North Cascades National Park
Set in the mountains of northwest Washington State, the North Cascades National Park Complex includes both the South and North Units of North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
Access to the North Cascades and Ross Lake area is from I-5 at Burlington, west of the mountains, and from Twisp on the east, following Washington State Route 20 with branch routes to Baker Lake and the Cascade River.
The only road access to the shore of Ross Lake is via the Silver-Skagit Road (gravel) from near Hope, British Columbia.
Hiking access and roadside views of the northwest corner of the park are available from SR 542, east from Bellingham. (Note: All access roads that lead into the national park itself are gravel roads.)
The main access to Stehekin in the Lake Chelan NRA is by floatplane from the town of Chelan on Hwy. 97, by boat (Lake Chelan Boat Company) from Chelan or Field's Point (17 miles north of Chelan), or by air (Chelan Airways). There is no road access into Stehekin or any other part of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. (Note: During summer months visitors can reach this area via hiking trails.)
Two roads, both gravel, enter North Cascades National Park: 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.
Stehekin Transportation Services
Most people travel to Stehekin by cruising up 55-mile-long Lake Chelan. The Lake Chelan Boat Company operates year-round, daily, spring to fall.
The 23-mile Stehekin Valley Road is paved for four miles from Stehekin Landing and becomes gravel at Harlequin Bridge. Along the way are many views of the Stehekin River, glacier-clad jagged peaks, and dense coniferous forests.
Transportation is offered along the road for your enjoyment and convenience. Drivers provide a narrated tour along the way, as well as camping and hiking information. You may get on or off the buses at any location. A wheelchair lift and infant seats are available on the NPS bus with advance arrangements.
Hikers and stock users are encouraged to use the Old Wagon Trail. Bicyclists, motorbikes, and motorcycles can continue traveling up the road as far as snow and road conditions permit, but may experience delays. Road crews will continue road repairs below Flat Creek.
Above Flat Creek, a channel of the river now flows down the road for approximately 3000 feet. The road will, therefore, remain closed above Flat Creek until conditions change and the road can be repaired. A trail has been established and will be maintained paralleling this section of road. Hikers and stock users will be able to use this trail. Bicycles are allowed, but not recommended. Ask a ranger about the latest conditions on the road.
Bicycles rentals: Discovery Bikes, 1/8 mile north of the landing at the Courtney Log Office.
North Cascades Stehekin Lodge, at the landing.
Taxi Service: Available from the North Cascades Stehekin Lodge.
NPS Shuttle Bus (see note below).
Note: Reservations for the shuttle bus are recommended, and can be made up to two days before a ride or trail departure, in person in ranger stations at Stehekin, Chelan, Marblemount, North Cascades Visitor Center, and Sedro-Woolley Information Station. To ensure a seat, reservations may be made more than two days in advance by calling the Golden West Visitor Center at 360-856-5700, ext. 340, then 14, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. after May 14. Long-term reservations must be reconfirmed by telephone or in person between two and four days in advance of the bus ride or departure on a trail. Otherwise, the reservations will be canceled. Zone 1 is between Landing and High Bridge. Zone 2 is between High Bridge and Bridge Creek. Buses do not leave specified points before the scheduled times. Vehicle, road, or other problems sometimes cause delays.
The North Cascades Visitor Center is located near Newhalem (milepost 120 on State Route 20) in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
The Golden West Visitor Center is located at Stehekin Landing in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
To reach the North Cascades, drive Washington State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, from Burlington on the west and Twisp on the east. Vehicle access to Ross Lake is by unimproved road from Canada only. Stehekin is reached only by boat, floatplane from Chelan, or by trail; there is no vehicle access (our kind of place!).
There is a significant difference between west side and east side climates, with the west side receiving higher precipitation year-round, resulting in cloudier and cooler weather. East side forests, in the Cascade rainshadow, have more sunshine, higher temperatures, and noticeably less vegetation.
Pets are not allowed on any trail in North Cascades National Park except the Pacific Crest Trail, where they must be on a leash. Leashed pets are allowed on trails within Ross Lake and Lake Chelan NRA.
A wilderness permit is required for all overnight backcountry camping within the national park and recreational areas. Permits are not required for day use or for camping in car access campgrounds. Camping is only permitted at designated campsites or in a cross-country manner (which requires you to be more than 1/2 mile from trails and more than one mile from designated campsites). Party size is limited to 12 (six in cross-country zones) and campfires are prohibited in subalpine areas. For more information on wilderness permits, write to Wilderness District Office, 728 Ranger Station Road, Marblemount, WA 98267, or call 206-873-4500.
Since very few trail shelters are available, it is wise to carry a lightweight plastic tarp or nylon tent for rain protection. Please don't ditch around your shelter or tent during wet weather. Ditching will cause long-term damage to the terrain. Camping is permitted only at designated campsites or not less than 1/2 mile from trails and one mile from established campsites if on cross-country routes. Camping is prohibited in the fragile alpine and subalpine meadows. Leave a camp clean and pack out all trash with you.
Campfires: Wood fires are permitted only where iron firegrates are provided and only below the subalpine zones. Please don't cut any live material, but use only dead or downed wood. Backpack stoves are better suited for high country cookery. They burn no wood and leave no fire scars or blackened pots.
Hunting Season: Hikers planning trips in the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas during the deer hunting season in September and October should wear some type of red or orange clothing as a safety precaution.
Insects: The insect problem varies greatly from time to time and place to place, but a general rule would be to carry insect repellent on any hike. Other creatures varying in size from mice to bears might find your food supply tempting. To avoid hunger and harassment, hang your food supplies at least ten feet high from a tree limb.
Bears: The North Cascades is bear country—we're talkin' grizzlies. You should take the proper precautions against bear attack and food rifling.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication