Backpacking options in the park run the gamut from short, one-night trips along a river or to a lake or high point, to multi-day treks up valleys and over multiple passes. The region is also known for the multitude of mountaineering opportunities, also from short climbs to lengthy bushwhacking and climbing epics.
Designated Sites and Cross-country Zones
Cross-country camping is allowed as well, but must be at least one-half mile from any trail and one mile away from designated camps. Camping is not allowed in alpine meadows or on fragile vegetation, or near water sources. Off-trail hiking can be very challenging in this steep and thickly vegetated terrain. In many areas, hiking one-half mile away from a trail may literally put you on the side of a steep slope, or crossing a swift creek. Most off-trail travel is undertaken by mountaineers with climbing objectives beyond the forested lower slopes. However, adventurous and experienced backpackers will find a wild park with plenty of opportunities to bushwhack, explore your physical boundaries, find solitude, and discover some hidden gems.
For more information on climbing in the park, check out the climbing page.
North Cascades Scenic Highway (State Route 20)
Big Beaver / Little Beaver
There are numerous other trails off State Route 20 and to the east of the park, originating in the Okanogan National Forest. Many of these trails enter the park, or provide for enticing loop trips.
Cascade River Road
Baker Lake Road
There are other backpacking options in this area, located within the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest.
Mount Baker Highway (Highway 542)
There are numerous other short backpacking options located off this road in the Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest.
For information on the Stehekin area, including how to access this unique area of the park and the shuttle bus schedule that serves Stehekin Valley trailheads, visit the Stehekin page.
Agnes Creek (Pacific Crest Trail)
There are numerous trails in the Glacier Peak Wilderness (Wenatchee National Forest) that link up with trails in the park or provide for excellent loop trips.
The Pacific Crest Trail, a designated National Scenic Trail extending from the California/Mexico border to the Washington/Canada border, passes through North Cascades National Park and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area coinciding with the Bridge Creek and other trails. For more information about the Pacific Crest Trail, contact the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
The 60-mile portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail which passes through North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a designated National Recreation Trail. The Pacific Northwest Trail stretches from Glacier National Park in Montana to Cape Alava on the Pacific Ocean in Olympic National Park. The portion in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex skirts Ross Lake, goes up the Big Beaver Trail into the Little Beaver drainage and continues west over Whatcom and Hannegan Passes. For more information about this trail contact the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.
Last updated: December 15, 2021