North Cascades National Park
Washington, USA

A 2-hour drive northeast of Seattle brings you to the beginning of North Cascades National Park. First, head to the North Cascades Visitor's Center for a video and some short interpretive trails. Try the River Loop Trail, a 1.8-mile loop that begins near the Visitor's Center. Just past the Newhalem campground, find the short Ladder Creek Falls trail, taking you to a falls near the old Powerhouse, and the Trail of the Cedars Nature Walk, which winds along the river bank and old growth forest. You get to cross a fun suspension bridge. Then, continue driving east for more great vistas and numerous trailheads.

Diablo Lake and Ross Lake offer overlooks and hiking. Ross Lake also offers a resort. However, since there is no road access to the resort, you can either hike from the closest parking lot or take the Diablo Lake Ferry. After driving a while longer on the North Cascades Highway, you will come to Rainy Pass. This is a great picnic area. It also offers the Rainy Lake Trail, a 2-mile flat paved walk that provides beautiful mountain views. A little further along the road is Washington Pass. To me, this is the highlight of the park. Here, the overlook presents craggy glacier-filled peaks. It's quite a contrast from the surroundings of the Visitor's Center. The Washington Pass Observation Site offers jaw-dropping views just a short paved walk from the parking lot.

For more adventure, consider visiting Stehekin. It's only accessible by boat, plane, or foot. You can really be one with nature here and there are many trails and vistas. There is also lodging here and the Golden West Visitor's Center. The rest of the park lodging consists of campgrounds. If you need more accessible lodging, consider the town of Concrete to the west of the park or Mazama and Winthrop to the east of the park. Many rustic cabins and ranches are available. I recommend staying in a cabin at Ovenell's Heritage Inn in Concrete.

Happy Travels!