Just like you, a plant or animal has an "address", that describes its natural home or habitat. Like any close-knit community, the North Cascades consist of different "neighborhoods" of habitat -- defined by elevation -- called lifezones.
Rocky Ridges: Life in an Icebox
At high elevations, nature's freezer defrosts drip by drip. Cracking blue clusters of ice bury the tops of treeless rocks. Frigid winds and constant snowfall challenge organisms to adapt. Ice worms and red algae are some of the few life forms nurtured at the summits of the alpine zone.
Where to visit Alpine zones:
Elevation 7,000+ feet or 2,100+ meters
High mountain peaks and ridges can be difficult to reach 200+ peaks offer equipped, experienced mountaineers alpine challenges from scrambles to multi-day climbs.
Mountain Meadows: Winter Welcome Mats
Subalpine creatures nestle down in a habitat that invites chilly weather and nearly shrugs off summer. Stunted trees cluster on humps amid open meadows and rocky outcrops awaiting snow melt for a brief chance to grow after eight months of cold in the subalpine zone.
Where to visit Subalpine zones:
Elevation 4,000-7,000 feet or 1,200-2,100 meters
Hike: Cascade Pass, Heather and Maple Pass, Sourdough Mountain Trails in Mt. Baker NRA
Drive to: Heather Meadows
Silver Fir Zone
Mountain Forests: Wet and Wooded Mansions
If mountain forest habitat was a many-roomed house, the rivers and streams would be its hallways. Thousands of watery corridors connect the mountain slopes to the sea. These wet and wooded forests of the silver-fir zone provide shelter for many animals, including insects and birds.
Where to visit Silver Fir zones:
Elevation 2,000-5,500 feet or 600-1,700 meters
Hike: Cascade Pass Trail, Cascade and Baker Rivers
Drive to: Mt. Baker Scenic Byway, State Route 20 near Rainy Pass
Hemlock, Redcedar, Douglas-Fir Zone
River Valleys: Forest Floors Thrive on Soil
Most recipes for life in nature's kitchen start on the forest floor with fertile, moist soils, teeming with life. The hemlock, redcedar, Douglas-fir forest contains a great diversity of plants and animals, including more than 3,400 species of "bugs".
Where to visit Hemlock, Redcedar, Douglas-fir zones:
Elevation 0-2,000 feet or 0-600 meters
Happy Creek Forest Walk - State Route 20
Shadows of the Sentinels - Baker Lake
Thunder Creek Trail - Diablo Lake
Horseshoe Bend Trail - Highway 542
Last updated: February 28, 2015