North Cascades

A dramatic ecosystem in northwest Washington State

The landscape of the North Cascades is bounded by the Fraser River on the north, the Okanogan Highlands and Columbia Plateau on the east, Stevens Pass to the south, and the Puget lowlands to the west. Mountains, rising nearly from sea level, are the signature of this magnificent place. Fifteen peaks tower over 9,000 feet while nearly 300 rise in elevation between 7,000 and 9,000 feet.

Torrents of water fall as rain and snow here, and as a result, 519 glaciers cover over 90 square miles between Snoqualmie Pass and the Canadian border. Lakes nestle in tight pockets between sharp, often serrated ridges. Most of these lakes are natural, while a few are reservoirs behind dams.

The Greater North Cascades Ecosystem comprises one of the most intact wildlands in the contiguous United States. The heart of this area lies under public management as North Cascades National Park,  Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan, and Wenatchee National Forests, and the Glacier Peak, Pasayten, Mount Baker, Chelan-Sawtooth, Boulder River, Noisy-Diobsud, Alpine Lakes, and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Areas. North of the international border, much of the land is designated as Manning and Cathedral Provincial Parks, the Skagit and Cascade Recreation Areas, and in Provincial (Crown) Forests.

This region is a dramatic place of deep-green hillsides and rock faces raked by streamers of cloud, gleaming glaciers riven by crevasses, rivers racing under gray skies, and ravens rolling on the wind.

Learn more about the North Cascades Ecosystem

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    Natural History

    The Greater North Cascades Ecosystem is one of the finest expressions on the North American continent of nature's beauty and diversity.

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    Cultural History

    Discover more about the cultural history of this special landscape

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    Land Acknowledgement

    The human story of the North Cascades begins with the original stewards of these land and watersheds, the Indigenous Nations and their modern descendants.

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    Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan

    North Cascades Institute strongly supports the active restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem.

Top 10 Things To Do in the North Cascades

Read a list of the "Top Ten Favorite Things to do in the North Cascades" by Institute founder Saul Weisberg