Ross Lake National Recreation Area : Things You Should Know Before Visiting

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Most tourists all over the country and Canada want to visit North Cascades National Park. What a tourist finds out when he gets there is that the National Park is the least accessible part in this corner.  Majority of tourists spend their  time checking out the more popular Ross Lake National Recreation Area with parts of the area accessible from right off WA-20 North Cascades Highway. Ross Lake NRA among others includes Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake, and Ross Lake. You will enjoy a couple of small hikes and take a look in some overlooks during your visit to the place. The Ross Lake NRA also has ample facilities  for paddling, fishing, camping, and great hiking opportunities.

Few excellent campgrounds to try in the NRA are Colonial Creek off WA-20 North Cascades Highway or Hozomeen, accessible by a gravel Skagit Road from North from Canada. If you are the one who loves  solitude like Jack Kerouac, you would want to walk your way to the top of the majestic Desolation Peak. The view of Ross Lake from the peak is quite impressive. However hiking to the peak requires stamina and good preparation.  You have to hike 6.8 mile on 4400 foot elevation after roughly 16 miles on the relatively flat East Bank trail. Of course there are other ways to go to the pick like crossing the Ross lake via boat. But hiking is real thing to do.

The Ross Lake Resort is an attractive place to stay in Ross Lake NRA. The scenery  is too amazing to be put in words.  You can  reach the resort  by hiking to it or taking a ferry from the Diablo Lake. The price of ferry ticket is $16 dollars and it will take around one hour via ferry from the Diablo Lake, which is situated near Newhalem. It is to be kept in the mind that  resort is open from June to October only. You have to book well in advance.

The only flip side about the place is that the entire National Park Service Complex consisting of of North Cascades National Park, and the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas is not the most accessible place to go. During the winter the highway is closed.  To experience the hidden  cool treasures of the area you have to  take time and plan well. It requires  effort to get to them. At the end you will take immense satisfaction that your effort is worth it.

5 Reasons to Explore North Cascades National Park

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North Cascades National Park has many  favorite naturally occurring things— amazing colored alpine lakes, vast evergreen expanses, awesome rocky mountainous peaks, and stunning waterfalls sliding down in every direction. My visit to  the place last year was not my first, nor  it will not be our last, as I have strong attachment to the place. It is  where my adventure really began, when I went there 5 year ago. The place allows you to many things. So, it is my favourite. 

Okay, here is 5 reasons to explore North Cascades National Park

  1. Glacier Lakes: The brilliantly  green alpine lakes in the Cascade Range have  still waters upon where your can self-paddle boats and glide beneath captivating views in every direction. However, you will need to take your own boat and can set out from one of the designated areas found throughout the park. Diablo and Ross Lakes are two popular areas from  you can launch on backcountry and day-paddles. Rentals are also available in some places like Ross Lake. 
  2. Photo Ops Spots: With beautiful snow-capped peaks, rocky ridge lines, hundreds of glaciers, waterfalls, valleys, wildlife, and lakes, there are so many ways to capture great snaps.  The landscape was so photogenic that it inspired well-known writer Jack Kerouac to nestle himself atop Desolation Peak for 63 days in the summer of 1956. Late he wrote his experience in his Novel The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels.  My favorite place for photo ops was Mount Shuksan. 
  3. Backpacking: Hikes are more fun towards end of your travel. You can tent up and relax for an evening or two  in a backcountry setting. Most of the backpacking routes in the North Cascades region take you to crystal alpine lakes  including the famous Ross Lake, Thornton and Monogram Lakes. Hikes gets difficult in this area because of the steep terrain and also due to backpack your carry. So it is better to plan properly.
  4. Waterfalls: The waterfalls in North Cascades are too many to count. Whether they are falling down  forcefully from the hill high or peaking out of the vegetation as you drive along through the mountain roads, you cannot  go far without spotting a runoff from the Cascade Mountain Range. Ladder Creek Falls near Newhalem  is the most popular and the most visited as it is  easily accessible.
  5. Hiking Spots: There are around some 500 Kilometers of hiking trails in North Cascades National Park that provide more pathways of pure hiking bliss. A jungle of wilderness like that which you will explore in the North Cascades is remarkable in different  ways. The earth in the forest is thickly covered with leaves, pine  and cones that, always wet in this marine environment, mash together and devour the sound of any foot step that falls through it. When you are hiking in this area, you are not on a landscape, you are into. This place is paradise for those wishing to roam through an gusty woodland wilderness.

To have an wonderful times you need to plan properly. If your plan is for few days only it would be better to carry a light backpack and all essentials like camping gear, proper sporting shoes, torchlight, lotions to ward off flies etc.

Place Spotlight 3: Diablo Lake Overlook

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Diablo Lake Overlook

Diablo Lake Overlook is a must stop place if you are driving on North Cascades Highway. Diablo lake and dam are kind of nature’s marvel and you will find yourself soaked in their enchanting beauty. The place  is just few miles from Newhalem. There are plenty of trails, picnic spots and camping facilities in and around. [Read more…]

A Guide to Roadside Lakes on North Cascades Highway

As you undertake a trip on North Cascades Highway along with many tourist attraction you will come across plethora of stunning lakes. Their elevations, the peculiar colours they have, the size of lakes are too surreal. Here is a guide to roadside lakes on North Cascades Highway for information of travellers.

