North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is located in Washington State, and consists of 684,000 acres of the Cascade Mountains in four separate units. Several national wilderness areas and British Columbia parkland also adjoin the National Park. The park features rugged mountain peaks, and has 318 glaciers, which is the most of any park in the lower 48 states. All the glaciers in the park have retreated significantly from 1980-2005 and the rate is increasing. The recent warmer climate has led to more summer melting and more winter melting events, reducing winter snowpack.
Nearly all of the national park is protected as wilderness, so there are few maintained buildings and roads within the North and South units of the Park. The park is most popular with backpackers and mountain climbers. One of the most visited destinations in the park is Cascade Pass, which was used as a travel route by Native Americans. Mount Shuksan, in the northwest corner of the park, is one of the most photographed mountains in the country and the second highest peak in the park 9,127 ft (2,765 m). Mount Baker at 10,778 feet (3,285 m) has some of the highest recorded snowfall anywhere in the world due to its dramatic rise above sea level with the San Juan Islands located only 60 miles to the west.
The North Cascades is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Elusive mammals like the gray wolf, fisher and wolverine wander the wilderness in small numbers, while more adaptable Columbia black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels and pikas delight park visitors in abundance. A wide variety of birds breed within the park boundaries. Fish and amphibians lurk in the clear mountain lakes and streams. The rich forests, rocky slopes and clean waters teem with invertebrate life, such as butterflies, dragonflies, and mayflies.
Abundant rain and mild winters provide the perfect environment for trees in the Pacific Northwest to grow very large and old. Not so long ago ancient forests of Douglas-fir and redcedar blanketed nearly all of the Pacific Northwest. These trees were so big that early settlers would sometimes make homes out of hollow stumps just by building roofs over them. Most of the old giants are gone from the Northwest, but in the wilds of the North Cascades you can still visit groves that have never been cut.
Most of the Park requires backcountry camping skills to access and photograph the high and remote peaks. The most accessible areas outside of the Park include Picture Lake and Artist’s Point near Mount Baker.