North Cascades National Park Guide

Wild, jagged, and remote, North Cascades National Park is a paradise for hikers and backpackers. 

And in this article, we’ll share some best things to do in North Cascades National Park, entry pass charges, the best hotels nearby, etc. So let’s get started!



Park North Cascades National Park
Founded 1968
Things To Do Cascades Highway, Lake, and Discover
Hotels Near North Cascades National ParkQuality Inn, Three Rivers Inn, and Many More.
PriceNo Entry Fee
Validity7 Days
Camping LocationMultiple Locations

Where Is North Cascades National Park?

North Cascades National Park is located in the northern part of Washington state. The best way to reach North Cascades National Park is to take a flight to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is 120 miles away from the park.

From there, in order to reach the park, you will have to take State Route 20 corridor that connects with Interstate 5 located at Burlington.

And if you are traveling from the east, then you can take route US 97, Okanogan.

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From majestic mountains, narrow glacial valleys, to plunging canyons and unique emerald lakes, it leaves the visitors in awe of the surroundings.

The park covers 505,000 acres expanse of land which encompasses three diverse natural regions.

The Park has features vast forests with the highest flora diversity than any other national park.

The low number of visitors is surprising considering the park is located within 100 miles of Seattle, however as one of the least cowered national parks, you can rest assured and explore its unrivaled beauty more quietly and freely. 

Watch this Before You Go!


The very first people to settle in the region were Paleo-Indian Native Americans. By the time Europeans came to the region, it was populated by Skagit tribes.

In the early 19th century, British companies did visit regions and limited mining and logging occurred in the area. 

The first significant human impact in the region was in the 1920s when many dams were built in the Skagit Valley and environmentalists started a campaign to preserve the wilderness.

On October 2, 1968, the region was designated as North Cascades National Park. The Park was one of the earliest research programs dedicated to studying climate change. 

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Top 5 Things to do in North Cascades National Park

It offers so many amazing things to do that it won’t be possible to mention them all in one article.

So, here are the top 5 things to do in the park that you just can’t miss: 

Cascades Highway  

Drive along the North Cascades Highway is one of the best ways to experience everything the park has to offer without putting on your hiking boots.

Cascades Highway is one of the first national scenic highways in America.

The 30-mile highway travels through the park and features several stunning overlooks, lakes, and short hikes along the way.

While traveling down the highway, you’ll drive past several historic towns, generational farms, and a wide variety of wildlife that you can spot from the car. 

Sterling Munro Trail

Sterling Munro is a 300-foot boardwalk trail that connects the visitor center to other areas within the park.

The beautiful wooden boardwalk is really well-maintained and short which makes it perfect for elders and small children.

Along the entire length of the trail, you can enjoy spectacular views of snow-covered mountains, a canopy of lush green trees, and lovely natural surroundings. 

Diablo Lake Vista Point

Diablo Lake overlook is one of the most popular spots to experience the beauty of the park from a different angle.

A short walk will take you to the magnificent view of Diablo Lake famous for its unusual silty turquoise color.

The overlook is located on Highway 20 and there are several viewpoints located around and restrooms as well.

There is pavement in the walkway and there are ramps for people with disability.

Diablo Lake Vista Point is a perfect place to capture the supreme beauty of turquoise waters and the surrounding mountains in a single shot. 

Ross Lake 

If you want a different perspective of the mountains, Ross Lake is the perfect spot to experience that.

Two graded boat ramps from the north side of the park in British Columbia are available for motorized boat rides.

You can also take kayaks, canoes, and other watercraft into the lake from the colonial creel campground.

While paddling across Ross Lake, you can enjoy the spectacular view of the towering mountains surrounding the lake. 

Trail of Cedars

Trail of Cedars is one of the shortest yet spectacular hikes in the park, that you won’t want to miss.

Stretching along the Skagit River, this 1.7-mile scenic trail is super easy to do for almost anyone and takes only 30-minutes to complete.

The trail is shrouded in beautiful old-growth cedar trees and is reactively flat with no elevation changes which makes it perfect for hiking, walking, and running 

Best Time to Visit 

The best time to visit the park is from mid-June through mid-September depending on the weather conditions.

Snow may hang around on some trails until July and there is blocking on the roads in winters. July is the peak season in the park as most of the trails are open for hiking. 


You can browse the map of the park online or get it from the visitor center at the park.

we’d recommend downloading the official map of the park in advance showing all the popular sights, roads, camping, services, and backcountry trails.

Here’s a detailed map of the park showing the areas mentioned in the article.

Hotels Near North Cascades National Park

Wondering where to stay near the park, here are our top 5 recommendations: 

  1. Three Rivers Inn
  2. La Quinta Inn & Suites
  3. Quality Inn
  4. Fairfield Inn & Suites
  5. Coast Chilliwack Hotel

Camping Locations

The National Park Service operates five Campgrounds within the boundaries of the park.

To experience the grandeur, North Cascade National Park offers overnight camping opportunities at Scenic community campgrounds, boat-in campsites, remote backcountry sites.

All campsites can be reserved in advance from Late May to September on a first-come-first-served basis. You can also make an online reservation via

Hiking, Biking, & Camping North Cascades National Park


It has pleasant and mild weather. The relative proximity of the Pacific Ocean moderates the weather in the park.

Only the highest trails of the park have snow. Summer temperatures for the park often reach up to 90 degrees Celsius while winters are characterized by heavy snow, rain, and frequent avalanches.

Make sure to check out the current weather forecast before visiting the park

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Entry Fee & Passes

There’s no entry fee to enter the national park so everyone can enjoy this breathtaking beauty of the park.

However, you will require the North Forest Pass and or Recreation Day pass at many trailheads.

You can purchase Passes from ranger stations or online

Checklist of things to Pack

  1. Daypack
  2. Reservation 
  3. Seasonal clothing
  4. Sturdy Hiking boots
  5. Refillable water bottles
  6. Sun protection
  7. Binoculars 
  8. First-aid kit 
  9. Flashlight
  10. Map & Compass

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days do I need in the North Cascades National Park?

You’ll need at least one complete day to see the North Cascade National Park. Drive North Cascade Highway, and do one of two hikes. 

Why does North Cascade National Park offer free entry?

The Park is the least accessible unit of the complex which is why it receives a low number of visitors than other national parks. Park management removed the entry fee to attract more visitors. 

Are there any grizzly bears in North Cascade National Park?

Yes, grizzly bears are abundant in the park for the last 100 years and can be seen in the Cascade mountains. 

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