Destinations Magazine - May/June 2018 - 11

FAST LANE | PARK IT HERE | National parks under the microscope

North Cascades National Park
Mountain landscape beckons groups to Washington state
NORTH CASCADES
NATIONAL PARK
Established:
By Act of Congress on Oct. 2, 1968.
Diablo Lake is a
popular spot for
boat trips.

W

hy should groups visit
a park about which
they know little? First,

BOB HOELSCHER.

travelers will actually
find a grouping of three distinct but
contiguous National Park Service (NPS)
units here-North Cascades National
Park, Ross Lake Recreation Area, and
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area-
under a single park administrative staff. All
three offer incredible, absolutely glorious
mountain scenery-some of the finest
groups are likely to find south of Alaska
and the Canadian Rockies. The North
Cascades complex is (and is anticipated to
remain) free of charge and congestion-a
perfect example of underutilized, but truly
magnificent public lands of which only
those "in the know" are even aware.

waterfalls, glaciers, and glacial lakes, but
also an astounding variety of alpine flora
and fauna. In addition to grand sightseeing,
including several short, easy walks for more
sedentary groups, there are also outstanding opportunities for hiking (almost 400
miles of maintained trails), kayaking, and
canoeing for the adventurous. Also, the
Seattle City Light company, which operates
hydroelectric dams within the confines
of Ross Lake to provide electricity for the
"Emerald City," offers boat trips on Diablo
Lake and tours of its dam and power facilities from Newhalem-its "company town"
on SR 20.
What else is there to do near the
park? Northwest and immediately

How do tours get there? North
Cascades and Ross Lake can be reached
seasonally via Washington state Route
20 (also known as the North Cascades
Highway), traveling eastbound from Mount
Vernon and Burlington, or westbound
from Okanogan and Winthrop. Remote but
awe-inspiring Lake Chelan can be reached
by passenger vessels offering full-day trips
on the lake from Chelan (not off of SR 20,
but farther south, off of U.S. 97) to Stehekin,
daily during the May-October high season,
and on a reduced schedule during the
remainder of the year.

adjoining the park, and again, just south of
the border with British Columbia, is the
magnificent Mount Baker Wilderness.
Also a federal facility, but under U.S. Forest
Service administration, visitors here are
rewarded not only with splendid views
of 10,781-foot Mount Baker itself and the
Bagley Lakes, but also photogenic Mount
Shuksan. However, since there are no road
connections between the two areas, it is
necessary to travel farther north on I-95
from its intersection with SR 20, then head
east from Bellingham on WA Hwy. 542. To
the east of the park, but still on SR 20, is the
charming, picturesque, "Old West" community of Winthrop.

What is there to see in the park? The
NPS rightly calls the area "a wilderness
mountain kingdom." Groups can discover
not only towering peaks, dense forests,

When is the best time to visit? Unless
a specific group is into big-time snow
and winter sports, wise operators will
plan their tours between mid-May and

Located:
Northern Washington State, east
of I-95 and south of the Canadian
border.
Open:
Although the park is officially open
24/7 year-round, snow realistically
makes it accessible to most groups
only from May-October. SUB:
Body.

Visitor Center:
The primary park visitor center
(open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from
late May through late September,
and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends
in early May and October) is
located off SR 20 at Newhalem.
Park Admission:
Free-like many of the other best
things in life.
Reservations:
Not necessary, but if you plan to
come early or late in the season,
check to make sure that SR 20 has
been cleared of winter snows.
Park Telephone and Website:
(360) 854-7200, www.nps.gov/
noca

mid-October, although off-season Lake
Chelan trips remain a possibility. Golden
aspen leaves provide early autumn
visitors to the park with a particularly
colorful backdrop.
Where can we stay? Group accommodations and dining choices are
readily available in the Mount Vernon/
Burlington area to the west, as well as in
and near Winthrop to the east. A dining
facility large enough to handle groups
can also be found within the Seattle City
Light's Newhalem complex, although
an attractive option is to bring along a
picnic lunch for an al fresco repast at one
of several picnic areas here, nearby, or
elsewhere off of SR 20.
-Bob Hoelscher
MAY-JUNE 2018

\ DESTINATIONS 11


http://www.nps.gov/noca http://www.nps.gov/noca

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