North Cascades Environmental Learning Center

a field campus in North Cascades National Park

Venture up the Skagit River in northwestern Washington State deep into the mountains. Hike beneath towering cedars and fern-draped maples. Paddle a canoe on glacier-fed Diablo Lake. Learn with scientists studying salmon and songbirds, or paint Pyramid Peak bathed in evening light.

Named a "Top Three Spots in the North Cascades" by The Seattle Times and "Top Ten Great Getaways" by ParentMap Magazine, the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is a hub of discovery for all ages in one of the wildest, most biologically diverse landscapes in North America. Operated by North Cascades Institute in partnership with the National Park Service and the City of Seattle, this award-winning residential campus is nestled on the shores of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park Service Complex. Activities include many school and youth programs, a graduate program and classes for adults, teachers and families.


 Photo Icon Rick Allen

Featuring earth-friendly design and operations, the tree-sheltered campus features 16 buildings clustered on the north shore of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park. Facilities include:

  • A multimedia classroom, a library and learning labs
  • Overnight lodging for up to 92 participants, plus housing for staff
  • A lakeside dining hall with a recycling/composting center
  • An amphitheater, outdoor learning shelters and trails leading into the surrounding wildlands
  • A dock on Diablo Lake for paddling adventures
  • ADA-accessible facilities and pathways

    View our Visitors Guide!

Located along State Route 20 three hours northeast of Seattle, the Environmental Learning Center provides access to destinations east and west of the Cascade Crest, from the pine-studded sagelands of the Columbia Plateau to Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. And right out the front door, people need only grab a paddle or lace up their boot strings to head into the wild North Cascades. 

How to Visit

The best way to experience the Environmental Learning Center is by enrolling in one of our many programs offered every year, including Base CampFamily GetawaysSkagit Tours or a weekend class. The Institute also hosts tours and special events for organizations or civic groups, and our Conferences and Retreats offers groups facilities and staff services for conferences, trainings, events and retreats.


Firewise Recognition    The Environmental Learning Center is Firewise-certified
LEED Silver Award

   Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Rating

— US Green Building Council

FSC Wood Award

   Designing and Building with FSC Wood Award

— Forest Stewardship Council

Building the ELC

Here's a fun 30-second video of scenes from the construction of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center! 

"Environmental Architecture: Sustainable features of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center"