Top Ten Offbeat Summer Parks

North Cascades National Park
Stettale Creek  in North Cascades Nationa Park
Stettale Creek in North Cascades National Park (Image Source/Getty)

North Cascades National Park

684,000 acres

21,000 annual visits

Attractions : Often referred to as "America's Alps," North Cascades is home to 318 glaciers, 248 lakes, hundreds of waterfalls, and extensive old-growth forests. Alpine meadows are carpeted with glacier lilies, paintbrush, lupine, and scores of other wildflowers from early July through August. The Skagit River, which runs pearl-green with glacial runoff through the park's interior, is Washington's second largest (and come October it hosts one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles in the Lower 48).

Activities: Hiking is the most popular means for exploring the park interior, and with 386 miles of trails there is no lack of routes within. For those seeking an overview of North Cascades, the North Cascades Scenic Highway (Route 20) winds through some of the regions most spectacular scenery. There are also great opportunities for backcountry fishing within the park.

Finding Solitude: North Cascades has been designated a "Wilderness Park" by the Park Service—a distinction which summarizes exactly why this vast preserve near Washington's northern border is a haven for those seeking mind-clearing solitude. While the number of visitors to North Cascades and its adjoining recreation areas is small by national park standards, the number who actually venture into the backcountry units (which comprise over 93 percent of the park) is infinitesimal. Factor this lack of human intrusion with the abundance of quality terrain, and it's easy to see why North Cascades has been a closely guarded secret since it was established in 1968.


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