This park is 93% wilderness… this was told to me by a ranger during my visit and it is a statistic I have never been able to forget. It is honestly hard to imagine in today’s world a place that is 93% wild, natural, rugged, and just freaking gorgeous.
Ever since hearing this I have been obsessed with the North Cascades for its authenticity and rawness. I highly recommend visiting this park but keep in mind that it is not for those who want an easy hike or roadways to experience it, for this park demands your full attention and effort to really enjoy it.
Colonial Creek Campground:
This has two loops, north and south. The south loop is more likely to be open during the colder months and has gorgeous lakefront sites available along Diablo Lake. This is a gorgeous lake with vistas overlooking the mountains (pictured above). This location drinking water, toilets, picnic tables, and many hikes accessible in the area. You can make reservations at this location.
Goodell Creek Campground:
Located on the Skagit River, this campground is broken up into different sections and the main campground is a first come, first served, whereas the upper and lower group sites are reservable. It is equipped with toilets, potable water, boat launches, and hiking trails around this campground.
Newhalem Creek Campground:
This is both reservable or first come, first served. This campground has limited sites that can accommodate RVs which is unlike most of the campgrounds in this area. Newhalem Creek Campground has toilets, potable water, dump stations, and a select few walking trails/educational hikes.
These primitive sites would be best if you are looking to rough it in the wilderness without being in the backcountry. These sites sit further north towards Canada and they are first come, first served. Another perk of this campground is that all sites are free. There is potable water and pit toilets available but other than that there are no services or stores.
There are a few other campgrounds in this area, but these are the largest available and others are closed due to weather or damages from weather.
While the park is open year round, the best time of year to visit is during the summer months, specifically July and August. This is when the wildflowers are blooming and the weather is perfect.
Cascade Pass – 7.4 miles, out and back, difficult
This out and back trail is filled with wildlife and stunning vistas around every corner. Keep in mind, this is not an easy walk in the park and you should be prepared to spend a few hours on this trail, so bring lots of water and snacks. Often times you will see a mixture of snow, green lush grass, looming ridge lines, and if you are lucky you will see an abundance of wildflowers. Expect this trail to be one of the more heavily populated trails in the park, due to its beauty and the entire experience it offers. Additionally you can extend this trail further to Sahale Glacier or Cottonwood Camp for a longer route.
Maple Pass Loop – 6.4 mile loop, moderate
This very highly trafficked loop is absolutely phenomenal and definitely needs to be on your list. You can begin this loop from either direction, but counter clockwise is slightly less strenuous overall. This trail is technically in the National Forest not the National Park, which means you can hike with your dog on the trail if you want although there are some bears in this area. There is also an optional short hike off the main trail to a gorgeous lake, Lake Ann. The main trail already has great views of the lake from above, so if you choose to skip this extra portion then you are not missing out on the lake entirely. This trail also follows the border of Canada and the USA with breathtaking views the entire way. I HIGHLY recommend this trail! This was by far our favorite.
Diablo Lake – 7.5 miles, out and back, moderate
This trail has more mild elevation change and is friendlier to those looking for a long but not insanely strenuous hike. This trail heads down and around the lake offering waterfalls, peaks, lakeside hiking, and varying vegetation.
Desolation Peak – ~8 miles, difficult
This trail has much less traffic than more other trails in the park. It has a very steep section but you are rewarded with vast vistas, a fire lookout and many meadows. You can begin this hike from the East Bank Trail or take a boat and begin at Ross Lake. This trail is gorgeous but less popular than the other hikes listen above.
There are many more hikes in this park, but these were a few of my personal favorites.
I hope you enjoy this park as much as I did for its wilderness and beauty. We also took the time to sit in on a ranger talk in our campground and this was a really fun and educational experience.
Remember to protect this earth for future generations to enjoy.