North Cascades National Park

Stattale Creek, North Cascades National Park
Stattale Creek, North Cascades National Park (Image Source/Getty)

North Cascades National Park contains some of America's most breathtakingly beautiful scenery—high jagged peaks, ridges, slopes, and countless cascading waterfalls. The park's 505,000 acres encompass some 318 glaciers, more than half of all glaciers in the contiguous United States.

The Park Complex includes North Cascades National Park and two National Recreation Areas: Ross Lake and Lake Chelan. The Stehekin District and Lake Chelan NRA encompass the upper 4.5 miles of Lake Chelan and the Stehekin Valley. There are few roads into the park, but views into the park can be enjoyed on clear days from the North Cascades Highway at Goodell Creek, Diablo Lake Overlook, and other places. The Cascade River Road—25 miles of improved dirt and gravel—provides summer and fall access into the park and to the Cascade Pass Trailhead.

From the North Cascades Highway on clear days you may get glimpses of alpine wonders that lie just beyond, out of sight from the road and access by internal combustion. The park's roadlessness has made hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering the most popular activities in the park. Endless views unfold of glacially sculpted valleys, glaciers, and snowfields from many park trails. Rumbling sounds frequently interrupt the subalpine stillness as icefalls crash into the valley floor at Cascade Pass, over which Alexander Ross, the leader of the Hudson's Bay Company's 1824 trapping expedition into Snake Country, is presumed to have traveled. Flower-sprinkled hillsides and meadows enhance spectacular views of the Cascade and Stehekin Valleys. Here, as at other passes and high elevation viewpoints, you can best see the rock ridges, glaciers, snowfields, cascading waterfalls, and other alpine and subalpine features against their backdrops of sky.

Mountains do not stop at the park boundaries. The three areas are flanked on the south, east, and west by national forest lands and on the north by provincial lands of British Columbia, Canada. The national forest lands encompass a number of outstanding federal wilderness areas, including the Glacier Peak Wilderness on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee National Forests.

Within the three National Park System areas, more than 1,500 different species of plants have been identified along with hundreds of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and thousands of insects. While not abundant, bears, wolves, mountain lions, falcons, and bald eagles also add to the genetic richness of the area. Many scientists and environmentalists know that the future of our planet lies in preserving biological diversity in places such as the North Cascades.


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