One of America’s most beautiful and diverse national parks is just a 2 ½ hour drive from Point Roberts – the perfect distance for a day trip or a weekend getaway. The North Cascades National Park is home to numerous lakes, rivers, creeks, mountains and beautiful hiking paths, making it popular for hiking and mountaineering. It offers a mix of easy, moderate and difficult trails and hikes, so it’s perfect for both the casual explorer and experienced hiker alike.
North Cascades was first designated a Forest Reserve in 1897, then upgraded to an official National Park in 1968. The North Cascades Highway is the main access route to the park, and it has been called “the most beautiful mountain highway in Washington” as it weaves its way past rivers, creeks, forests, mountains and scenic vistas.
Here are some suggestions to get you started on your adventures through the park:
One of the most famous features of North Cascades, Diablo Lake is renowned for its deep turquoise color (see the image above) and is a popular spot for canoers and kayakers. The Diablo Lake Trail runs along the lakeside, offering glimpses of old-growth forest, cascading waterfalls and the various surrounding mountains.
The lake is formed by the Diablo Dam, an 87 year-old structure that was the largest dam in the world when it was built.
One of the most prominent peaks in the entire state, the Desolation Peak hike can be an intense journey or a moderate exercise, depending on where you start. Hiking the entire trail (starting at East Bank Trail) is a 22.8 mile journey with a 4500’ elevation gain. An easier hike starts at either the Lightning Creek camps or the Desolation Peak boat launch, which cuts out the 16 mile East Bank Trail hike.
The peak is also famous for being one of the many places that Beat author Jack Kerouac wrote about. Kerouac spent 63 days living in a fire lookout at the top of the peak, then wrote about his experience in a number of his books. That fire lookout is now closed to the public, but it’s still a popular sightseeing destination.
If you’re not already a hiking evangelist, Cascade Pass may very well convert you. A 1800’ climb in 3.6 miles will lead you to one of the most stunning views your feet can bring you to.
The pass was carved out by a glacier and features a lush valley buffeted by icy, snowy peaks and old-growth forest. With numerous visible peaks and abundant wildlife, the pass is a perfect representation of the stunning scenery that exploring the North Cascades can take you to.
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