North Cascades National Park
Est: Oct., 1968
HQ: Sedro Woolley
Visitors (2014): 23,865
Trail Mileage: 394
Wilderness: 93 percent
Don’t Miss: Gorge Creek Falls, Diablo Lake Overlook, North Cascades Highway.
On the Way: Cascadian Farms, Visitor Center in Newhalem (west), Mazama Store (east).
North Cascades National Park is a place of jagged, snow-capped peaks – the “American Alps.” It is the most glaciated area in the U.S., outside of Alaska. And it is remote – almost all automobile access is via a single highway – and thus host to elusive and recovering wildlife such as grizzly bears, gray wolves and wolverines.
Yet the very characteristics that stamp North Cascades as distant and enigmatic, and therefore scarcely visited (54th in attendance out of 59 U.S. national parks), also make it a nearly perfect destination.
For starters, the barrier to entry is virtually nonexistent – just your time and willingness. Otherwise, when you visit the park, you are not first reaching for your wallet because there are no entrance fees.
I’ll spell it out: f-r-e-e.
The other pros for NoCa:
- Relatively close to urban centers (2-plus hours from Seattle).
- Great drive to the park.
- Newer facilities (visitor centers, restrooms, campgrounds).
- One main highway, numerous pullouts.
- Gorgeous Environmental Learning Center, North Cascades Institute
- Well-built trails, with easily accessed trailheads.
- Abundance of wildlife, including elusive and threatened species such as grizzly bear, grey wolf, wolverine, Canada lynx, as well as mountain goat, black bear, cougar, river otter, bobcat, pika, salmon, bald eagle, golden eagle.
- Top-notch eco-diversity (mountains, lakes, waterfalls).
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