Thursday, July 18, 2013

North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake National Recreation Area

North Cascades National Park has an interesting layout, in that the main road through the park, Hwy. 20, is buffered by land designated National Recreation Area, while national park designated lands form the bread of the Ross Lake NRA sandwich.  This design allows for more uses in the most trafficked parts of the park.  On a recent visit I took advantage of these laxer regulations by bringing my dog along for a hike; something that is largely prohibited in most national parks.

This was my first time to the park, so I stopped at the visitor center, which is technically in the NRA.  I was tired of driving and Buddy was tired of riding, so we decided to do the multiple trails that connect the visitor center to the town of Newhalem.  These trails are well-labeled on the maps at the center, but they are not well-signed along the actual trails, so be prepared for some backtracking or extra wandering around if you aren't familiar with them.

Our hike started at the visitor center and went downhill to the River Loop Trail.  After visiting the river, we backtracked and took the To Know A Tree Trail to the Linking Trail to the Trail of the Cedars loop.  After exploring Newhalem, we walked back taking parts of the various trails we'd missed on the way out for a total hike length of about 5 miles.  The only major elevation change was the stretch between the visitor center and the River Loop Trail.  This could be completely avoided for an easy hike by starting at Newhalem or in the campsites and avoiding the visitor center spur.

The scenery here reminded my quite a bit of the rainforest in Olympic, with tall sword and bracken ferns under moss coated alders and evergreens.  I am positive I missed some incredible scenery just another 15 minutes up the road, but I plan on returning soon to try some hikes deeper in the park around Ross Lake and Lake Chelan.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Ghost Plant/Indian Pipe

Yes, I instagrammed this one.

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