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Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake: You can view the lake right from road on State Route 20 – the North Cascades Highway. This lake is favourite for many visitors. The lake bustles with visitors doing canoeing, camping, climbing and taking classes. The colour of the water is intense turquoise  because the glaciers surrounding the lake grind rocks into fine powder that find their way into lake through creeks. The powder stays suspended not he water, giving the lake water a brilliant but unnatural hue.

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Lake George

Nearby Diablo Lake are Ross and George Lake. Ross lake is the most popular lake in North Cascades. The headwaters of Skagit river that flow into Ross lake comes from Cana dian peaks. The lake is just 50 minutes drive from east of Burlington town. It will take 3 hours if you drive from Seattle. The water is greenish colour due to geological region. There are floating cabins on pristine water of the lake that can be rented for stay.

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Ross Lake

Lake George is surrounded by full of trails and offers a close-up view of Mount Rainier. The lake is a pristine mountain lake that nestled in the northwest side of Mount Wow. You need wilderness  permit for visiting and  camping around the area. Gobbler’s knob a very popular spot near the area. The watch tower at the knob offers breathtaking views of 14, 411 feet Stratovolcano. The only drawback is that you have to enter forest and do a hiking to reach the place.

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Blue Lake

Blue Lake is situated near Washington Pass at 6254 elevation. If you approach from the west, the place is some 44 miles drive from the town of Newhalem on SR 20 and before the Washington Pass overlook. From east on highway, the lake is located some 31 miles from the two of Winthrop. To reach the lake if you have to take a 2 miles hike along Blue Lake Trail off highway 20. This stunning lake sit quietly in the middle surrounded by forests, meadows, wildflowers and granite peaks that reach sky.

The beauty and peculiarity of North Cascades lakes is such that you will forget the labor you do while hiking up the trails to to reach these lakes. Each of these lakes have their own quintessential charms and  are bound to  enrich your memories of the North Cascades trip with their glistening  beauty.

Nostalgic North Cascades Highway

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State Route 20 in the North Cascades region is also known as North Cascades Highway. The highway is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in the state of Washington. Highway 20 considered to be one of the best scenic highways not only in USA but also in the world.
Highway 20 crosses Rainy Pass at 4, 860 feet and Washington Pass at 5, 477 feet. The sides of the highway is packed with picnic and hiking spots all along. The Alpine Meadows on the way are full with wildflowers in the months of July and August. Ross Lake and Diablo Dam overlooks are great for photo shoots. The green forest and blue sky compliment the teal water of Ross lake and jade water of Diablo dam. Their distinct colours is caused by finely ground rocks dust suspended in the water.
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Across the highway, Newhalem is a pretty little town, where every highway rider should stop by. The North Cascades National Park Visitor center offers audio-video exhibits, info and maps about the the park. Visitors can secure permit for camping and back country travel. Beyond Newhalem lies the majestic Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest reserve – a 1.7 million acres forest of pure delight.
However, services like food and supplies, and accommodation is very limited in the small town of Newhalem. You should be heading to Marblemount which has all the facilities including lodging. The pristine town to has many hiking trails, which you can take should time permits.
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Concrete town

The North Cascades Highway follows the course of the curvy Skagit River. The water of the river unlike the colours of waters of lakes and dames in the region is pristine white. The river is popular for fishing, rafting and boating activities. In December and January, many bald eagles fly to the spot to feed on aplenty salmon in the area. You can spot these eagles perched on tall trees. If you are a bird lover you should be taking a guided bird-watching tour.
There few miles from Newhalme, there lies the friendly little town of Concrete. The historic town was one the foremost centre for cement production in USA. The interesting thing is the town has changed very little and a stroll across its streets can evokes a feeling of nostalgia. The Concrete high school is well-known for its bridge like structure under with the highway passes.

An Excursion to Newhalem Visitor Centre

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newhalem visitor centre

On my third day in the North Cascades National Park, I decided to visitt the Newhalem Visitor Center and the nearby areas. The visitor center comprises of a architectural building full of many beautiful, interactive exhibits and a group of trails. It is situated across the Skagit River from the North Cascades Highway 20 near milepost 120 and the town of Newhalem.

When my friends and I reached the visitor center, we were greeted by a friendly interpretive ranger called Paul..He explained us the difference between a black bear and grizzly bear skull. Paul knows everything about the region and surrounding areas. He said he loves outdoor activities and looking to make a career in te field once he graduates from university. .He helped us brainstorm ideas for connecting urban youth to the great outdoors. His recommendations included providing food and transportation. In nutshell we had a great discussion.

After a chat, we started our own to explore the interior of the visitor center. The natural light streaming into the hall through the large skylight at the centre of the building showcased the stunning photographs and paintings that hung on every wall. We then went into a room full of colourful, unique exhibits. There was a cool, super-size slug in the centre of the room.  We wanted a ride but were disappointed to learn that the slug is not functional. We had a plan to ride on it and take a quick tour around the park but the hope dashed.

