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Outdoor Activities in the North Cascades Mountains

The North Cascades Mountains that surround the Methow Valley have been dubbed the American Alps, one of the most beautiful places to enjoy outdoor activities and scenery. The North Cascades highway is the highest route in the state across the Cascades mountains, reaching 5470’ at Washington Pass. You will climb out of the Puget Sound Basin, over the Cascade Crest and down into the Methow Valley on State Route 20, recognized as a National Scenic highway. Our section of the North Cascades Mountains are comprised of the Ross Lake National Recreation area, the North Cascades National Park, Okanogan National Forest, Pasayten Wilderness and the Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness, combined, make the largest assemblage of public land in the lower 48 states.



Today Outdoor recreation and activities is the main focus but from its inception, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex was envisioned primarily as a wilderness park, and in 1988 the Washington Park Wilderness Act designated 634,614 acres, or 93%, as the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area. The Complex is the core of over 2 million acres of federally designated wilderness, one of the largest such areas in the lower 48 states. The U.S. Congress set aside this expansive wilderness area as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, in the words of the 1964 Wilderness Act, for “the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.” The North Cascades National Park Service Complex includes 684,237 federally protected acres near the crest of the Cascade Mountains from the Canadian border south to Lake Chelan.

The Complex is the core of a greater ecosystem which includes 3 million acres of protected public land spanning 2 nations and a range of cultures, communities and ecological life-zones. This expansive landscape provides a rare opportunity in North America for biodiversity to reach its full potential with minimal human impacts. An almost intact system of this size benefits an abundance of migratory animals as well as providing habitat to threatened and endangered species.

The U.S. Congress established North Cascades National Park Service Complex in 1968 to preserve “certain majestic mountain scenery, snowfields, glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes and other unique glaciated features” … “for the benefit, use and inspiration of present and future generations.” The beauty of these landscapes has inspired poets, writers and artists for centuries, including indigenous people, 1950’s beat poets and writers Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, who served here as fire lookouts, and others.


Methow Valley

The Methow Valley is a narrow Valley cut by the Methow River, its head waters start high in the North Cascades mountains running approximately 50 miles until it spills into the mighty Columbia River. The “Old West” town of Winthrop sits in the upper Valley at the confluence of the Methow River and the Chewuch River. It’s location is central for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, rafting & skiing but it is also a great town for shopping, eating, art galleries or just enjoying the 300 days of sunshine that Eastern Washington receives.