North Cascades National Park

The Land
Lower Fisher Basin in North Cascades National Park
Lower Fisher Basin in North Cascades National Park (courtesy, National Park Service)

From its inception in 1968, North Cascades National Park was among the first national parks to be managed as wilderness. There is very little development within the park. Hotels, restaurants, stores, and other artifacts of civilization are outside the park's boundaries; inside, wild flora and fauna exist in an ecosystem largely untouched by humans.

Although North Cascades National Park was managed as wilderness from the very beginning, it was not until 1988 that its management policies were given the strength of law. In that year, Congress designated 93 percent of the entire North Cascades Complex as the Stephen Mather Wilderness. Only the Highway 20 corridor and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan and narrow strips of their shorelines are not designated as wilderness.

Twenty-nine years after North Cascades National Park was established, it remains one of the most unspoiled, intact wild areas in the United States. It is home to hundreds of species of birds, plants, and animals whose populations are declining elsewhere due to human-caused killing and habitat loss.

North Cascades National Park is part of a 10,000-square-mile recovery zone in the North Cascades ecosystem for the grizzly bear, an animal threatened with extinction in the lower 48 states. The North Cascades is one of only six areas in the United States determined to have the right habitat and to be wild enough for grizzlies.

Wolves, which are on the endangered species list, have recently been returned to the North Cascades after being mercilessly banned from the region decades earlier. There is very good evidence that wolves are living and passing through North Cascades National Park Complex and surrounding areas.

North Cascades is surrounded by wilderness on national forest land: Mount Baker , Glacier Peak , Pasayten, and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth. The defining characteristic of North Cascades National Park is wildness; the best way to experience that wildness is to leave civilization behind and hit the trail.


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »