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


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.

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


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.