North Cascades National Park is located in Northern Washington, almost in Canada. We hadn’t heard much about this park, so we arrived and were just kind of hoping for the best. We weren’t even sure if we were in the park because it isn’t marked with a big sign like the other National Parks are. We arrived at the visitor center in Newhalem and got maps and trail information so we could find our way around a little better.
There were no camp sites left in the park, but there are plenty of campgrounds in Okanogan National Forest, which is right outside of the National Park. We got a site at Lone Fir Campground for $12 and set up our stuff. This campground is rustic, with vault toilets, no sinks, and no showers. There are water spigots and dumpsters throughout the campground, but if you like bathing and flushing, this isn’t the place for you.
We jumped back in the car and headed to Rainy Pass to hike the Rainy Lake Trail. This is a popular trail because it is short and it is wheel chair accessible. The parking lot was full, but you park on the road and walk through the parking lot to the trail head. The trail is nice. It takes you through the woods for a little bit and then out to a Rainy Lake. It’s a small lake with very blue water and it looks like the lake is in a bowl the way the mountains around it curve in at the bottom. It was a bit overcast so this picture really doesn’t do the color of the water justice. In real life it is an incredibly bright blue.
We decided to tackle something a little more challenging next, so headed to Blue Lake. The trail is only two miles, but it’s fairly steep and there are a lot of tree roots and rocks along the trail that are potential trip hazards. It’s totally worth it though because the Lake is beautiful. It’s a very small lake, but it is surrounded by snow covered mountains, and the color of the water is amazing.
Our last stop for the day was to the Washington Pass Overlook. There is a short trail that takes you out to the overlook where you can get really nice views of the mountains and can see for miles.
The next morning we got up early to hike the Thunder Knob Trail. This trail starts in the Colonial Creek campground and winds through a moss covered forest and up to a beautiful view of Diablo Lake. This trail is pretty steep and has quite a few switchbacks. It certainly wasn’t the easiest trail we had ever done, but the view was very nice.
We decided to do an easier trail next, so headed to the visitor center to try the River Loop Trail. This is a very easy 1.5 mile trail that is completely flat. It goes through more green mossy forest and runs alongside the Skagit River. The water in the river is so clear I could hardly believe it because rivers where I’m from are filthy.
We checked out the displays in the visitor center and watched a film about Grizzly Bears dying out in the North Cascades and what they have been doing to try to get them back. It was really interesting film. From the Visitor Center we went to check out the Diablo Lake Dam. You have to drive across the top of the dam in order to get to the parking area, so that was kind of neat. Watch out for tourists though because people walk out onto it to take pictures.
Our last trail was the Ross Lake Dam Trail. The trail goes through the forest for a bit, then you follow a service road out to the Ross Lake Dam. You can walk on the top of the dam and look over the edge. It’s pretty high up, so this may not be a good trail for those with a fear of heights. The views of the lake and mountains are beautiful and you can see private cabins in the distance that are only accessible by boat.
The North Cascades is a beautiful place. There are plenty of trail to choose from and sites to see. It’s much quieter than some of the more popular parks, but offers views that are just as incredible. definitely check it out if you’re ever in northern Washington.