Nicknamed “The American Alps,” the North Cascades offer a stunning backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts. Here, you’ll find magnificent 9,000-foot peaks, glistening glaciers, sea green lakes and rolling hills eventually giving way to peaceful farmland. Read on for some ideas on how you can conquer Washington’s North Cascades.
Nearly 400 miles of trails in North Cascades National Park offer everything from senior-friendly loops to grueling climbs. The popular Cascade Pass Trail features spectacular views of glaciers, peaks, streams and wildflower-strewn meadows along its nearly 4-mile stretch. More ambitious hikers may want to branch off at the lovely Sahale Arm, a strenuous 2-mile ramble that rewards with breathtaking views of Doubtful Lake, the lush Stehekin River Valley, Eldorado Peak and the occasional basking marmot. Find more ideas for hiking, biking and backpacking in Washington >>
The thousand-acre Mt. Baker Ski Area, located 52 miles east of Bellingham, is known for its ample snowfall (including a 95-foot world record in 1998–99), its sparsely populated slopes and its annual Legendary Banked Slalom, one of the largest snowboarding competitions in the world. Cross country more your style? Check out the hundreds of miles of trails in North Cascades National Park. Find more Washington ski resorts to explore >>
The Skagit Valley is made for biking. Those in the mood for a leisurely ride can opt for the sedate South Skagit Flats route, which winds among the area’s famous tulip fields between Mount Vernon and La Conner. Trail riding more your style? Try the 22-mile Cascade Trail that travels along the old Burlington Northern rail bed from Sedro-Woolley to Concrete. Farms, foothills and riverfront scenery abound. Routes and rental info can be found at wsdot.wa.gov/bike/localmaps.htm and visitskagitvalley.com/biking.
Boating is the perfect way to explore Skagit and Whatcom Counties. Serene Lake McMurray is a lovely spot for canoeing or kayaking, as is Sixteen Lake, just east of Conway. Kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding are popular on Bellingham Bay, Lake Whatcom, Lake Samish and off Lummi Island. Want more? Sign up for a sea kayak tour with an expedition company, or head to Diablo Lake to explore the turquoise, trout-laden waters. View listings for boat cruises and rentals in Washington >>
Photo credit: Stehekin River Valley in North Cascades National Park, Flickr/Maurice King