State Route 20 Opening Kicks off Recreation Season
Contact: Charles Beall, 360 854-7302
Today’s opening of the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) through Washington Pass ceremoniously begins the "busy season" in North Cascades National Park Service Complex. "This is an exciting day as we celebrate with the park’s gateway communities the increased opportunities for recreation and fun made possible by the highway’s opening," said Chief Ranger Kinsey Shilling.
The North Cascades National Park Visitor Center, near the town of Newhalem, is open daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. beginning May 3. The center features exhibits, theater presentations, and is staffed by park rangers and volunteers to help answer questions and to suggest recreational activities. The center also provides access to the scenic Sterling Munro Overlook and a network of easy hiking trails such as the 1/3 mile Rock Shelter Trail and the 1.8 mile River Loop Trail.
The Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount is currently open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The center opens daily beginning May 18, with expanded hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Hours expand further beginning June 29 to Sunday through Thursday 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The center features trip planning information and is the main location for backcountry users to obtain permits which are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Updated trail information is available online at www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/hiking.htm.
Scenic drivers can tour State Route 20 through the park and enjoy Ross Lake Overlooks with views of Jack Mountain and Hozomeen Peak, which towers a mere two miles south of the Canadian border. By mid-May when the snow melts, people looking for short walks will access the Happy Creek Forest Walk, a 1/3 mile wheelchair accessible boardwalk loop trail through a western hemlock forest and the Ruby Creek Trail, a 3/4 mile round trip walk from the East Bank Trailhead to Ruby Creek. Both trails feature interpretive exhibits that explore the ecological relationships of the forest and the mining history of the area. Hikers can now access several longer trails from the East Bank Trailhead: travel east 3.3 miles on the Ruby Creek Trail to the confluence of Granite and Canyon Creeks and the Canyon Creek Trailhead (USFS), or turn west after the bridge to join the main East Bank Trail, which meanders 31 miles north to Hozomeen and provides short and long early-season hiking options.
The Goodell Creek Campground near Newhalem and Gorge Lake Campground near Diablo are open. The Colonial Creek Campground, on the shore of Diablo Lake, is also open but portions remain under snow. Water will be available at the Colonial Creek Campground May 21 and at the Goodell Creek Campground May 23. The Newhalem Creek Campground will open May 23. The Goodell Creek and Newhalem Creek Group Camps will also open May 23. Reservations for these group camps and for Loop C of Newhalem Creek Campground can be made online at www.recreation.gov.
The North Cascades Institute’s spring and summer catalog of seminars, programs, and events is now available and contains a variety of offerings in the park such as Free Day Trips, Diablo Down Time, and Spring Birding Weekend. The Institute also invites people to its Annual Picnic May 31 at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Catalogs can be browsed and downloaded from www.ncascades.org.