North Cascades National Park


When the last ice age climaxed about 14,000 years ago, a continental ice sheet nearly a mile thick covered most areas of the North Cascades. The alpine glaciers you see today are comparatively young, but they continue to grind, sculpt, and reshape the landscape.

The North Cascades are the most densely glaciated mountains in the contiguous United States. Glaciers form when more snow accumulates each winter than melts and evaporates during warmer weather. The enormous weight of that accumulation recrystallizes the snow into ice, and the glacier begins to flow downhill. Glaciers can flow several feet per year, and it is this movement that distinguishes glaciers from non-moving ice fields.

Glaciers are vitally important to the region's ecology and hydrology. They influence vegetation growth, move and carve rock, and add minerals to the ecosystem. During times of year when little rain falls, meltwater accounts for all of the water in some streams.

These are worth catching...

Mt. Baker National Recreation Area: The trails on the south side of Mt. Baker provide tremendous views of glaciation at work. Six-mile-long Scott Paul Trail crosses the terminal moraine on Squak Glacier. Railroad Grade Trail deposits hikers at the Easton Glacier on Mt. Baker.

State Route 20: Glaciers on Colonial and Pyramid Peaks are visible from Diablo Overlook at milepost 132. You can view spectacular glaciers on Johannesburg Peak from the Cascade Pass parking area at the end of Cascade River Road.

State Route 542: From Glacier Creek Road (#39) take Heliotrope Ridge Trail to Mt. Baker's Coleman Glacier and dynamic views. From Heather Meadows, several of the nine glaciers that surround Mt. Shuksan are visible along Picture Lake Path. View some of the 13 glaciers surrounding Mt. Baker from the Artist Ridge Trail.


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »