Hello national park lovers! My name is Jocelyn Olds and welcome to my article on the beautiful North Cascades National Park of Washington State.
I’m a 27 year old gal who currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky. I spend most of my time adventuring or planning my next adventure. Hiking, rock climbing, snowboarding and camping are my favorite outdoor hobbies.
When I’m home, I love taking care of my dog, cat and plants as well as going to breweries with my friends. I grew up all over the United States. My father was in the military – so my siblings and I were “army brats”.
We were only somewhere long enough to get a year of school in (sometimes not even that) and then we would move onto the next military base. I think this sense of drifting gave me a very specific skill set: I can make it anywhere and I want to see more of the world. Therefore, the need to constantly be shifting is a strong theme in my life.
Adventures at North Cascades National Park
Exploring the mountains of Washington was a dream of mine for many years. The majesty of North Cascades National Park is awe-inspiring. I knew how much my soul wanted to experience its beauty. Photos I saw made me fall in love – especially when I saw the park covered in wildflowers.
After researching the area and seasons, I decided late August/early September would be the perfect time to experience the power of the peaks and the softness of the flowers, all together in their full glory. My boyfriend and I made hiking up Hidden Lake Lookout at Cascades our main priority.
The entire trip was spectacular and the view from Hidden Lake Lookout was breathtaking. I remember every section of the trail possessing its own magic. A forest thick with tall trees led us to switchbacks bursting with wildflowers – giving way to boulders lining the remaining trail to the peak.
This was my first trip to North Cascades National Park and my very first visit to the state of Washington. We flew into Seattle and then drove to Mount Rainier National Park to go exploring. This was followed by our incredible experience at North Cascades National Park as mentioned above.
Our final stop was Olympic National Park (despite not being in our original plan). It turned out to be a wonderful last minute decision, even though it was a five hour drive. All of these places are must-visit spots in Washington.
Why North Cascades National Park is Called the “American Alps”
There is a reason why they call North Cascades National Park the “American Alps”. It’s hard to find a single place like it in the United States of America. The harshness of the peaks layering over one another stretch out for miles – views which are unrivaled in my opinion.
When the wind stops and the silence sets it, the feeling that surrounds you is epic. You are in the presence of absolute wonder. A sunset or sunrise at North Cascades National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list.
My Favorite Place: Hidden Lake Lookout
Hidden Lake Lookout was my favorite place at North Cascades. Deciding to make our way up at dusk was so special! We were truly on top of the world. The switchbacks were one and a half feet wide of completely dry dirt, which we hiked down in near darkness. It was actually pretty scary.
However, we made it down and set up camp with our stroganoff, a million stars and each other. The moon was so bright we could barely sleep. The next morning we crawled out of our tent to sip coffee and watch the sunrise in the warmth of our sleeping bags. There wasn’t a single forgettable moment on our adventures in North Cascades National Park.
Best Hiking Trails at North Cascades National Park
Hidden Lake Trail is definitely one of the best hikes in North Cascades National Park. Another fantastic trail (if you are up for a big adventure) is Ruby Mountain Summit Trail. Although I didn’t experience it myself, it looks beautiful. It was on our list but we didn’t have time to embark on it.
Park Butte Lookout Trail isn’t in North Cascades but it’s not too far. There is a bridge you cross and my boyfriend and I felt like the trail was special from that point onwards. Long before you reach the firetower at the peak, you walk through a glorious valley. We were fortunate enough to experience an amazing sunset here. I highly recommend this trail as a must-do hike.
A Heartfelt Gesture at North Cascades National Park
My most special moment while at the park was when my boyfriend and I reached the pass while hiking on the Hidden Lake Trail. We were so tired from the days prior and we were starting to get extremely hungry. My boyfriend had previously been to the Cascades when he hiked through the Pacific Crest Trail. Once he got close to the pass, he told me to go on.
He wanted me to experience the view first because he hikes so fast and I am usually many yards behind him (and late to the views). His trail name is Paddy O’Hulk for his red beard and for the way he basically runs up hills!
The fact that he knew how much I loved this place and encouraged me to lead the rest of the way was just a really heartfelt gesture. I didn’t know if we would make it in time but we reached the lookout just as the sunset was peaking. It was special and I will cherish this moment forever.
Car Camping & Airbnbs for Accommodation
I wish I had more insight/advice on where to stay when in the park but my boyfriend and I pretty much sleep wherever we can when traveling. During our entire Washington State trip, we car camped when we weren’t on the trails and camped in a tent in the designated areas while backpacking.
We are adventurers who travel on a budget and we do our best to embrace all situations as part of the experience. On our last night we stayed in an airbnb that was once a garage, now a “bungalow”. Sheets and hot water were a luxury. We spent the day of our departing flight exploring Seattle.
Need to Know Before you Go
Make sure you choose hiking trails at North Cascades that are within your comfort level. The best views for us always include how vertical we can get! We spent most weekends hiking and climbing leading up to our trip, so I feel we were prepared. A bit of training beforehand can go a long way.
If you are looking for dehydrated food options, we tried pretty much every meal Backpackers Pantry offers and decided Stroganoff and Mac & Cheese were the best. Lastly, download maps to your device so you can keep tabs on the trail without service. It’s important to stay on the right path!