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.

Have Dam Good Chicken Dinner and Visits Ladder Creek Falls By Night

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The small town of Newhalem stands with a lively past.  Once this quiet town hosted hundreds of tourists who dined joyfully and danced under the stars. Visitors had dinner at Gorge Inn and then had a stroll through Ladder Creek Gardens.  They marveled at the “wonders of electricity” , which illuminated the falls and provided an electrifying ambience.  [Read more…]

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…]

North Cascades Place Spotlight 1: Washington Pass Overlook

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Liberty Bell Mountain

Washington Pass Overlook is a ‘must stop’ if you ever undertake a road trip along the North Cascades Highway. Strictly speaking the pass is not located in the North Cascades National Park area but just outside in the Okanogan National Forest, and can be accessible along the State Route 20. The overlook offers magnificent panoramic view of entire valley, majestic mountain  peaks, wonderful white glaciers and coiled road underneath.

How to reach the place?

It is to note that due to heavy snowing the pass is closed between November to April every year. If you are coming from West on highway 20 turn left unto NF-500 in Washington Pass, and right fi your are heading from the East. There is a parking lot and several pull-outs along the road to park vehicles. To access the overlook you got to walk around 400 feet from the parking lot. This is an ADA compatible easy flat trail. Anyone can hike across it.

What on offer?

Once you reach the overlook you will feel awe of sights all around. You will find suddenly surrounded by high mountain peaks. The Liberty Bell group with some 8000 foot high stands out. Look for Kangaroo ridge in the east, a place abound with golden larch trees. The sight of Methow valley and hairpin road underneath the look over will make you go nostalgic. There are signboards with William Staffords moving poems on them are all around the place. Be sure to read them.

There are some short trails in the area for visitors with adventure spirit. There are not just one but series of overlooks. Just go around and find them, and your visual sense with be treated with a plethora of delights. There is a rest room and bathrooms as well near the overlook.

In Conclusion

Washington Pass Overlook is rightly called the Jewel of North Cascades. It divides Washington state into east and west. Whether you go alone or friends or family, this place is a must stop or else you will be missing a vital jewel of your north cascades visit. The temperature of the place changes suddenly whether you come from east or west. A stopover just before the sunset is recommended.

 

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.

The Secrets of Rockport and Marblemount

Rockport is a small town in Washington that host a fine State Park and a popular County Park. You can go to Rockport by heading east on State Route 20 from I5 at Burlington, or reach there via Arlington and Darrington on State Route 530. There is a tavern and gas store in the town.

Marblemount is another small town and several miles drive from Rockport. Good facilities for tourists like gas, groceries, lodging, post office and restaurants available in this small town. From here starts the scenic 87 miles drive in wilderness  along the North Cascades Highway. The famous Skagit River Resort lies halfway between Rockport and Marblemount. After you cross the Skagit River bridge, you can take the Cascade River Road that head east into the National park. This 22 miles primitive drive is laden with visual delight. You will have amazing views of mountains, blue glaciers and waterfalls.

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Marblemount

There are two small beautiful towns of Newhalem and Diablo, along the State Route 20. Many trails, dams hydroelectric projects located around the towns and hiking can be done from these places. However, there is no facilities except a grocery store in Newhalem.

Marblemount and Rockport are  on the last river plain in the Upper Skagit River Valley as you undertake a drive on the North Cascades Highway. The highway takes the route of Indians, pioneer wagons and pack trains  as it passes through the valley along the up river course on the way to the North Cascades mountains. The Skagit River flows into Puget Sound about 60 miles west of Marblemount.

Theses days the area is bustling with small business entrepreneurs. Local artists and crafts are making full use of area’s natural resources to design their unique products. Potteries, big wood carvings, green products, hand-designed crafts, and wood crafts can be purchased here. The climate is moderate, with summer highs in the 90’s and the winter lows varies from 10′ to 30′.

It is important to note that though the highway across the North Cascades Passes closes in winter, the towns of Marblemount and Rockport remain accessible year-round for tourists coming from the Puget Sound region.

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Skagit River Resort

Alpine hiking in the Sauk Mountain trail is very popular spot. To reach here turn north on the access road that meet Highway 20 just west of Rockport State Park, and continue your drive  up the root of the mountain till you reach the parking area.  It provides an amazing view of the Skagit River Valley below. You can go for hang-gliding here. Sauk Mountain trail starts from this place and switchbacks up the south face of Sauk and near the top the trail crosses around an eastern outcropping, and continues up to the place of the former fire tower.

If you want to stay in the area for a day or two you have Skagit River Resort in the vicinity. The resort has all facilities including small parking and eatery. Marble mount is just 2.5 miles from here.

 

Driving On North Cascades Highway: Things To Know

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The North Cascades region is located in Western Washington. For most of the year,  the region is snow covered, making it very difficult for travellers to take a trip. Because of extreme snow from November to April, the authority were forced to close the highway indefinitely for the safety of riders. Summer season is the best time to take a ride along the scenic  Highway.

When summer arrives, snow gets cleared and roads become dray, the North Cascade region becomes a place of travel related activities. There are many beautiful mountains, green forests and heavenly coasts, dams, lakes and wildlife in the North cascades and the curvy scenic highway itself attract the tourists. If you are planning to fuel your two or four wheelers next summer to explore those nostalgic alpine meadows and sweeping vistas while driving here is the detailed guide for you.

Begin your drive from Sedro-Woolley. To reach the town, you have to take Exit 230 off, follow WA 20 East, or head directly to North on WA-9. North Cascades remain closed from mid-November to April. So. plan your trip accordingly. The drive traverse through the Skagit River and there are plenty of seasonal farms laden with apples , berries, pumpkins and honey along the way.

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As you approach Concrete, which is just 24 miles from Sedro-Woolley, giant concrete silos with ‘Welcome to Concrete’ sign will welcome you. This small tow is a beautiful town and sister town to Newhalem. There is small parking lot if you decide to stop by the town. If you take the Baker River Road you will reach Shannon Lake and Baker Lake if you drive along Baker Lake road. These places are hotspots for fishing, boating, kayaking and water-skiing.

Back on WA-20 and continue to east  from Concrete, watch out for eagles during winter. The area has second largest eagle population in the country. Squat Eagle Festival held  in the month of January with actives at Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount. The Howard Miller Steelhead Park has facilities for year-round tend and RV camping, boating tours, hiking trails, fishing and fasting. The park also houses the famous Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Centre, which offers eagle presentations and viewing stations.

Once at Rockport you can take the 4.2 mile round  trip to the summit of Sauk Mountain rewards. You will be rewarded with incredible views for the effort. Rockport State park has carefully preserved original old growth forest system. At Rockport you have two options. Continue your journey along the east on WA-20 or take WA-530, which connects to Darrington and you will access to the famous Mountain Loop Highway.

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Anyway, as you continue your journey along the east you will approach a beautiful town named Marblemount. Beyond marble mount and upto 90 miles there are very few gas stations and  facilities are scarce. So check your gas tanks at Marblemount and buy some eatables.

Six miles down the east of Marblemount is located the soul of North Cascades region – the famous Ross Lake National Recreational Area located. This area comprises of Ross Lake, Gorge Lake and Diablo Lake. Glacier-capped jagged peaks, rivers, lush green forest and waterfalls all around are breathtaking. This is the place for photography aficionados.

Just nine miles down you will reach Newhalm, which houses the North Cascades Visitor Centre. The centre offers tourists learning of the surrounding area through exhibits and video presentations. There are many trials around the Newhalem. One important trail is Picket Range that lays within the North Cascades National Park.

As you resume your journey, the George Dam is not far. Down further you will find the majestic Diablo Lake. Then there is the Lake Diablo Overlook, a must stop for incredible encircling Cascades, Diablo lake and pickets. There are hiking opportunities for all levels.

30 Miles from Diablo there is the famous Washington Pass. The pass at 5477 feet is the highest elevation point in your drive. Interestingly this pass was once at the bottom of Pacific oceans. The scenery all around, especially the views of the peaks, is breathtaking to say the least.

As you descend down the steep slope after the Washington Pass you bid goodbye to North Cascade Highway and welcome the valley of farmland. The weather is drier and hot than what you encountered in North Cascades. The next major town is the history-rich and architectural Winthrop. Even this place has facilities for kayaking, river rafting, boating, horseback riding and fly-fishing and more. The trip ideally will take 3 hours.

5 Little Known But Awesome Places in Concrete

Concrete is a small town but it has many tourist attractions. While some popular places like Sauk Mountain trail, Lake Tyee are well known yet there are many not-so-famous but great attractions yet to be explored by majority of visitors. In this post we will highlight 5 little known but awesome places in Concrete, Washington.

Henry Thompson Bridge

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The old bridge is located across state route 20. You may be surprised to know that the bridge is built in 1916-18 and still enjoys being the world’s longest single-span cement bridge. Back in old days the bride used to be the only access route across the Baker River  into the Skagit County. If you are planning trip, you should not miss the opportunity to enjoy a stroll over it.

Mountain Loop Highway

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This is a very scenic byway that loops through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest providing connection to Boulder River, Around the highway are located Henry M. Jackson and Concrete Peak Wilderness areas, and also hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The length of highway is 27 miles and take around 40 minutes to cross.

Rasar State Park

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Rasar State Park is a 169 acre park. The park  has playground equipment and 4,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Skagit River. This spot is well known among visitors  for Eagle watching. Best season to visit the place is early fall and early winter.Mt.

Mount Baker Presbyterian Church

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This historic church is built in 1908 and still mass being held regularly for residents for Skagit county. The main structure has not been remade to keep the old structure intact.

Rockport State Park

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The park is just 8 miles from concrete. The 670 acre park is an ancient forest. The interesting thing about the forest is that it contains old grown which has never been logged. The entire ecosystem of the park in the place as it was before. Also visit David Douglas Historical Market, which is situated within the park. David Douglas, if you don’t know him, was a horticulturalist who discovered the Douglas fir in 1825.

 Concrete is a small paradise itself within the paradise of North Cascades. The beautiful little town has an amazing history and occupy a place of pride in Nation’s geography.

A Visitor’s Guide to The North Cascades National Park Complex

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The North Cascades National Park Complex comprises of three areas: Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The National Park Service administers all the three areas.

Ross Lake National Recreation Area (NRA)

NRA covers the scenic North Cascades Highway, three drive-up campgrounds, the North Cascades Visitor Center, and the two company towns, three dams, powerhouses, and reservoirs, the Skagit Information Center, and the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. All of them are part of Skagit River Hydroelectric Project and managed by Seattle City Light. Seattle City Light along with National Park Service provides visitor services, education, and guided tour in the national recreation area.

North Cascades National Park (NP)

NP lies northwest and southeast of the Ross Lake National Recreational Area (NRA). It includes about 600,000 acres of area with breathtaking mountain views and 300 gorgeous glaciers. Around 95% of the lands in NP are designated for protection under Wilderness Act. Hikers can access the recreational areas, national forests parklands through 400 miles of well maintained of trails. There are very few motorable roads in the area. More than 200 backcountry camping sites available for visitors.

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

This area is located at the north end of Lake Chelan southeast of North Cascades National Park (NP).

The town of Newhalem comes under Ross Lake National Recreation area. In my previous posts I have given exhaustive information about places in and around Newhalem. Newhalem, though a company town, evidence of native settlement has been found.

The word “Newhalem” itself is a native (Upper Skagit Tribal) word, which means a place to snare goats. The native settlement goes back to 13th century. If you are curious about its history take the nearby Rock Shelter Trail and reach the Newhalem Creek. The rock shelter there is a natural formation and bears testimony to native camping in the area.

7 One of Its Kind Towns Near Newhalem

The North Cascade Region is full of small yet very beautiful towns. Most of the towns are located by the sides of Cascades Highway (Highway 20). These towns are well known for small-scale historic architecture, inspiring sceneries and colorful festivals. During the winter the North Cascades Highway remains closed due to heavy snow and thus tourists come to the places in Summer.

If you plan a road trip it is worthwhile to be informed about places/towns in Cascades region. Let me inform you about some great towns worth visiting if you are in Cascades region.

(1) La Conner

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La Conner is just an hour and half drive from Newhalem. The small town is a historic place and well knows for arts and crafts. The center of the town is listed in National Registrar of Historic Places. The town annually hosts majority of Skagit Valley Tulip Festival events. There are also plenty of wildlife including otters, wintering trumpeter swans and seals around.

(2) Lynden

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Lynden is a second largest town in the state of Washington. It’s around 2 hours drive from Newhalem towards Canada border. The town is heavily influenced by Dutch and is well known for old churches, colourful festivals and windmills. The town hosts annual Northwest Washington Fair. There are also many other events/rallies being held annually

(3) Burlington

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Burlington is a big town in the state of Washington. It was established as logging camp in 1882 but soon flourished with population. The town is famous for varied shopping malls, youth sports, and Berry Dairy days – an agriculture related annual event.

(4)Concrete

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Concrete is just 32 miles away from Newhalem. Concrete is small like Newhalem but packed will surreal wonders. There is an haunting monument which has an industrial past. There are plenty of cement silos and thus the peculiar name Concrete. The concrete Ghost Walk, which a history-creepiest guided tour, is popular among tourists.

(5) Marblemount

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Just a 20 minutes drive from Newhalem. The rugged beauty of terrains, beautiful lakes, serene streams and crashing waterfalls that exist around the town will smite you. Tourists flock into the town for boating, rafting and kayaking related activities.

(6)Rockport

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Rockport is one of its kind towns in North Cascade region. The place offers spectacular view of snow-capped mountain peaks and river valleys. There is a bird watching center. The town is also famous for artifacts made up of using locally available resources. Newhalem is just 23 miles away from the place.

(7)Bellingham

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Bellingham is both a historical place and a shopping destination in Washington state. The town has a slew of historical monuments cobblestone streets. The Fairhaven district in the town houses must of the attractions in the town. The Chuckmut Drive nearby the famous Village Books (a three storey wonder) is pleasant drive to take.