Wilderness Trip Planner
NPS / Sarah Ellison
There are countless backcountry routes and possibilities in this wild land. The diversity of climate and geography creates very different habitats on the west and east side of the crest, as well as fostering a great array of plants and animals. Cascading water is fed by over 300 glaciers and countless snowfields. Lakes are abundant. Almost 400 miles (644 km) of trails, mostly in major drainages and over high passes, traverse this tremendous landscape. Your path may follow a route used for many centuries by people who have long crossed these mountains or sought food and resources here, or you may venture to an area so wild it feels as if you are the first explorer.
To help plan your trip, consider these questions: How many days in the backcountry are you planning? How many miles and how much elevation gain would you like to hike each day? What type of terrain do you most want to see? Consider the physical condition and experience level of all in your group. Check trail and snow conditions via phone or web, and review your plans with a ranger when you pick up your permit.
When to Visit
Low elevation trails are most visited between April and October, with the driest weather from mid-June to September. Visitation to the highcountry (above 5,000 feet/ 1524 m) is greatest after the snows melt, generally from July through early October. The best snow mountaineering conditions are often June and July. The park is open year round, but heavy winter precipitation limits road access and increases backcountry hazards between November and March.
Group size is limited to protect wilderness values. The size limit is 12 within all trail corridors and camps, and in cross-country zones around Shuksan, Eldorado, and Forbidden peaks. The limit is six for the remainder of the backcountry. Size limits include people and stock. Due to natural terrain constraints in some places, not all camps can accommodate 12 people. Check the map on the reverse for maximum camp sizes. Groups larger than 12 are not allowed. Affiliated groups with more people must divide into separate parties of 12 or less for the duration of their stay in the backcountry, and travel and camp a minimum of one mile (ideally a half day's travel) apart at all times.
Wilderness Trip Planner Map (17" x 24" 2.8 MB pdf)
Did You Know?
North Cascades NPSC has over 300 glaciers, more than any other park in the lower 48 states. More than half the glaciers in the 48 states are concentrated in this mountainous wilderness region called the North Cascades.