The drive to North Cascades National Park was a new experience for both my father and I. We had been on ferries before, but never with a car. This would be the first time we would drive up on to a ferry and cross the water.
North Cascades National Park is split into two units, North & South. They are separated by Lake Ross National Recreation Area (NRA). The Visitors Center for the park is located in the NRA, as well as a few campgrounds.
The drive from Olympic to North Cascades took most of the day, but we made it to the Visitors Center a bit before closing (also right before 4th of July weekend), only to find out that there were NO campsites available. One of the volunteers at the Visitors Center gave us a few options: 1. Drive 2-3 hours in the opposite direction and you might find something 2. Stay at an RV Park back the way we came or 3. Try camping in the national forest just south of the national park’s south unit.
We both said no to option 1 really quick, but 2 and 3 could work. We drove past the RV Park and saw there were vacancies, so worst case that could work, but we would prefer to camp in a designated campsite as opposed to an RV Park.
There were two campgrounds in the National Forest. We drove down the road and stopped at the first one to see a sign that said “full, but there are signs at the next campground – Mineral Springs.” We decided to give it a shot, so down the road we went. About two miles in, it turned to a dirt road. Five miles down the dirt road we saw a sign for the campground. The third site was available, so my dad hopped out of the car to wait. A gentleman walking down the road told us that it was the last site open and if we wanted to camp to stay in that site. I threw the car in reverse and we started setting up our campsite.
Preservationists started a petition in 1892 to establish the National Park. In 1897 it became part of the Washington Forest Reserve and eight years later it became part of the US Forest Sercive. Several bills failed to pass through Congress between 1906 and 1921. Rivals over the land continued until October 2, 1968 when it officially became a National Park (as well as Ross Lake and Lake Chelan NRAs).
- Will celebrate 50 years next year
- over 500,000 acres
- 93% Wilderness
- Goode Mountain -9,220 ft (tallest in park)
- 500 lakes and ponds
- 312 glaciers (13% loss since 1971)
- most glaciers in any park outside of Alaska
- a third of the glaciers in the lower 48 states
- Most popular with backpackers and mountain climbers (the pass in the picture below is a very popular hike)
PEOPLE I MET:
Obviously I’ve met rangers at all the parks I’ve been to, but these two rangers made this National Park worth it for me, continue reading to see what happened 🙂
As I was reading about North Cascades, I was a bit confused. There was a north and south unit, but no roads or campsites (only backcountry camping). EXCEPT one dirt road that went into the south unit, which eventually led to some trailheads for backpackers. Well that night while my dad and I were trying to figure out what we could actually do, and where we could go in North Cascades to truly experience the park, I realized that we were currently on that ONE dirt road that goes into the park. Once I figured that out, we decided that we needed to continue on that dirt road the next morning to really go into the park.
Once we packed up camp, we started the drive up that dirt road towards the park boundary. A few miles into the park we passed a sign that says “Gate closed ahead.” I parked in the next parking lot to put on my hiking boots and my dad started walking up to see how close we were to the closed gate. While he was walking up, a couple rangers (see above) came into the parking lot to do some car counts. They told me we were about 1.5 miles from the gate and that the trailheads were 8 miles passed the closed gate.
When my dad got back we decided to see if we could find parking closer to the gate. As we drove up that road we drove pass about 50 cars, but there was an open spot about 3 cars away from the gate. Lucky us! We didn’t have too much time to spend, but decided we would try to walk up that road a little way to see if we could truly understand why this was a national park. Up to that point, we hadn’t seen anything that would warrant making this a National Park. We walked about a mile up that road, and saw many flowers.
All of a sudden, there was a car driving down the road. There were the rangers, slowing down, to inform us that they were about to go back, unlock, and open the gate for the public. Of course, we decided to double back and get our car to drive the eight miles up to the trailhead. Huge thank you to the rangers who told us this, because when we got to the top, it became obvious why this was a national park and why they were called the Alps of the West.
It was surreal seeing the peaks, the glaciers, the cascades, the deer and the views in general. Being the third car up that road for the season was very peaceful. The sounds, the crisp air
And of course, my picture of my Jr. Ranger badge and souvenirs!
NEXT TIME at North Cascades: I’ve never backpacked before but this park seems perfect and almost designed for it.