North Cascades National Park covers more than 2 million acres, of federally designated wilderness, making it one of the largest parks in the lower 48 states. I’ve put together this ultimate hiking & camping guide to help you plan your North Cascades National Park getaway and make the most of your time there.
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The area is referred to as a complex, and is comprised of three National Park Service units- North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, + Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. In addition, other protected lands including several national forests and wilderness areas surround the park.
Rugged mountain peaks of the North Cascades Range, the most expansive glacial system in the contiguous United States, and numerous waterways. Go camping in forests with the highest degree of flora biodiversity of any American national park.
Listen to cascading waters in forested valleys. Go hiking through landscapes filled with life that have adapted to moisture in the west and recurring fire in the east. The jagged mountain peaks are crowned by over 300 glaciers. This fragile landscape is especially sensitive to our Earth’s climate change.
North Cascades National Park is located about 3 hours outside of Seattle. The nearest airport to the North Cascades is Seattle Tacoma International airport (SEA). You can rent a car (Click Here to Save 10%) at the airport, and drive about 3 hours outside of Seattle to the park.
Camping + Where to Stay
There are a number of options for accommodations while visiting the different areas within the complex. Camping is the most budget friendly, and is my preferred accommodation type when visiting national lands. Campsites at Colonial Creek, Goodell Creek, and Newhalen Creek campground are $16 per night. Gorge Lake is $10 per night. Hozomeen campground is free. Backcountry camping (boat-in and wilderness) requires a free permit. More Information on Camping
Pro Tip: Go camping at Colonial Creek campground. The campground is by the Visitor Center + the only area with cell service. However bring an extra battery charger because the sites are rustic. There are hiking trails within walking distance. Pyramid Lake trail is shorter, and the Thunder Creek trail which is longer.
Blue Lake trail is an extremely beautiful hike that takes you through alpine forests, a wild flower filled meadow, and towering mountains. You’ll end at the iridescent blue lake with crystal clear water below the glacier.
Length: Moderate, 5.3 miles (8.5 km) roundtrip, elevation gain 958 ft (292 m).
Location: North Cascades — Stehekin, Washington
Getting There: From Burlington, drive east on Hwy 20, the trailhead will be located at mileposts 161 + 162 on the south side of the road.
Rainy Lake Hiking Trail
Length: Paved & Easy, 2.0 miles (3.2 km) roundtrip, elevation gain 124 ft (38 m).
Location: North Cascades — North Cascades Highway – Hwy 20
Getting There: To go hiking from Marblemount follow Hwy 20 east for 20 miles to Gorge Lake Bridge. Continue for another 0.75 mile to the trailhead, on your right. You will see parking across the street from the trailhead.
Thunder Knob Trail
Look up and see the ridge of Sourdough Mountain and the snowfield of Davis Peak. A short trail leads to another viewpoint, looking across toward Jack Mountain and down toward the narrow channel of Diablo Lake.
Length: Moderately Easy, 3.6 miles (5.8 km) roundtrip, elevation gain 425 ft (130 m).
Location: North Cascades — Colonial Creek Campground
Getting There: To get there, take State Route 20 to milepost 130, Colonial Creek Campground is 24 miles (39 km) east of Marblemount. The trail head is at the entrance to the campground on the north side of the highway. **Bonus if you’re camping here!
Pyramid Lake Hiking Trail
The hiking trail starts beside Pyramid Creek and a beautiful cascading waterfall. Catch some cool breezes, and then almost immediately you’ll get to work ascending. The hiking trail is difficult and slow, covered in large roots, loose rocks, some scrambling, and up hill most of the way. When under the thin canopy of lodgepole pine, you’ll hear the silence of the woods and the trees creaking as they sway in the wind.
Length: Moderate, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) roundtrip, elevation gain 1500 ft (457 m).
Location: North Cascades — North Cascades Highway – Hwy 20
Getting There: From Marblemount follow Hwy 20 east for 20 miles to Gorge Lake Bridge. Continue for another 0.75 mile to the trailhead, on your right. You will see parking across the street from the trailhead.
