North Cascades Institute

North Cascades Institute inspires environmental stewardship through transformative learning experiences in nature

North Cascades Institute is a conservation organization focused on “transformative learning experiences in nature,” including place-based environmental education, outdoor recreation, health and wellness, conservation, environmental justice and community engagement.

Since 1986, we have helped connect people, nature and community through science, art, literature and the hands-on study of the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest.

Our primary focus is the North Cascades ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest. Our goal is to help people of all ages experience and enjoy the mountains, rivers, forests, people and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest – so all will care for and protect this special place. 

Ecosystems thrive when communities have opportunities for meaningful experiences outdoors in nature, from a neighborhood garden to a national park. We have a shared responsibility to open the doors to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to ensure their outdoor experiences are powerful and rewarding. When people connect with nature, our communities are strengthened, nature is protected, and we all benefit.

North Cascades Institute is committed to innovation and excellence in environmental learning and leadership in the nonprofit community.

We believe

  • Nature has intrinsic value
  • Education, combined with critical thinking and civic engagement, is a primary tool for conservation
  • Intimate contact with nature helps people lead healthy, well-balanced lives
  • We all benefit when people have equitable access to nature
  • Hands-on learning about the environment begins in childhood and lasts a lifetime
  • Access to public lands is vital for education, recreation and renewal
  • Transformative learning lies at the confluence of natural and cultural history, science, humanities and the arts.

Welcoming learners of all ages to the Pacific Northwest, we offer

  • Mountain School

    Mountain School

    A 3-day 2-night program serving local 5th grade students at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center with a focus on science and the natural and cultural history of the North Cascades

  • Mountain School

    Youth Leadership Adventures

    Backcountry trips connecting high school students to the natural world while engaging in conversations about climate change and climate solutions on local public lands

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    Family Getaways

    Multi-generational educational gatherings for families of all kinds

  • Thumbnail - Learning Center and Field Programs

    Learning Center Programs & Field Excursions

    Explore the natural and cultural history of the North Cascades Bioregion through science, art, literature and hands-on experiences

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    Skagit Tours

    Diablo Lake Boat Toursand Newhalem Walking Tours explore the natural and cultural history of the Upper Skagit River

  • Mountain School

    Conferences & Retreats

    Welcoming and engaging diverse audiences and organizations through accessible educational experiences, conferences, trainings, events and retreats

  • Base Camp

    Base Camp

    Overnight stays at the Environmental Learning Center featuring guided outdoor learning adventures, comfortable accommodations and delicious, organic meals 

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    Community Events

    Natural history and humanities presentations in Bellingham, Seattle, the Methow Valley & beyond



Discover the powerful outcomes of our educational efforts by perusing our program reports

In 2005, North Cascades Institute opened the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake in the heart of the North Cascades. A partnership with the National Park Service and the City of Seattle, the Learning Center is surrounded by millions of acres of protected public lands. It is a hub of discovery into one of the wildest, most biologically diverse landscapes in North America. Learners of all ages come to explore and participate in innovative programs that inspire and enrich their lives.