North Cascades is one of the least-visited national parks. This is a stark contrast from the likes of Glacier and Yellowstone, but nonetheless a welcomed opportunity to relax and let go of traffic woes or fears of full campgrounds. This park is quiet yet abuzz with birds, rushing rivers, the sound of ice cascading from mountain cliffs, and a hydroelectric power plant. Wait, a what?
I don't want to sound like too much of a "Debbie Downer," the park was quite lovely, so let me share the highlights:
- FREE CAMPING! This is always a bonus. We stayed at the Gorge Lake campground, which contains six, primitive sites. The campground is right on the bank of a strikingly blue river feeding Gorge Lake, and campers are treated to the soothing sound of rushing water in this virtually bug-free setting. It was a great find!
- Cascade Pass Hike - This hike goes in my book as one of the best on this trip! Glacier is a tough act to follow but beauty on this hike really held up. This seven miler ascends 1,700' via a manageable series of switchbacks up a cloud-topped mountainside. The last quarter mile rewards hikers for their climbing efforts with a wild blueberry snack, as bushes were bursting with the tiny berries! (Side note - visitors are allowed to gather one litre of berries per day so come prepared. We did and picked our share, which were later turned into delectable mountain blueberry pancakes!) The hike concludes at Cascade Pass which reveals sweeping views of jagged mountain peaks, glaciers, talus piles, greenery, trees, and wildflowers, all of which seem to endlessly flirt with passing clouds. This, my friends, is yet another reminder of how magical ma nature can be! I happily recommend this hike to visitors!
- Diablo Lake Hike - Ok, this is not really a highlight, but I'll mention it anyway. This trail winds along the man-made Diablo Lake from one dam to another. While the forest is mossy and lush, we'd hear the unsettling crackle of electricity travelling at warped speed above, and views of the open skies were otherwise cluttered with transmission lines. The hike concluded at a major hydroelectric powerplant and a suspension bridge advertising the dangerously high voltage of the cables above. This hike was not conducive to enjoying the natural world, rather it served as a reminder of our human footprint and the balance to be struck between development and conservation.
Overall, we would happily revisit North Cascades. There is a lot of beautiful territory to explore and if it is even half as beautiful as Cascade Pass, we (or any visitor) is in for a treat! We are also delighted to be back on the West Coast, and I can't believe we have arrived at this point in our journey. But, there is much more to explore, more beauty to take in, and many more miles ahead! Next up, Olympic National Park and the Pacific Ocean!