Have you ever seen pictures of some magical destination online (Instagram, Pinterest) and thought to yourself, there is no way those colors are real. Experience ancient glaciers, waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and emerald lakes as you road trip through the Canadian Rockies into the National Parks. The colors are bright, vibrant and unbelievably breathtaking. The drive would take us through 3 jaw dropping national parks. Sure I knew they would be gorgeous, but was the water really THAT blue? I found out the answer during a week long summer road trip along the Icefields Pathway through Jasper, Banff, & Yoho National Parks.
If Canada wasn’t on your bucket list before- it will be after these 10 photos!
1. Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is a glacier fed lake in Banff National Park. The lake is easily accessed from the Icefields Parkway, but with just a short hike up a trail you can reach this breathtaking view.
2. Sulfer Skyline
Sulphur Skyline is a 7.7 kilometer moderate out and back trail in Jasper National Park. The trailhead hosts the parks hot springs (and and ice-cream shop) so bring a suit and relax your muscles after the long hike up!
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3. Emerald Lake
Located in Yoho National Park, British Colombia. Emerald lake is the largest in the park. Canoe’s are available for rent out on the absolutely beautiful glacial-fed lake with vibrant turquoise colored water.
4. 4th Lake
In Jasper National Park there is a 4.5 kilometer trail called Valley of the Five Lakes. The Loop is rated as moderate and is dotted with 5 lakes and breathtaking mountain views. The trail is primarily used for hiking, and is best used from March until October.
5. Moraine Lake with Canadian Rockies
This iconic jaw-dropping shade of turquoise is sure to leave a lasting impression. The waters are the most amazing color, and set in the Valley of Ten Peaks in Banff National Park, Alberta. The lake is great for kayaking, hiking or picnicking as it is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and rock piles.
6. Ice-fields Parkway Canadian Rockies National Parks
The Icefields Pathway is unlike any other. The stretch of road is an adventure itself as it takes you through the Canadian rockies national parks. The road goes from Jasper down to Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta. Along the drive you’ll see more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and crystal clear emerald lakes. All surrounded by sweeping valleys of thick pine and rich forests.
7. Lake Louise Adventure
Perhaps one of the most crowded lakes in Banff National Park- Lake Louise is known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks. Hiking trails wind up to the Lake Agnes Tea House giving hikers a bird’s-eye view of the lake. You can also rent canoes in summer, or skate on a frozen glacier lake skating rink in winter. The lake also has a ski resort and gondola, making this a year round attraction in the park.
8. 2nd Lake Hike
9. Yoho National Park
The least visited of the 3 Canadian rockies national parks is Yoho. The park should not be overlooked by its more famous siblings Banff & Jasper. This park has tons of adventure opportunities with more than 61 lakes just a jaw dropping as this- I wish we had planned more time in Yoho and less in Banff. Yoho was half as crowded in the busy summer season of July.
The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two. My favorite time to visit the UP is the fall season, when the trees are bursting with bright colors. A year ago, my boyfriend Logan and I went camping in the eastern region of the UP.
It was the end of the season in late October, we had JUST made it to see the fall colors. It was the last weekend the campground was open, and we were the only ones crazy enough to be camping there.
Find out why, in this edition of THE PERFECT WEEKEND featuring Michigan’s UP Eastern Region!
Where To Camp
We camped directly on Lake Superior at Brimley State Park, one of the oldest parks in the UP. In typical Logan/Chelsea fashion we arrived at our campsite in the dark. Setting up at night was never a concern of mine, in fact I kind of like it… waking up in a new place, really seeing it for the first time that morning. It’s like a surprise, or a present waiting to be unwrapped.
Our gift the first morning was waking up to a snow-covered tent… in October. Really neither of us were surprised…welcome to The UP.
Take a Drive
Freezing and in desperate need of caffeine we went in search of coffee. We fueled up and hit the road, enjoying the views as we sipped our way back to warmth.
Pro Tip: Take the scenic route along W Lakeshore Dr on your way to Tahquamenon Falls. This route will take you along Whitefish Bay giving you gorgeous lake views and the opportunity to see a lighthouse!
