Jul 28, 2021 North Cascades National Park: Ross Lake
A day trip to North Cascades National Park was at the top of my list when visiting Seattle, Washington. The park covers more than 2 million acres of federally designated wilderness, with plenty of things to do including hiking, scenic drives, and boating. The national recreation area includes three reservoirs: Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Gorge Lake.
For our trip to Washington, we planned a single day trip to the park with a boat excursion for the majority of the day. I highly recommend 2-3 days or more to see more of the park one day was not enough time. Currently planning my next trip to go back!
North Cascade National Park is a two hour drive from Seattle. There is plenty of parking available at the national park. There are no trailhead or parking fees for trails that begin on National Park Service lands. The Northwest Forest Pass, a $5 fee, is required at many trailheads adjacent to the U.S. Forest Service land with trails leading into the national park.
Points of Interest:
North Cascades National Park Visitor Center: My recommended first stop. The visitor's center can give you the best updated information on weather and trail conditions. The rangers can give professional advice on best hiking trails for skill set, kids, and hiking with an animal. Backcountry permits are available at the visitor's center. A backcountry permit is required for overnight stays in the North Cascade National Park Complex. These permits are on a first-come, first-serve basis and there are no reservations available.
The North Cascades National Park Scenic Drive: The North Cascade scenic highway covers 140 miles and has scenic viewpoints throughout the national park with informational plaques detailing the history. The North Cascade National Park also makes up part of the Cascade Loop. The Cascade Loop is a popular multi day Washington road trip encompassing a variety of activities from the great outdoors to wine tasting and everything in-between. The best part of the Cascade Loop is that you can customize your trip and travel to the things you love best on vacation. I will link the Cascade Loop information here for the ultimate road trip experience.
We decided to rent a motor boat and explore Ross Lake. Getting to the lake to rent the motor boat was the most interesting adventure. I truly felt like I was on a James Bond movie set. You have to park your car at the Ross Lake/Dam Trailhead and hike down the trail one mile. The hike is not intense, however it can be steep in some places so bring appropriate footwear. At the end of the trail there is a gravel road where you will turn to the right and follow the trail until you see Ross Lake Resort. Truly, pictures do not do this resort credit for how beautiful it is. This resort is compromised of floating cabins and a marina. The resort has to be booked out a year in advance and there is a waitlist. Cabin and boat rentals are available mid-June to October. I will link their information here. Once you have the resort in sight, there is a phone on a power pole with dialing instructions in a box to call for a water taxi to bring you over to the resort. In true James Bond fashion, Sam called the line and we were able to get a water boat taxi to drive us over to the resort. The water boat taxi is $3 a person each way. The only way you can reach the resort is boat taxi or hiking. After arriving at the resort, we were able to rent a motorboat for the day. All motorboats must be returned by 6pm. The resort gives you a map of the area and points of interest on the lake. Make sure you have knowledge of motorboats since no lesson or instruction is given for operation. Thank goodness Sam has his boating license, but they were not hard to operate. You can also rent kayaks and canoes through this resort.
In 1930, Diablo Dam was constructed and at one point was the tallest dam in the world. Thus, Diablo Lake is not actually a lake but a reservoir created by the Diablo Dam. I did some research to find out what makes the water look turquoise. The glaciers grind rock into a small powder and carry it into the lake. Sunlight scatters through the floating particles carried into the reservoir. Nature is truly inspiring even if it had some help from mankind. For best scenic hiking around Diablo Lake. Thunder Knob, an easy 3.6 mile hike overlooking Diablo Lake with incredible views, is what most people tend to hike. For a more moderate hike, Diablo Lake trail is 7.6 miles roundtrip with breathtaking views of cascading waterfalls, Ross Lake, and Colonial, Pyramid, Davis Peaks. You can even check out the Diablo Lake Overlook from the North Cascade Highway if you are not into hiking. Since we were short on time, we finished our boating excursion and headed to the lookout as the evening progressed for a sunset viewing.
Gorge Lake & Gorge Powerhouse: The first stop when visiting the Gorge is the Gorge Powerhouse. The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project is a project producing hydroelectric power from dams through generating stations on the Skagit River in northern Washington State. The project is owned and operated by Seattle City Light a utility provider to provide electric power for the City of Seattle and surrounding communities. Due to Covid-19 the tours of the powerhouses are suspended. The second stop is Gorge Lake overlook. You can park and walk out onto this suspension bridge to overlook Gorge Lake.
Outfit Deets: It's aboat time we made it to the lake! Flannel and shorts is the perfect lake outfit! This plaid button up is the perfect summer to fall transition piece with its neutral blue hues. Bonus: high waisted white denim shorts are on major sale now perfect time to snag a pair! PS. This flannel is old JCrew Factory Flannel linked similar!