Along The Highway

North Cascades National Park Complex

Newhalem, Washington

Along Hwy 20 east of Newhalem

Highway 20 crosses the Cascade Mountains through the North Cascades National Park Complex, passing through a lot of great scenery. Highlights include views of Diablo and Ross Lake and Gorge Creek. There are a number of hiking trailheads along the highway for those visitors who want to explore the rugged mountains on foot. A campground is also available.

diablo lake

Diablo Lake (V04A0304)
Diablo Lake is the reservoir impounded behind Diablo Dam on the Skagit River. It often has a turquoise color, the result of glacial flour suspended in the water. Glacial flour is a fine rock powder, the result of glaciers grinding across rocky surfaces upstream from the lake.

ross lake

Ross Lake (W12A0407)
Ross Lake is another reservoir created along the Skagit River. The lake is 23 miles long, and extends north to just past the Canadian border.

gorge creek

Gorge Creek (N10A0399)
Gorge Creek Falls is a narrow but impressive 242-foot-tall waterfall. Its waters carved a narrow gorge from the falls to the Skagit River. Today, the Highway 20 bridge across the gorge includes pedestrian walkways so visitors can get great views of the falls and of the gorge far down below. If you don't like heights, it's probably best to not look down.

More About North Cascades National Park Complex

The North Cascades National Park Complex includes the northern and southern units of the park as well as Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Ross Lake National Recreation Area includes some power-producing dams and the lakes behind them, most notably Diablo Lake and Ross Lake. Because of this development, this area isn't actually part of North Cascades National Park. Highway 20 which crosses the Cascades here is entirely within Ross Lake National Recreation Area, so visitors who stick to the highway may not actually set foot in the national park. However, there are numerous hiking trails that quickly lead into the park.

Visitors driving the North Cascades Highway just east of the lakes pass through some of prettiest scenery along this route, but this is also outside the national park itself. Rather, this stretch of road, which includes the Washington Pass Overlook, is in the Okanogan National Forest.

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