Point Iroquois Lighthouse
Just a short 15 minute drive from Brimley, this historic lighthouse is worth the stop. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic back in 1975. Its name meaning “Place of Iroquois Bones” derived from a battle fought back in 1662 by local Native American’s of the Chippewa and Iroquois. The lighthouse was closed for the season so we couldn’t climb the tower but we were able to explore the grounds.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Located in Paradise, Michigan- this state park is one you won’t want to miss. Experience one of the largest waterfalls this side of the Mississippi- Tahquamenon Falls. It’s beautiful rust colored falls are caused from leached tannins of the cedar swamps which the river drains. Explore the park, and stop into the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub for some local made beer!
Go on a Hike
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails throughout the eastern region of the UP. Hiking in the fall is my ideal hiking conditions- beautiful fall colors, crisp air, lower temperatures.
Lake Michigan touches four US states- Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Around 12 million people reside on this magnificent great lake. It’s crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with 275,000 acres of sand dunes, making it the largest freshwater dune system in the world! Lake Michigan has so many beaches it’s often referred to as “The Third Coast” of the United States. In my completely unbiased opinion, it’s the best of the coasts. The fresh water lake comes shark and salt free!
This past weekend Logan and I explored a new part of Michigan with his family, complete with fur babies and adorable nephews. We headed to the west coast over to Warren Dunes State Park where we camped for the weekend. The west side of the state is so beautiful, and just a short drive from Detroit or Chicago.
Where to Camp
As if setting up in the dark isn’t bad enough, it started to monsoon type rain as soon as we pulled into our campsite (and every weekend we camp, ever). Once again Logan and I questioned if tent camping was still our best option. We’ve been debating all summer if we should bite the bullet and buy a used camper to keep us dry on the rainy weekends (all in favor, say “i”). There are state campgrounds all up the coastline, here’s some of my favorites I’ve camped at along Lake Michigan.
Warren Dunes State Park: Three miles of rare PET FRIENDLY shoreline along gorgeous Lake Michigan. The park also includes around six miles of hiking trails through forest and sand dunes. Modern & rustic sites available.
Ludington State Park: My favorite Michigan state park has everything- a lighthouse, hiking trails, lakes, sand dunes, dense forest, adventure activities and so much more. This is a must visit park! Check out my post on 5 Reason’s to Love Ludington. Modern & rustic sites.
Leelanau State Park: Another park home to a magnificent lighthouse. The drive up the peninsula to Leelanau State Park takes you through Michigan’s wine country with water views on both sides. Rustic campground.
Wilderness State Park: This park is a night photographers dream spot, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive from Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Modern & rustic sites.
Take a drive along the coast and explore the waterfront towns while looking for lighthouses. The western coast of Michigan is dotted with around 35 lighthouses. Two of those reside side by side in the town of St. Joseph. It was about a 30 minute drive from our campground, 80 f degrees and the sun was shining. Perfect lighthouse hunting weather!
Each lighthouse is unique and has its own fascinating history, road tripping around the shorelines of Michigan you’re bound to run into a lighthouse or two.
St. Joseph North Pier
South Haven South Pier
Go for a Swim
Like I mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake that comes salt and shark free. Immerse yourself in the crystal clear blue waters to cool down from the summer sun and Michigan humidity.
Search for Petoskey Stones
Searching for stones as you walk along the beach shore was a tradition growing up. If you were lucky, you would find a Petoskey stone- the Michigan state stone. The stones are unique to the Great Lakes, and can only be found along the shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
The lake temperatures range from 60s in early summer to high 70s in late summer. The beach entrance at Warren Dunes State park has a sign showing the water temp each day so you can plan accordingly.
Relax on the Beach
Pack a beach bag, your furry friend or adorable nephew, and a picnic lunch- then head to the beach. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can hike to the beach on one of the many trails that runs through Warren Dunes State Park.
Hike a Sand Dune
Enjoy the world’s largest dune system, and go for a hike! At 400 ft the highest dune resides in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The dune formation pictured above was the largest at Warren Dunes State park. The dune rises 260 feet above the water with Lake Michigan views from the top.
