EXPLORE OUR 1 DAY, 2 DAY AND 3 DAY TRAVEL ITINERARIES FOR BEAUTIFUL NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK IN WASHINGTON STATE. SAVE THESE TRAVEL ITINERARIES FOR WHEN YOU START PLANNING YOUR EPIC ADVENTURE.
North Cascades National Park is a special hidden gem way up in the northern half of the state of Washington. The park - which is actually made up of three different "sections" (Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park) - is home to the most expansive glacial system in the USA outside of Alaska as well as the highest degree of flora biodiversity of any American national park. All of this put together, 100% makes North Cascades National Park worth visiting!
It is also just incredibly beautiful - the rivers and creeks are a vibrant turquoise color due to them being primarily fed from glacier run-off, the forests are healthy and large due to the lack of logging (historically, the landscape was too rugged to make logging an economically viable option), and the animal life is thriving (this includes even a small resident grizzly bear population).
If you are looking for an amazing alpine adventure and are considering exploring North Cascades National Park for yourself, then make sure to check out our 1 Day, 2 Day and 3 Day Travel Itineraries below for all your planning needs.
► You can find even more information on the national park in our comprehensive North Cascades National Park Adventure Guide!
NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK PARK MAP
3 PERFECT NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL ITINERARIES
Due to North Cascades National Park's size (504,654 acres), we suggest splitting up your days into exploring just the west side and then just the east side.
While there isn't really a clear split between each side, we consider the edge of Ross Lake to be the divider. This division is in our opinion a more efficient way to see the park, for it is quite large and you can spend a good deal of time just simply driving across it.
We suggest starting on the west side and then heading over to the east side, since the west side is closer to Seattle and the coast (and Interstate 5, the main north-south corridor across the state), has the main park visitor center and all four of the park campgrounds.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: the closest grocery store to the park is going to be in the town of Concrete (which is located along Highway 20 and only 35 minutes from the park's west entrance). Otherwise, if you need any big box stores your best bet is to stock up in the town of Burlington, which is right at the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 20. There you have a Walmart, Fred Meyer, and Costco.
NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK 1 DAY ITINERARY
If you only have one day in North Cascades National Park then your best bet is to head out on a nice hike in the morning and then try to check out either Ross or Diablo Lakes (or both) in the afternoon and into the evening (its a great sunset spot).
Below are some of the top hikes in North Cascades National Park.
CASCADE PASS AND SAHALE ARM
One of the more well-known areas to explore within North Cascades National Park is the stunning Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm area. In fact, the Cascade Pass Trail is the most popular hiking trail in the entire national park complex - aka it gets really busy on summer weekends - due to its amazing views and the fact that it is the shortest and "easiest" access to the park's beautiful alpine environment.
If you are looking for a tough but super rewarding hike, then definitely try to get up to the Cascade Pass Trailhead in the early morning and start hiking out before it gets too busy. The whole trail (out to Sahale Mountain) is 12.1 miles round-trip with just over 5,000 feet of elevation gain.
HIDDEN LAKE LOOKOUT
Another great option if you are someone who wants to combine great views - some say the best in the entire park - with a bit of history, is to hike up to the Hidden Lake Lookout, which was built in 1932 and decommissioned by the Forest Service sometime around 1953. The hiking trail measures roughly 8 miles round trip with around 3,300 feet of elevation gain. If you are someone who wants those epic mountain top views, then this is definitely the trail to do.
MAPLE PASS LOOP
Another popular trail in North Cascades National Park is this 7.4 mile loop that takes you up and over a pass (Maple Pass) and along some ridgelines - which affords you amazing views of various mountain peaks as well as two alpine lakes. This is an A+ trail to hike along during the fall for there are tons of larch trees along the route.
Other recommended hikes to explore (depending on your location within the park and how far you want to go) are: Thornton Lakes Trail (10.9 miles total, west side of the park), Lake Ann Trail (3.4 miles total, east side of the park) and Blue Lake Trail (4.6 miles total, east side of the park).
EXPLORE MORE | THE COMPLETE HIKING GUIDE TO THE KENDALL KATWALK TRAIL IN WASHINGTON
Once you are done hiking, head over to either Ross Lake or Diablo Lake (or both since they are so close to each other) for a chance to check out the turquoise water.
To reach either, simply drive out on Highway 20/North Cascades Highway until you start to see the beautiful water below you. You can check out either of the lake's dams (they were both built in the 1930s in order to bring power to Seattle) or just pull over at one of the many viewpoints to get a better view of the colorful water and the rugged mountain valleys.