Classic photographs in the hall showcased lumberjacks posing with huge trees. Some photographs also demonstrating the history of timber in the region. We were informed that the park is now 93% designated wilderness, that  means that logging is not allowed an more. Three hydroelectric in and around Nehalem  cater approximately 15% of the power for Seattle city.

In a corner of the exhibit room there was a fabulous section that demonstrated the impact of natural disasters like forest fires. The audio visual presentation is top class. A lightning bolt strikes in the sky and then a screen showed a growing wildfire. The visuals quickly moved the succession of events that follow a wildfire, including the first-growth trees and the animals that live best in the area. The special effects used in the exhibit are really exciting and it was wonderful to see visitors get engrossed by the visuals. It is noteworthy that a wild fire broke out in the mountain near Newhalem and it took days to douse the flame.

We took help of another expert to visit two special places we had in mind. The first was the Gorge Overlook at the bottom of Gorge dam, where we experience an excellent view of a waterfall. The second place was of Diablo Lake. From the railing, the picturesque Diablo Lake, flanked by several snow-clad peaks, glistened in the sun. The water of the lake has an unusual color because of silt washing out from under glaciers. The wind was strong but we were engrossed in the thrill and took it in our stride.

 

5 Things to Do in North Cascades

The North Cascades is full with varied tourist attractions like dams, trails, lakes, waterfalls, powerhouses, wildlife, peaks, beautiful sceneries, opportunities for sporting activities and adventure. Here are 5 top things to do when you are in North Cascades.

Take a Road Trip

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Road trip especially from USA side offers stunning sceneries. On the ways you will be greeted with changing landscapes and terrains. Sometimes smooth stream of water from waterfalls cross over to the other side of roads.

The ideal place to start your road trip is Marblemount on highway 20 towards east. Be sure to stop at Newhalem and Diablo. Visit the Newhalem Visitor center, which has some great exhibitions. You can go for a quick walk to explore plenty of trails nearby. Diablo is another great place to stop by. Drive slowly over Diablo Dam Bridge and you will enjoy it. You can also pull up at Diablo Lake Overlook and can immerse yourself in the experience of viewing the stunning Diablo lake. At Diablo there is exhibits in the honor then senator M. Jackson, who helped to create the park.

Continue your journey towards east until Washington Pass Overlook. You would feel mesmerized with the stunning views surrounding you. The view of Majestic Bell Mountain is too stunning to be believed. The Washington Pass Overlook is highest point on Highway 20.

Go for Hiking

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There are many great trails in North Cascades for hiking. Unfortunately due to heavy snowing many of these trails remain closed in most part of the years. It is thus important to enquiry status of trail before you head for hiking. You can get the info from nearby visitor centers.

Newhalem is the most popular stops for hiking. Ruby Creek Trail, which is 18 miles east to Newhalem, is a popular destination. The other trails are the 1.5 km long Canyon Creek Trail and Diablo Lake trail. Once you weill hike the Diablo Lake Trail you will get a sweeping view of Diablo lake, Colonial and Pyramid peaks. These are some easiest trials for hiking especially with family and kids.

If you are adventurous type then Sourdought Mounntain Trail (10.4 miles) is good for you. The journey is strenuous but worth a try. You will be rewarded with a sweeping view of valleys and peaks including the majestic Mount Baker.

Inspect Flora/Fauna

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North Cascades region is full with diverse species of Flora and Fauna. There are over 75 mammal species including pikas, douglas squirrel, gray wolves, marmots, grizzly bears, river otters, cougars, mountain goats, bobcats, a dozen of species of bats and the famous Columbia black-tailed deer.

There are over 200 bird species in the area. Keep looking into sky and trees and you will sure to spot bald eagle, spotted owls, swallows, warblers and hummingbirds. The Skagit river banks are home to rare Pacific salmons besides Chinook, coho, pink, sockeye and chum.

The peculiar weather, topography, geology and hydrology of the region is responsible for large number of plant species found the in the National Park. There are around 1500 vascular plant species. Among others the plant species include white bark pine, California hazelnut, alpine willow, western yew, douglas fir, red aider, big leaf maple western red cedar etc. The National Park is a great spot for nature lover.

Take Photos

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During summer waters of rivers and lakes in North Cascades appear emerald or turquoise. Color of water in the region usually is green. The peculiar color is due to soil composition of the region, which is high on glacial flour concentration. Summer is great time to capture the essence of the place in photos.

Go on Excursions

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There are some excellent spots in Cascades to go for excursion. Leavenworth complete with wineries, spas, shopping and museums is a great attraction.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which covers an area of some 1.7 million acre is an ideal place to go for activities like picnic, boating, driving, winter sports and camping. The National Forest has ample facilities for above activities. If you go on a guided excursion then you should contact The North Cascades Institute at Rockport. This non-profit institute offer guided excursion free of charge.

Going to North Cascades Area is really exciting because major parts of the year the place remain closed due to heavy snowing. The ideal time to visit is summer. So, plan your trip accordingly. There are also facilities for differently abled tourists.