partially closed from approximately mid-November to mid-April. Exact opening and closing dates depend on weather, snow depths, and avalanche hazards.

Directions:  Access to the North Cascades and Ross Lake area is from I-5 at Burlington, west of the mountains, and Twisp, on the east, following Washington State Route (SR) 20 with branch routes to Baker Lake (Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest)and the Cascade River. The park and recreation areas are always open, but access is limited by snow in winter. Note that State Route 20 (North Cascades Scenic Highway), the major access to Ross Lake NRA, is partially closed from approximately mid-November to mid-April. Exact opening and closing dates depend on weather, snow depths, and avalanche hazards. Two roads, both gravel, enter North Cascades National Park itself: the Cascade River Road from Marblemount and the Stehekin Valley Road. Note that the latter does not connect to any roads outside the Stehekin Valley. There are no road connections to Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (access by trail, passenger ferry, and floatplane.) The only road access to the shore of Ross Lake is via the Silver-Skagit Road (gravel) from near Hope, British Columbia.

Lake Chelan Dock Fee Pass - $10/month or $40/Annual

Northwest Forest Pass - $5/month or $30/Annual

Wilderness Permit - Free!
A free Wilderness Permit is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The principal places to obtain these are the Wilderness Information Station in Marblemount, Washington, and the Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin, Washington.

Weather:  Generally, the best weather for visiting the North Cascades occurs between mid-June and late-September. Snow is usually off all but the highest trails by July (though this can vary greatly from year to year). Summer storms can be common: always be prepared for a few days of rain and wind. Particularly if you are going into high and remote areas, take good, light rain gear and a tent. Warm, waterproof clothing and a tent are virtually mandatory for spring, fall and winter trips into the backcountry. Heavy snow and rain, depending on elevation, characterize the North Cascades from fall into spring. Avalanches are common in winter and spring in the higher country and 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 (such as the portion of Ross Lake National Recreation Area along the North Cascades Highway). Summer temperatures at Stehekin reach the 90's F. Winter at Stehekin and at all elevations above the lowest throughout the park complex is snowy from fall into spring.


The Cascades rank among the world's great mountain ranges. Extending from Canada's Fraser River south beyond Oregon, they contribute greatly to shaping the Pacific Northwest's climate and vegetation. The North Cascades National Park Complex sits deep in wild, nearly impenetrable northernmost reaches of the Cascade Range in northwestern Washington.

Mountains do not stop at the park boundaries. Only an invisible boundary separates the two national park units from the two national recreation areas, adjoining national forest lands, and provincial park, recreation areas, and Crown lands of neighboring Canada to the north. Evidence abounds that Indians used the Cascades area, but we know little about their use, and history has touched little of the area. Forest giants of western red cedar and Douglas-fir dot the deep valleys. Off the trail, tangled growths of alder, vine maple, stinging nettles, and devil's club still defy crosscountry hikers. Glaciers scored by crevasses, permanent snowfields, and sheer-walled cliffs, spires, and pinnacles challenge mountaineers. From the North Cascades Highway, on clear days, you may catch glimpses of alpine wonders that lie just beyond.



Biking is popular along State Route 20.  The route covers several campgrounds, overviews, lakes and visitor centers.  See the map below for details.



Mileposts along the route:

Milepost 105
North Cascades Wilderness Information Center
(1 mi. north on Ranger Station Road): Permits and Information, water, phone, toilets.

Milepost 106
(elev. 320') - Town of Marblemount: Food, phone, toilets & limited supplies.

Milepost 119.5
(elev. 500') - Goodell Creek Campground: Camp & picnic, water & toilets

Milepost 119-110
small westbound shoulder

Milepost 119.9
North Cascades National Park Visitor Center
(0.7 mi. from river bridge): Information, phone, toilets & water. Newhalem Creek Campground: Camping, toilets, water & picnicking.

Milepost 120.6
(elev. 500') - Town of Newhalem, Skagit General Store: Toilets & last eastbound food & phone before Mazama (Milepost 180).

Milepost 122.4
CAUTION: Tunnel #1
- Stop and activate "Bikes in Tunnel" safety light switch. Be aware of car traffic. Remove sunglasses & turn on lights.

Milepost 123.4
Gorge Creek Falls, Gorge Overlook Trail
CAUTION: Gorge Creek Falls Bridge (grated) can be slippery when wet.

Milepost 124
Tunnel #2
- car traffic

Milepost 126
Junction to Seattle City Light town of Diablo: (no services, tours & emergency phone); State Route 20 crosses over Gorge Lake.

Milepost 130
(elev. 1200') - Colonial Creek Campground: Camp & picnic, trails, water & toilets.

