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)
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 widthis 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.
PLANE - Nearest major airport is Seatac near Seattle, Washington.
CAR -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.
Weather & Climate
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 North Cascades Visitor Center, Sedro-Woolley information station, and Wilderness Information Office are fully accessible. The approach to the Golden West Visitor Center is an unpaved, sloping path which can be negotiated with assistance. There is a ramp into the center itself. The Sterling Munro Trail at the North Cascades Visitor Center and the Happy Creek Forest Walk at milepost 135 on S.R.20 are fully accessible boardwalk paths. The latter is a 1/3 mile (1/2 kilometer) loop through ancient forest. The River Loop Trail, Linking Trail and Newhalem Creek Rockshelter Trail, all in the vicinity of the North Cascades Visitor Center, are accessible trails with good surfaces and less than 10% grade throughout. The Rockshelter Trail ends in a boardwalk providing a view and interpretation of an archeological site. East of Newhalem along the North Cascades Highway is the Gorge Overlook Trail, a portion of which is paved and fully accessible and the remainder of which is accessible at a challenge level or with assistance. There are accessible campsites and restrooms in the park's campgrounds along State Route 20 and an accessible picnic shelter near the Goodell Creek Campground.
Colonial Creek Campground
Open Summer Period Only
Located in old growth forest on the shore of Diablo Lake. 162 sites, some fully accessible. Fee: $12/night. Boat ramp. Dump station. Potable water. No firewood collecting but firewood can be purchased during summer. Trailhead (Thunder Creek Trail). Nightly amphitheater programs in summer.
Goodell Creek Campground
Open All Year
Located in old growth forest on the banks of the Skagit River. 21sites. Raft/kayak launch and covered picnic shelter naerby. Fee: $10/night. Potable water from Spring into Fall. No firewood collecting but firewood can be purchased at nearby Newhalem Creek Campground during summer.
Newhalem Creek Campground
Open Summer Period Only
Just off the North Cascades Highway near milepost 120 and across the Skagit River. Visitor Center and complex of short interpretive trails nearby. Nightly fee: $12. Potable water, dump station. Firewood collecting prohibited. Firewood available for sale in summer. Ranger-presented evening programs in campground amphitheaters weekends in summer. Group camp (reservations needed and picnic area nearby).
The N. Cascades Hwy goes through Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Cascade River Road leaves S.R.20 at Marblemount, WA, to more trailheads. Bus services in the Stehekin Valley (Lake Chelan National Recreation Area)are provided by the NPS and the Stehekin Adventure Company. Service from Stehekin Landing to High Bridge (11 miles/18 km), is available May 19 through October 15, 2000. NPS bus service from High Bridge 4.6 miles to Bridge Ck (Pacific Crest Trail) begins June 16, snow and road conditions permitting. It is anticipated that the service will begin operating to Glory Mountain (20.1 miles from the Landing and the present end of the road) July 1. From there hike 11.2 miles (17.9 km)over Cascade Pass to the Cascade River Rd. There are many trailheads and camps along the Stehekin Valley Road. Reservations not needed for the Stehekin Adventure bus but highly recommended (required May 19 - June 15) for the NPS shuttle buses due to smaller capacity. To reserve, call (360) 856-5700 ext. 340, then 14. One-way fares for either bus: $5/adult;$3/child (12 and under) between Stehekin Landing and High Bridge. An additional $5/adult, $3/child, $3/bicycle each way for the shuttle bus between High Bridge and Bridge Crk or Glory Mtn. Reservations can also be made in person at visitor centers or when obtaining backcountry permits.