We stopped at the local Three Blonde’s Brewing for lunch and a drink to cool down. Michigan’s west coast is crawling with local watering holes. Beer, Wine, Cider. We do them all impeccably well. The craft beer craze has swept through the state like wildfire, with hundreds of local breweries statewide. Just as Michigan has its own west coast, we have our own wine country, much of which resides on the beautiful Lake Michigan. You haven’t tasted anything like the sweet nectar Michigan’s cideries create. Cider is easily my beverage of choice, and I would highly recommend any produced locally, a few of my favorites include Blakes, JK Scrumpys, and Vandermill.
After our boozy lunch we decided dessert was a must. Good thing icecream is yet another thing Michigan is awesome at. There was a local dairy farm mere seconds away from the brewery we ate lunch at. Sherman’s Dairy Bar didn’t disappoint. I had a hard time deciding between the yellow cake batter flavor and the birthday cake. With over 70 different flavors of homemade recipes featuring all the Michigan classics, can you blame me? (I went with yellow cake batter 😊)
Jasper National Park is home to some of the best hiking, skiing, and climbing in the world, making it an adventurer’s paradise. The park is one of the largest National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, offering over 4,000 mi² of vast wilderness to explore. From peaks extending over 11,000 square kilometers, to glacier rivers snaking along the base there are endless adventurous activities in Jasper.
Here’s my adventurers guide to Jasper National Park!
The National Park campgrounds in Canada fill up FAST. With no reservations prior to arriving, we took our chances and ended up in the overflow lot of Snaring Campground. There were not any facilities- because there weren’t any designated campsites- you just pitched your tent where you could find a spot! Rustic style. Don’t know what to pack when camping in national parks? Check out my Packing Guide: Camping National Parks .
Go White Water Rafting
White water rafting was the perfect mid afternoon adventure. Cool off in the refreshing glacier waters as you navigate your way along the Lower Athabasca River. I sat front and center, unbeknownst to me- that was the danger zone. I found out when we hit the first rapid and a wall of ice cold water came up over my head. We went through Jasper Rafting Adventures for our tour, and had a great first time rafting experience. The two hour trip seemed a bit short for us- I would recommend doing the longer river run if you have the time.
Hike the Sulphur Skyline
If you only do one hike while you’re in Jasper- this should be it. The Sulphur Skyline hiking trail has some of the most spectacular panoramas that Jasper has to offer. The hike is moderate with a consistent incline, dress appropriately (hiking shoes recommended), take lots of water, and break along the trail. The 8.0 km to the summit will take around 1.5-3 hours to reach (one way). It was hot and rainy at the trail head, and cold and windy by the time we reached the summit- pack a jacket and a lunch! Have a picnic at the summit and enjoy those pano views!
Go Rock Climbing
I’m not going to lie- this one pushed me out of my comfort zone. See the little pink blob at the bottom? That’s me, and this rock was nothing like the rock wall I practiced on at home. The rock climbing scene at Jasper is legendary. People flock from all over the world to climb the incredible Canadian rockies. We went through Rockaboo Mountain Adventure for our tour, and had an incredible experience! We did the 4 hour tour which began at the office in Jasper. Our certified ACMG guide was so knowledgeable and friendly- which helped with the nerves. All the climbing gear you need for the adventure is provided- including shoes.
Spot a Bear
The wildlife in Jasper National Park is abundant. We saw mountain goats, several black bears, and elk. Much to Grace’s dismay, we saw no moose. The park is home to both black and grizzly bears- carry bear spray if you plan on hiking. You never want to surprise a bear, make noise to alert them while you’re on the trail. We didn’t see any bears while hiking, but as we drove around the park we were able to view a few from inside our car at a safe distance. DO NOT approach the bears, and please be mindful of your speed while driving through the park, as many animals are killed each year due to vehicles.
Hang Out In a Tree
Find the perfect spot to relax for the day, or stack your hammocks with your travel crew to see how high you can build! Looking for a great summer hammock? Check out Madera, for every hammock you purchase, two trees will be planted!
Know Before You Go
Help preserve the beauty of this park and practice the leave no trace principles.
Showers are only available at the Whistlers Campground, but if you camp at Wapiti Campground they allow you to use the showers at Whistlers.
It is a 3-3.5 hour drive from Edmonton or Calgary. I would recommend flying into one city and out of the other to save on drive time.
There is a cute downtown area inside the park with shops, restaurants, and a grocery store.