Program FAQs

Please browse the following page for answers to the most commonly asked questions about participating in North Cascades Institute's programs. Feel free to call us at (360) 854-2599 with your questions. You can learn more about the Learning Center accommodations by visiting the Learning Center FAQ page.

Participating in a Learning Center program

When do I check in and check out? What will I need to bring?

Check-in and check-out times vary program to program. A detailed letter will be emailed to you before your stay at the Learning Center with all the information you will need to be prepared for your stay with us, including check-in/check-out times, supplies list, directions and an activity agenda.

Do you arrange carpools?

If you are attending a program with folks you know, please consider carpooling. While we do not arrange carpools or give out participant's personal information, you will be provided access to a Google Sheet where you may choose to share ride information with others.

Carpooling during your program (voluntary): The Institute has a limited number of 8 passenger vans and 15 passenger buses. During programs every effort is made to use Institute vehicles for participant transportation. In the event thatInstitute vehicles are not available for this specific program, it may be necessary for participants to volunteer to drive their vehicles as a way to keep group sizes small in caravan situations as we travel between field locations. Carpools are for the convenience and comfort of participants and are not an undertaking of North Cascades Institute, but are voluntary actions of participants and drivers. No liability will result to North Cascades Institute as a result of carpool activities. Drivers who volunteer to provide transportation for carpools must comply with Washington State motor vehicle laws and provide insurance of at least $100,000/person and $300,000/accident for personal injury, and $100,000 for property damage.

Is there any need to bring money to a class at the Learning Center?

The store at the Learning Center sells items such as t-shirts, jackets, hats, water bottles, postcards and field naturalist supplies. The store does not sell food, phone cards or stamps. There may also be a no-host bar available during dinner; your class letter will specify if this is the case. We accept cash, Visa, MasterCard and personal checks. There are no ATM or vending machines on campus.

Can my partner or friend stay with me even if they don't want to attend a class?

Base Camp is a flexible, inexpensive way for people to stay at the Learning Center without being enrolled in a specific class or retreat. Your family member or friend could enroll in Base Camp while you are taking a natural history class or art retreat.

Can I come the night before a class starts, or stay an extra night?

Base Camp is a flexible, inexpensive way for people to stay at the Learning Center without being enrolled in a specific class or retreat. You could potentially sign up for a night of Base Camp before or after your class to extend your stay. Other options include camping at nearby Colonial Creek Campground or a staying at one of the motels in Marblemount or Concrete.

How far is the Learning Center from definitive medical care? What if I get hurt or sick when I am at the Learning Center?

The closest hospital is in Sedro-Woolley, 90 minutes away. The closest advanced life-support ambulance comes from Concrete, one hour away. Emergency Medical Technicians that work in the national park and/or the Learning Center may be available sooner. If you have a medical condition and are concerned about being more than one hour from definitive medical care, please consult your physician. 

Participating in a Family Getaway

What are Family Getaways?

Recognizing that affordable opportunities for families to explore nature together were missing from environmental education, North Cascades Institute began offering Family Getaways at the Learning Center in 2005. Family Getaways are outdoor-based learning experiences that provide multigenerational families an opportunity to gather together in the North Cascades. You can leave the tent at home because accommodations in our comfortable lodges offer the excitement of the great outdoors without the complications of camping. Wonderful meals, with the tastes of young diners in mind, are served buffet-style in our lakeside dining hall. Kids and adults will enjoy learning about nature through adventures on the lake and trails, games, arts and crafts, storytelling and scientific explorations. Plus, there will be plenty of free time so your family can do your own thing too.

A great description of one family's experience at a Family Getaway can be read on ParentMap's website. We also invite you to view our online multimedia presentation.

What types of families generally participate in Family Getaways?

Family groups range from large, extended family groups to blended families, friends and small "new" families. We've had four generations of women attend, fathers come with their sons, "Big Sisters" bringing their "kids," grandparents with grandchildren and so forth. Family Getaways are becoming the anticipated annual get-together experience for many different kinds of families year after year!

Can you provide my family with some kind of itinerary? What kind of activities are there to choose from?

First of all, we want you to remember that this is your family getaway. You can choose to do as much or as little as you like. We offer many choices for fun learning and opportunities to get outside and explore the North Cascades together.

Activities: Once you are checked into your room, you will meet for a site orientation before lunch in the dining hall. After lunch, everyone can go for an introductory hike (we offer different intensity options). Upon your return, there will be large sign-up sheets posted with different activities to choose from. You can sign up for activities individually, paired or as a family unit. If you change your minds, no worries. The coordinators are amazing at accommodating changes.

Samples of choices from past years include "Birds and Butterflies," art projects, creative writing, story time in the Wild Ginger library, canoeing, "Ferns and Flowers," yoga, and wild edibles walks. Each Family Getaway will offer different options depending on the expertise of the staff and instructors. Days are generally broken up as morning activity / lunch / afternoon activity or all-day hike / dinner / evening program. Again, you can do as much or as little as you wish.

When are meals served?

On a typical day, breakfast is at 8 AM, lunch is at noon and dinner is at 6 PM in the dining hall. Meals may include a sack lunch taken afield for the day, depending on your activity itinerary. We make every effort to accommodate dietary restrictions and food allergies with advance notice.

Can I bring my young child?

Yes, but alert supervision of young children at Family Getaways is the key to a successful and safe experience. Children under the age of six may participate in most activities with a parent but they need to be supervised at all times. Unfortunately, children under age six are not allowed in canoe activities.

What time is check-in and check-out?

Family Getaways generally check in between 10 – 11 AM on the first day at the Learning Center office. At check-in, you will be asked for your completed and signed participant information and release forms (sent to you prior to your Getaway) and you'll receive a campus orientation. Family Getaways finish up after lunch on the last day.

How big are the rooms?

Our rooms have two sets of bunk beds, enough to comfortably sleep four people.