Trip Number: 12231A
Staff: Bill Shecket
- Hike the fabulous trails of the North Cascades
- View alpine glaciers, awesome peaks, and pristine lakes
- Raft the cold, clear Skagit River
- Climb to one of the last manned fire lookouts in the United States
- Engage with naturalist, park ranger, and local historian
- Accommodations and all meals
- On-trip transportation, including Bellingham plane/train transfers
- Evening talks and discussions at the North Cascades Institute
Photo: Richard Mills
The rugged mountains of Washington's North Cascades, called America's Alps,
boast jagged peaks, glaciers, icefields, high-altitude lakes, alpine meadows,
and rushing streams. On the rainy western side of the range, you'll find the
deep turquoise waters of Diablo and Ross Lakes; the dry east side features ponderosa
pine-rimmed valleys and the broad swath of the Columbia River. The region is
home to the North Cascades National Park, Okanogan National Forest, Ross Lake
National Recreation Area, and several designated wilderness preserves.
We plan a variety of hikes, ranging from ridge routes providing panoramic views
of glaciated peaks to an ascent of one of the last manned fire towers in the
country -- if we are lucky the lookout, "Lightning Bill," will regale
us with his poetry. Weather and conditions permitting, trip leaders will try
to schedule at least one hike that follows the famed Pacific Crest Trail and
a full-day raft adventure is planned on the Skagit River. To augment our physical
experiences, we will have a full day with a local naturalist and evening presentations
by a park ranger and a local historian.
Our trip will consist of four full days of hiking. We will access our trailheads either directly from the North Cascades Institute, onboard Seattle City Light boats, or via van to other parts of the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and the Okanogan National Forest. Weather conditions and participant interests will guide leaders' decisions on specific hike destinations. Some prospective hikes include Sourdough Mountain, Thornton Lakes, the Maple Pass Loop, and Goat Peak lookout. Late-afternoon returns will allow time for cleanup and relaxation prior to exquisite dinners and evening lecture/discussions with local "experts."
Photo: Bill Shecket
Participants will need to be at Bellingham, WA airport or Amtrak station in time to meet the leaders and board vans by 1:00 p.m. on the first day, Sunday, August 5th. Automobile travelers are welcome to meet the group at the North Cascades Institute near Newhalem, Washington.
From Bellingham, participants will ride east for two hours along the scenic North Cascades Highway. The route takes us along the banks of the Skagit River, where large concentrations of bald eagles nest each year. Heading up through the Cascade foothills, we'll pass the dams and reservoirs of Seattle City Light as we make our way to the North Cascades Institute on the shores of Diablo Lake.
The trip will finish at Bellingham at the departure locations at roughly 5 p.m. the following Saturday, August 11th. Travel details will be provided in pre-trip correspondence.
Accommodations and Food
We'll stay at the North Cascades Institute (NCI) near Newhalem, Washington.
The facility offers pleasant dormitory-style rooms with single beds and nearby
bathroom/showers. Hearty breakfasts and exquisite dinners are served in a recently
completed dining room overlooking Diablo Lake; lunch "fixings" are
provided to participants. Vegetarian options are always available and special
food requests can be accommodated. NCI offers comfortable living rooms, classrooms/laboratories, and a well-stocked library. Trails lead directly to the lakefront and old-growth forest.
Photo: Bill Shecket
This is a lodge-based trip, and it offers a range of hiking activities. Participants
can choose from light to moderate to more strenuous day hikes with distances
ranging from 6 to 12 miles and ascents ranging from 500 to 2,500 feet. The rewards
are outstanding views of the glaciated mountain range, pristine alpine lakes,
and stately, undisturbed forested valleys. Our adventure will include a full
day of Class II whitewater rafting on the Skagit River.
Equipment and Clothing
The climate in the North Cascades is likely to be sunny and warm in early
August, but it can change quickly to windy and rainy. Additionally, the west
slopes may be cool and cloudy while the east side is clear and hot. You'll need
good broken-in hiking boots for the mountain trails and snow fields. There will
be opportunities to cool off in the river or lakes, so a swimsuit will be nice
if you are so inclined. The full-day Skagit River raft trip may include a lunch-time
Bring a day pack and clothing that can accommodate a range of weather, and don't forget your camera and field glasses. A detailed equipment list will be available closer to the departure date.
- Childs, Geof, Stone Palaces.
- Mathew, Daniel, Cascade-Olympic Natural History.
- Molvar, Erik, Hiking the North Cascades.
- Romano, Craig, Dayhiking: The North Cascades.
- North Cascades National Park: www.nps.gov/noca
Photo: Richard Mills
Protection of adjacent areas: North Cascades National Park was established in 1968, but at that time some critical portions were left out of the original park. Areas around Liberty Bell, Rainy Pass, Snowy Lakes, Cutthroat Pass, and the Cascade River were excluded as were some lowland wildlife habitats. Efforts are underway to bring these inside park boundaries.
Predator repopulation: The North Cascades currently includes remnants of once larger grizzly bear, wolf, wolverine, and lynx populations (nowhere near natural levels). These animals are essential for proper functioning of the natural wildlife ecosystem. Promotion of their recovery is an ongoing issue.
Recreation usage: Management of outdoor recreation in the North Cascades National Park is under review.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Bill Shecket has been leading trips for Sierra Club National Outings for the last 15 years. He first visited the North Cascades on a backpack in 1995 and returns regularly to lead lodge and paddle trips. Bill lives in Seattle, where he teaches at City University. Bill helps train new outings leaders, hikes and paddles whenever he gets an opportunity, and is eager to share his love for the area with others.
Julie Trautmann has been a member of the Sierra Club since 1995. She has been a participant and assistant leader for national and international outings. Julie lives in Seattle where she enjoys hiking, snow-shoeing, and cycling.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips