North Cascades in the Seattle Times

We are excited to be featured in an article about North Cascades National Park written by Gregory Scruggs of The Seattle Times. Published May 31, Scruggs recommends "Stay at the North Cascades Institute" and "Take a tour of Lake Diablo on a glass-roofed boat" as two top North Cascades National Park adventures for this summer!

Visiting a national park in Washington while enjoying a modicum of solitude has become a logistical feat: This summer, Mount Rainier National Park requires timed-entry reservations for Sunrise and Paradise, while visitors to Olympic National Park highlights like the Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge often endure multihour waits.

But hiding in plain sight is a third option if “national park” is on your summer bingo card: North Cascades. 

Washington’s most recently established national park, founded in 1968, is also our least popular, seeing a fraction of the visitors of its peers. The proof is in the putting — up the tent, that is. When a college friend recently visited from the East Coast clamoring for an early season backpacking trip, we pulled off the seemingly impossible: a fair-weather weekend campout completely to ourselves in a national park.

On a warm, dry Friday in May, we had our pick of North Cascades backcountry campsites and spent a rejuvenating night out along Thunder Creek, a roaring stream that empties into Diablo Lake. The hummingbird-sized mosquitoes were the only drawback to an otherwise blissful two days on the trail, during which we saw fewer than a dozen hikers, all within a mile of the trailhead.

While I can’t promise similar seclusion during the peak summer season, I can promise lighter crowds than at the state’s other national parks — no tour buses toting the cruise ship crowd, no lines of cars waiting to get through the gate.

That’s intentional. North Cascades is short on so-called “windshield wilderness,” where you can drive right up to the most scenic spot, and long on actual wilderness, which is the park’s raison d’être as conceived largely by Seattle-area environmentalists. What North Cascades National Park lacks in full-service lodges, grandiose visitors centers, and name-brand attractions, it makes up for with breathtaking biological diversity, vast vertical relief and the most glaciers in the Lower 48.

“This is a park where you have to work a little bit to encounter what it has to offer,” said Christian Martin of the North Cascades Institute. “It was conceived of as a wilderness park and designed so that the best aspects of the park were going to be accessed by boot, boat and climber’s rope.”

A trip into North Cascades National Park isn’t the easiest, but that’s the point.


Read the rest of Scrugg’s excellent article and a “Eight North Cascades National Park adventures for this summer” list at Top photo of Sahale Arm at Cascades Pass by John D’Onofrio.

Leave a Comment