Milepost 132
Diablo Lake Overlook
: Toilets, views. Please do not feed wildlife.
CAUTION: cross traffic.

Milepost 134
Happy Creek Forest Walk
(0.3 mi. loop boardwalk): Toilets, trailside interpretation.

Milepost 157.7
(elev. 4800') - Rainy Pass Picnic Area: Toilets, trailheads.

Milepost 162.4
(elev. 5477') - Washington Pass Overlook (1 mi. to overlook): Toilets, views & water.

Milepost 168.5
(elev. 3600) - Lone Fir Campground: Camping, toilets, trailhead & water.

Milepost 177.7
(elev. 2200') - Early Winters Campground: Camping, toilets & water.

Milepost 180
Town of Mazama: Food, water, toilets and phone.

Milepost 193
Town of Winthrop: Information, food, water, toilets, bike supplies & phone.



Two graded-cement boat ramps at Hozomeen (Ross Lake) are normally usable from mid-June through September. Canoes, kayaks and small craft can be launched at Colonial Creek Campground and boated five miles to the end of Diablo Lake. Boats and gear must be portaged around Ross Dam over a mile long gravel road with 600 foot elevation gain. For a fee, Ross Lake Resort will haul canoes or motorboats under 14-feet over the portage.  Numerous boat landing sites exist on Lake Chelan, including the Stehekin Landing.  Numerous boat-in campsites are available in Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas.



Many public campgrounds in the North Cascades are accessible by road. Campgrounds fill quickly on holiday and summer weekends. Reservations can be made 3-240 days in advance for many Forest Service campgrounds by calling 1-877-444-6777 or on-line: Washington State Parks reserve some sites by calling 1-800-452-5687. North Cascades National Park does not offer individual camping reservations (first come-first serve).



Rock and weather conditions are both severe in the North Cascades. Just getting to the peaks challenges many mountaineers. Hazards of unfamiliarity confront even seasoned climbers on their first North Cascades climbs. Mountain climbing here requires previous experience; safe, adequate, tested equipment and gear; the best current, local information on weather and conditions that you can obtain; and good technical skill matched by caution and commonsense.

Please remember that all overnight climbing trips require that you get a free backcountry use permit. The Marblemount Ranger Station is the backcountry and climbing information station for the Skagit District. The Golden West Visitor Center provides backcountry and climbing information for the Stehekin District.

Also note that there is a trailhead parking fee required at entry points such as Boston Basin, Eldorado Basin and Cascade Pass. The complete list of trailheads included in the Fee Demo Program is available at Ranger Stations.



Archaeological records prove humans have been fishing in the Cascade Mountains for at least 8,000 years. The rivers, streams, ponds, and alpine lakes of North Cascades National Park and Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas provide opportunities to fish in the spectacular and unspoiled environment of the Cascades.

Native Rainbow, Cutthroat and Eastern Brook trout are the most commonly caught fish in Ross Lake. A Washington State fishing license is required for the Ross Lake fishing season of July 1 - October 31. A limit of three Rainbow trout at least 13" applies. Closed waters on Ross Lake include all of Ruby Creek, 1/4 mile upstream from closed markers at the mouth of Big Beaver, and one mile up stream on all other tributaries.



Lower elevation trails are usually accessible from early April through mid-October. Higher elevation trails (which is most of the North Cascades backcountry), however, do not open until mid-July and remain accessible through late September. There are 386 miles of maintained trails, many steeply taking you to absolutely breathtaking alpine scenery, and over 200 designated backcountry campsites.

The Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking anywhere along the Cascade River Road in North Cascades National Park and at the following trailheads: Thornton Lakes, Pyramid Lake, Ross Dam, East Bank/Panther Creek. This vehicle pass is the same one required in many of the National Forests in Washington and Oregon, including the 3 which neighbor the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. A one day pass costs $5 and is good from midnight to midnight. An annual pass costs $30. The passes are available at visitor centers, information stations, and offices in the national park, in National Forests in Washington and Oregon and certain stores. It is also possible to order the pass by calling 1-800-627-0062.

Permits (free) are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Camping is only permitted at designated campsites or in a cross-country manner (which requires you to be more than 1/2 mile (.83 km) from trails and more than one mile (1.7 km) from designated campsites). Party size is limited to 12 (6 in cross-country zones) and campfires are prohibited in subalpine areas. Pets are not allowed on any trail in North Cascades National Park except the Pacific Crest Trail, where they must be on a leash. Leashed pets are allowed on trails within Ross Lake and Lake Chelan NRA.

Trail Guides:



For Additional Information Contact:

North Cascades National Park
2105 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-9394
(360) 856-5700


For more information visit the National Park Service website