Frequently Asked Questions
Directions and Logistics
The North Cascades National Park Service Complex is located in northwest Washington. It encompasses the heart of the North Cascades mountains and is composed of three national park areas: Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Most people access the park complex on Washington State Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway). Directions and Transportation
North Cascades is an amazingly rugged mountain landscape. As the mixing ground of many habitats, it is one of the most ecologically diverse national park areas in the United States. Hiking, mountaineering, sightseeing, and camping are popular activities. There are many things to see and do.
The park is open year-round, but access can be very difficult in late fall, winter, and spring due to deep snow. Washington State Route 20 (North Cascades Highway) is usually closed from late November to early May. Other seasonal and emergency closures may apply. Operating Hours and Seasons
Overnight lodging within the park and recreation areas can be found at Ross Lake Resort and the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin. Other lodging accommodations can be found in the Stehekin and Chelan areas as well as along Highway 20 in the Skagit River valley west of the park and the Methow River valley to the east. Lodging Information
You do not need a parking pass for any trailheads in the North Cascades National Park Complex. The U.S. Forest Service requires a parking pass for many trailheads on national forest lands. Passes and Fees
There is no road access to Ross Lake from State Route 20. Road access to Ross Lake is available in Hozomeen. To access Ross Lake from State Route 20, most boaters will launch on Diablo Lake at Colonial Creek Campground then paddle five miles to the base of Ross Dam. Near Ross Dam, you can either portage your boat around the dam (portage is about one mile with over 500 feet of elevation gain) or utilize Ross Lake Resort’s portage service. Boating on Ross Lake
Camping and Hiking
North Cascades offers a variety of camping experiences from developed campgrounds to remote backcountry sites accessible only by trail or boat. Begin Planning for Your Camping Adventure
Many campsites, including backcountry campsites, can be reserved. Reservation Information
With hundreds of miles of trails, North Cascades offers hiking opportunities for people of all skills and abilities. Trails wind through beautiful old-growth forest trails as well as arduous terrain to remote alpine lakes and mountain passes. Popular day hikes include Cascade Pass, Agnes Gorge, Rainbow Loop, Thornton Lake, Thunder Creek, and Thunder Knob. Many leisurely trails wind through the forest near Newhalem. Backpacking hikes can encompass everything from short overnight trips to month-long expeditions.
Backcountry camping is one of the most popular activities in North Cascades. Backcountry camping requires a free permit.
Wilderness Trip Planner: Information on hiking, backcountry safety, and food storage requirements
Dogs are allowed within Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area as well as most U.S. Forest Service lands. Dogs must be leashed and in control at all times, including campsites and campgrounds. Dogs are not allowed in the national park except on the Pacific Crest Trail and within 50 feet of roads. Pets in North Cascades
Other Frequently Asked Questions
The park is home to some of the rarest land mammals in North America such as the Canada lynx, wolverine, and grizzly bear. Black bears and mountain goats are frequently seen in certain habitats at the right times of year. Rare birds such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet find suitable nesting habitat in the park. Seventy species of mammals, seven reptiles, twelve amphibians, thirty-one species of fish, and over two hundred species of birds have been documented in North Cascades. More Information
Flowers begin to bloom in low elevations in April, while plants at higher elevations remain buried under snow. In moderate to high elevations, wildflowers are most abundant in July and early August. Wildflower Information
Federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws to possess firearms in North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
Federal law prohibits firearms in certain facilities in this park; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances and generally include all NPS staffed offices open to the public. Firearm owners are responsible for understanding and complying with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering the park. North Cascades National Park Service Complex Laws and Policy
Last updated: October 22, 2017