The Cascade Mountain Range extends from British Columbia all the way to California with miles of hiking, snow-shoeing, skiing and cross-country skiing trails. The Washington Cascades are just a few hours from Seattle and offer countless opportunities for outdoor adventures with some of the best camping, backpacking and mountain climbing available.
The North Cascades are home to Mount Baker, the North Cascades National Park, the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and the Chelan Lake National Recreation Area. Sometimes referred to as the “American Alps,” this area is over 400 million years old with more glaciers than any other park in the continental United States.
The North Cascade Region was designated first as a Forest Reserve in 1897 and then became a National Park in 1968. The North Cascades National Park Act also designated the other two areas of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex as National Recreation Areas — Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The parks covers almost 700,000 acres and has more than 75 species of mammals and 200 different types of birds. There are more than 300 glaciers, waterfalls and old-growth forests to explore. The more than 400 miles of hiking trails mean there are paths for all kinds of hikers.
The Central Cascades are only two hours by car from Seattle and offer endless outdoor recreational activities such as backpacking, climbing, skiing and hiking. Both Snoqualmie Pass and Steven’s Pass offer extensive skiing opportunities in the winter and great hiking in the summer. Lake Chelan is ideal for summer adventures with plenty of water play available.
The Central Cascades provide ample hiking opportunities with one of the most popular being, The Enchantments. There are also lots of less strenuous trails to alpine lakes, waterfalls and through lush forests.
The South Cascades offer three snow-capped majestic volcanoes – Mount Adams, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens which rise dramatically with many outdoor recreational opportunities.
Mount Rainier National Park is a popular attraction with gorgeous views, lots of hiking trails, climbing opportunities and amazing wildflowers. Younger kids will enjoy the Nisqually Vista Trail with spectacular views of Mount Rainier. The trail features Pacific silver fir, subalpine fir, and mountain hemlock, along with gorgeous views of Mount Rainier.
Mount St. Helens has a long history and remains a favorite for climbers. The mountain erupted in May 1980 and was designated as the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument shortly after. The visitor center has fascinating studies of volcanic activity for all ages.
Mount Adams to to the southwest, rises to 12,276 feet and is a popular climbing location. The area is ideal for hiking, picnicking and camping.
Cascade Loop Scenic Drive
Washington’s Cascade Loop is approximately 440 miles long and offers spectacular views. Start in Everett, just 30 miles north of Seattle and head toward the Cascade Mountains in Northwest Washington. Stop at Mount Baker to enjoy mountain beauty and glacier fed lakes before heading toward Winthrop. Loop around the Columbia River Valley through Lake Chelan and down to Wenatchee and Leavenworth before finding though Steven’s Pass and Snoqualmie. This is an amazing and beautiful drive which showcases all the Cascades have to offer.
By Rebecca Mongrain