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North Cascades National Park Complex -- Day 14 / 15


Made it to the North Cascades again! We visited back in 2022 which helped solidify our decision to move to the PNW. Such an amazing place.

Day 14

In the morning of Day 14 we got coffee at Crandall Coffee and headed towards Lake Chelan to get a quick view of the southern region of the lake at Lake Chelan State Park. We lounged around by the lakeshore and briefly did the Little Bear trail but there were warnings about recent bear sightings. That wouldn't bother us if we were alone, but since we had the dogs we didn't want to risk it. They're tiny and leash reactive soooooo yeah. 

We would've loved to have been in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area but its so incredibly remote, most people access it through Stehekin, which itself is only accessible by Plane, Boat, or hiking.

Day 15 

I've been to the North Cascades on a trip a year before we did our road trip out to WA. It's a stunning place. Little did we know, part of the park is on fire, with the active nascent Sourdough Mountain fire.

North Cascades National Park Complex is a stunning expanse of wilderness located in the state of Washington, USA. The complex includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. These distinct areas work in tandem to protect an extensive range of ecosystems, from temperate rainforests at lower elevations to rugged mountain terrains punctuated by glaciers.


Rainy Lake -- North Cascades -- Ross Lake Area
Rainy Lake in the Ross Lake area. I think technically in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. An easy trail that is dog friendly. One of the only in the area! The dogs liked this trail and it was relatively flat. There were very few people on the trail as well. The first time we came through the area in 2022 there was still a ton of snow at the trailhead parking lot. Not this time!


A Natural Treasure Trove

This park is seriously cool! It's got over 300 glaciers, making it one of the top spots in the lower 48 states for ice. But these huge mounds of ice are way more than just pretty to look at. They're super important to the park's ecosystems because they nourish rivers and lakes that keep a ton of wildlife alive. From sneaky gray wolves and amazing grizzly bears to over 200 different types of birds - like the northern spotted owl, which is endangered - the park is full of life. This amazing mix of creatures all live in different habitats, like ancient forests, colorful alpine meadows, and a bunch of rivers and lakes. It's like a safe haven where all these amazing things can come together.
Fire Ban in effect North Cascades
Speaks for itself really


Diablo Lake with Sourdough Fire in the Background
Diablo Lake and most of the waters in the North Cascades have such a mind-blowing hue. This is my second visit here. Unfortunately, you can see the very beginning of the Sourdough Mountain fire in its first week of burning.



Sourdough Mountain Fire North Cascades August
Sourdough Mountain Fire as of 8/2/23. Sad sight to see


A Hiker’s Paradise

If you're passionate about the great outdoors, North Cascades is a dream come true. With over 400 miles of hiking trails, you have endless options to explore stunning mountain views, peaceful forests, and unique bodies of water like Diablo Lake, known for its striking turquoise color from glacial silt. For the more experienced, the park's challenging peaks offer a serious test of mountaineering skills. And let's not forget, the legendary Pacific Crest Trail runs through this area, providing an epic long-distance hiking experience.


Diablo Lake 2022
Here is the same view of Diablo Lake from my trip in 2022. No Sourdough Fire! This picture has been my phone's background ever since I took it.


History and Human Interaction

Although North Cascades might seem like an unspoiled wilderness, it actually has a rich human history. Indigenous communities have inhabited this region for thousands of years, long before it became a national park. The Skagit River, which flows through the park, has always been a vital resource for Native American tribes. Moving ahead to the 19th and early 20th centuries, you'll find that the area attracted a wave of explorers, miners, and loggers. Today, visitors can explore this fascinating mix of natural beauty and human influence through visitor centers and interpretive trails that recount the story of how both nature and humanity have shaped this remarkable landscape.

Ross Lake NRA
Beautiful Late Afternoon Views


Recreational Activities Beyond Hiking

In addition to its hiking and mountaineering allure, North Cascades has a whole lot more to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. Lakes like Ross and Chelan are hotspots for boating, fishing, and even a bit of scuba diving for the aquatic adventurers among us. If you're into angling or the thrill of whitewater rafting, the Skagit River has got you covered. When winter rolls around, the park morphs into a snowy wonderland, perfect for activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and winter camping—if you're up for braving the chill, that is. 

If you're lucky enough to get lodging I'd recommend trying to stay in Stehekin at the northern tip of Lake Chelan! I've been wanting to now for years, so now that I live in Washington I can't wait to try. There are no roads to Stehekin. One most either hike 20+ miles from route 20, take a paid ferry, or take a plane/floatplane. Talk about remote! Here's how to get to Stehekin if you must!


Ross Lake NRA
Can't get enough of that water!


Educational Opportunities

The North Cascades Institute, an educational non-profit organization, partners with the National Park Service to offer educational programs for people of all ages. From youth programs that foster a love for the outdoors to adult classes in natural history and outdoor skills, the institute provides in-depth ways to engage with this incredible landscape.


Start of the Thunder Knob trail
Beginning of the Thunder Knob trail!


The Importance of Conservation

The sheer scope of natural diversity in the North Cascades National Park Complex makes it an essential area for ecological research and conservation. Efforts to monitor the health of animal populations, the retreat of glaciers due to climate change, and the impact of human activity are ongoing. The park serves as both a natural sanctuary and a living laboratory, aiding our understanding of how complex ecosystems function and change over time.


Above The Water
Suspended above the water in Newhalem!



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