The North Cascades National Park is over 500,000 acres of pure wilderness. There are two sections of the park the north and south split by the Skagit River and Lake Ross National Recreation Area. Highway 20 follows the Skagit River and is what is advertised as the way to visit the National Park.
This highway doesn’t actually enter the national park. There are no paved roads within the park lands and only a couple of gravel roads. We drove east on Hwy 20 to the Ross Lake view points and back again. There is a circle you can do around the southern section of the park and Lake Chelan, but we did not go the entire way maybe another day.
The Skagit River is dammed three times up here to create three distinct lakes and lots of hydroelectric power. These dams product most if not all the power required to run Seattle, and presumably everything between here and there. The lakes are (lowest to highest or west to east) Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake and Ross Lake. They are beautiful especially the color of the water. They are sparkly milky green/blue due to the amount of minerals carried into them from the glacier fed rivers.
We found it interesting that the highest (first in the chain) Ross Lake was not this stunning turquoise color, more of a dark blue from what little we could see. Could not find an explanation, but definitely a difference even on google earth.
There was a nice water fall, and on the mountain shot notice the fire damage to the trees.
But unless you are able to hike a long distance or four wheel on one of the gravel roads this is what you get from the heart of the “CASCADE MOUNTIANS.” I hear there are 300 glaciers in the park and some of the most rugged mountains in the country so we wanted more. Following the river, we were basically in the valley and really couldn’t see the mountains.
We found Hwy 542 north of the park up to Mt. Baker ski area and decided to try that. It again does not touch the national park, but is in the Mt. Baker Mt. Shuksan national forest. Most of the drive was pretty flat and we were wondering what kind of views we might find. But the last 10 miles or so went straight up to the most magnificent views of the two mountains and many glaciers!!! Yeah, we were so pleased and absolutely loved the views.
Mt. Shuksan –
Mt. Baker, not as great as we would of liked because the hike we wanted to take was closed for maintenance, but better than the view from Anacortes.
Also took a side trip to the Nooksack Falls (of course). Nice but hard to view due to such steep cliffs and thankful for the fence keeping us back.
Peace Love and save the glaciers!!!