North Cascades National Park is a contradiction.
To begin with, it's more than a singular park. It's part of a complex – spread out over 1,069 square miles from Lake Chelan to the Canadian border – that includes the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas.
Visitation to the park proper is 19,000 people a year. The most heavily visited corridor, the Ross Lake area, draws more than 292,000 people annually.
You also can see the contradiction in the park’s natural wonders.
The teal hue of Diablo Lake is a stark contrast to the dark blue of nearby Ross Lake. Soaring cedar trees seemingly touch the sky while delicate tendrils of ferns poke from the forest floor.
For recreation, this complex has gained its fame for remarkable backcountry hikes. Guide books tout treks that take visitors deep into the wilderness, to places such as Sahale Mountain, Cascade Pass and Mount Shuksan. Conversely, there are just 16.7 miles of road that lead into the park proper.
But not all 386 miles of trail are intended for adults toting backpacks laden with the latest high-tech camping gear. There are plenty of places for children to stretch their legs, throw stones into a river and touch a tree hundreds of years old.
Along Highway 20 – the North Cascades Highway – there are plenty of places for families to explore, hike and learn about the flora and fauna. Here are some of our recommendations for families looking for a fall getaway or want to plan an extended trip next summer.
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