Coronavirus Response

This is a time of experiment and change. We are resilient and are preparing to be even stronger on the other side of this pandemic. North Cascades Institute and its programs provide not only learning, but the healing that many of us will be seeking.

At a Glance

  • All Environmental Learning Center-based programs — including Base Camp, Family Getaways, adult classes and conferences — are cancelled through August 2020. Fall Mountain School and Forest School have also been cancelled.

  • We are offering Youth Leadership Adventures day programs for 9th-12th grade students at sites in Skagit and Whatcom counties July and August, and we hope to be able to resume small-group field programs in September.

  • The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center campus is currently closed to the public, as are many visitor facilities in North Cascades National Park and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Campgrounds and trails on public lands are reopening - be sure to #RecreateResponsibly to keep yourself and others safe and healthy. 

  • Beginning April 1, our administrative "office" will be closed Fridays-Sundays and all of our staff are working reduced hours. We will respond to voicemails and emails as this new schedule allows, thanks for your patience.

  • While we cannot gather in person right now, North Cascades Institute is still here and working hard to inspire environmental stewardship through transformative experiences in nature. Our talented instructors have created "Mountain School at Home" lessons and activities for kids and parents to connect with nature in their own backyard and Youth Leadership Adventures staff are sharing resources for older students to learn about climate change, environmental justice and youth activism. Our staff assembled Family Getaways @ Home activity packages we are mailing out and we produced a series of videos for Virtual Skagit Tours to bring the natural and cultural history of the North Cascades to you!
  • We’re operating the Skagit Information Center in Newhalem and a popup tent outside the Newhalem Visitor Center to sell park visitors souvenirs, gifts and gear, and promoting sales in our online store.

We invite those who are able to support North Cascades Institute's work during these challenging times to make a donation. Thank you.

updated 8/10/20

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A Message from our Executive Director

This is a really tough time. The pandemic, and resulting loss of life-as-we-knew-it, impacts us all deeply and personally. We're so sad that the Institute can’t be out in the mountains and forests doing the work we were primed and ready to do this year: teaching groups of children and adults with our updated mission and new strategic plan, new colleagues, and new ideas.

With all the uncertainty about balancing “reopening the economy” with a scientific approach to the expanding pandemic, we've been asking the question “do we believe we can safely open Learning Center programs this summer?" Many questions are still on the table, with no clear answers, so given this uncertainty we made the difficult decision to cancel Learning Center programs and Field Excursions through August. This impacts Base Camp, Family Getaways and Learning Center classes as well our Conferences and Retreats. It breaks our hearts to do this, but we believe it’s the responsible thing to do.

New Projects for Institute Staff

We were fortunate to receive a PPP loan from the federal stimulus, which allowed us to rehire furloughed staff and put their creativity to work for a couple months. Each day, Institute staff (virtually) show up to reinvent themselves and our shared work. We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the last two months, including the “Mountain School at Home” project, which shares educational videos, lessons and creative blog posts with teachers, parents and students (see details below). Staff are also working on a slate of exciting capacity-building projects: foodshed and garden lessons, painting the Dining Hall, Learning Center accessibility projects, Spanish translations of educational materials, the Mountain School curriculum update, virtual Family and Adult experiences, and much more!

Entrepreneurial Spirit

We are entrepreneurs at our core, so we’re focusing on programs we can offer, while developing modifications and new initiatives. Here are a few ways that we are adapting:

Youth Leadership Adventures

We are adapting to a new landscape and bringing our backcountry program to Whatcom and Skagit "frontcountry" communities this summer. Youth Leadership Adventures will be engaging local 14-18 year olds in 5 single-day outdoor and environmental education programs in July and August. Students will meet at locations in Mt. Vernon and Bellingham and explore the beautiful spaces around us, returning home each evening. While getting to know new people and exploring local outdoor spaces, participants will also dig into their leadership skills and how they can be applied to local environmental problems. Online registration for these free experiences opens June 4 on our website.

Skagit Tours

Seattle City Light has cancelled June and July Skagit Tours—we are hoping to offer modified tours in late summer. We are creating a series of videos that will share "virtual tours" of the natural and cultural history of the North Cascades and the Upper Skagit Hydroelectric Project — launching later this month!

Book and Gift Stores

The team that manages our six book and gift stores in and around the park will continue to work on inventory, improve the online shopping experience in our virtual gift shop and explore alternate ways to operate once the park and forest open. The Park’s Newhalem Visitor Center will likely not open this year, so we are working to welcome travelers at the Skagit Information Center across from the General Store in Newhalem. 

Thank You

We're grateful to each of you who helped us make the Spring "Give BIG for Youth" campaign so successful, raising $170,000 to support Mountain School and other youth programs and bringing in a record number of new donors. Thank you so much! If you missed the flurry around GiveBIG, we could still use your help in navigating these uncertain and challenging times. Thank you for considering making a donation.

Even though the future is uncertain, we remain committed to getting people of all ages outside in nature as soon as possible. We will be ready, with our partners, to offer programs that are safe and engaging to inspire environmental stewardship through transformative learning experiences in nature.

Saul Weisberg, North Cascades Institute Executive Director
May 2020

If you have any questions, please contact our front desk at (360) 854-2599 or at Our staff are working remotely so please be patient for a response.

Follow us on Facebook and sign up for our eNewsletter for ongoing updates. 

Suggested resources:

Facts about novel coronavirus and how to prevent COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades 

Whatcom County Health District

Departamento de Salud del Condado de Whatcom