North Cascades National Park
810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284-1239
If you like glaciers, you'll love North Cascades National Park in northern Washington. This park -- located about 90 minutes north of Seattle by car -- contains more than 300 glaciers. Visitors to this park enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, and boating amidst the beautiful landscape. In the park's Stehekin Valley, visitors can wilderness camp without having to backpack in, thanks to a shuttle that carries campers to and from the site.
Entrance fees: Admission is free.
Visitor center: North Cascades Visitor Center is open daily from mid-April through mid-November, weekends only the rest of the year. Golden West Visitor Center is open daily during the summer.
Other services: An information center, a ranger station, two lodges, and seven campgrounds
Accommodations: Colonial Creek Campground and Goodell Creek Campground are open year-round; other campgrounds are open seasonally. North Cascades Stehekin Lodge (509-682-4494) is open year-round. Ross Lake Resort (206-386-4437) is open from early June through late October.
Visiting North Cascades National Park
With the last light, the sun slips below the Pacific horizon and bathes the high mountains in a pink glow that warms their soaring, glacier-scoured peaks, ragged ridges, and cloud-piercing spires. These are the North Cascades, the heart of a mighty range that begins in Canada and penetrates far south into the United States. This is a land of mountains and ice. More than 300 glaciers are concentrated in Washington's North Cascades National Park -- many more than can be found anywhere else in the United States south of Alaska.
The looming presence of mountains also defines this park. Here you will find soaring, glacier-scoured peaks, spires that pierce the clouds, ragged ridges, alpine tarns, and flower-bedazzled meadows in cirques below the mountain summits. On the flanks of the mountains, forests of fir and pine surround tranquil lakes and deep glacial valleys.
North Cascades National Park is also a land of special sounds. On warm days, you can hear the booming crack of sloughing ice and the thunderous roar of avalanches. When the weather is bad, thunder blasts up the valleys and circles around the peaks, while the wind rushes between the mountains and ridges, and down the slopes of glaciers. And always, in this mountain range that was named for its innumerable cascading waterfalls, there is the sound of falling water.
The mountains themselves create another kind of division within the park. Moist prevailing winds blow in from Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Flowing up the western slopes and cooling as they rise, the moist winds condense into rain and snow. The west side of the park is covered by lush green forests of Douglas fir, western red cedar, and hemlock, which grow to towering heights because the trees receive more than 100 inches of precipitation a year.
By contrast, the eastern slope of the mountains, lying in the rain shadow of the great peaks, receives on average only a little more than 30 inches of precipitation a year. Douglas firs on the east side of the mountains reach only half the height of firs on the western slope. Moisture-loving hemlocks do not grow here at all; instead the eastern slopes foster trees that tolerate dryness, such as ponderosa and other pine trees.
The beautiful wilderness of North Cascades National Park provides many activities for visitors. On the next page, we'll talk about sightseeing opportunities in the North Cascades.