Remote, rugged and absolutely beautiful, North Cascades National Park is only three hours north of Seattle, but it feels like a completely different world. The National Park is almost entirely protected as wilderness and has very few structures and roads. We decided to spend long weekend in North Cascades National Park some months back and couldn’t get enough of its beauty.
This Long Weekend in North Cascades Itinerary is designed for hikers and wine lovers. Spending a day hiking Cascade Pass/Sahale Glacier, then a day hiking Maple Pass Loop and a day on E-Bike in Chelan exploring different wineries. We also did a lot of scenic drives on the North Cascades Scenic Highway.
Surprisingly, North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the country. Some of it is due to a lack of access and roads being closed until deep in the summer months due to snowfall. The best time to visit North Cascades is between June and October. Depending on the snowfall that year even May or November may be possible.
Who is This Itinerary For?
- Outdoor explorers and adventure lovers
- Wine lover
- Scenic drives
Overview of the Itinerary
Highlights of the trip are:
Cascade Pass/Sahale Glacier hike
Maple Pass Loop hike
Scenic Drive on the North Cascades Highway
E-Bike Wine Tasting Tour in Chelan
If coming from out of state, you will arrive at Seattle airport. Rent the car and drive to Marblemount in North Cascades. If you need supplies, it’s better to stop at the grocery store outside of Seattle as there is not much in Marblemount.
Where is North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is in the northernmost part of Washington and borders Canada. There are few access roads to the park. Most of the access through the park is by hiking, horseback riding, or boats. It is divided into North Unit and South Unit with Ross Lake National Reservation Area to the east and Lake Chelan National Reservation Areas to the south.
There is no fee to get into the park, but permits are required if planning to camp in the park.
Where to Stay and Where to Eat
For this short itinerary to utilize your time in the best way, the best option is to stay in different towns, closest to the activities you will be doing.
Marblemount is the closest location to the Cascade Pass Trailhead unless camping in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. North Cascade Inn is the only hotel in town, nothing fancy but functional and clean. It is conveniently located right where Cascade River Rd starts.
There are only three restaurants in Marblemount: Marblemount Diner (excellent pies), Mondo (Korean American Fusion) and Uptown Grill and Taproom (a new addition to the town).
Winthrop is an excellent location to base yourself for the Maple Pass Loop and all the other hikes recommended in this post. We stayed at the Methow River Lodge and Cabins.
In Winthrop, there are few more restaurants than in Marblemount. Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe and Rocking Horse Bakery are great options for good coffee, breakfast, and sweets. Jupiter, East 20 Pizza, and Arrowleaf Bistro are excellent dinner options.
Twisp is another option with few lodging and restaurant options.
Day 1: Hike to Sahale Glacier via Cascade Pass
Today will be a long day. The trailhead is at the very end of the Cascade River Road, 24 miles outside of the Marblemount with over 12 miles of the unpaved road, and it takes over an hour to get to it. The hike is long and after you will need to drive to Winthrop for the adventures the following day.
Often referred to as one of the most beautiful day hikes in North Cascades National Park, the Cascade Pass/Sahale Glacier hike has everything. The evergreen forests, open fields of flowers, snow-capped peaks and valleys, a lake, and if lucky you may see mountain goats or bears.
The hike and the views are stunning, but don’t let that fool you. It is a strenuous hike. Close to 12 miles out-and-back and over 4000 ft. elevation gain. The facilities are only available at the trailhead and no water is available on the trail.
After the hike, take a drive on the beautiful scenic North Cascades Highway stopping at Gorge Overlook, Diablo Lake Vista Point and Ross Lake Overlook on your way to Winthrop. If you are too tired or running out of time, don’t worry about stopping at all of these places you will have more time for that tomorrow.
You will be spending the next two nights in Winthrop.
After a long day like this, finish the evening at the laid-back East 20 Pizza with delicious pizza and local beer.
Day 2: Maple Pass Loop
Today will not be as strenuous as yesterday, but your muscles and feet may be sore from yesterday’s adventure. Maple Pass Loop trailhead is at Rainy Pass Picnic Area, approximately 35 miles east on North Cascades Highway.
Maple Pass Loop hike takes your breath away. The beautiful views are all around you and from the mountain pass, you get to appreciate just how vast and diverse North Cascades National Park is.
This hike is a loop, and you can choose to go either clockwise or counterclockwise. Either way has its appeal. Clockwise is steep going uphill but the most challenging part is done at the beginning of the hike and the counterclockwise has a gradual ascent and intense descent. The facilities are only available at the trailhead and no water is available on the trail.
The hike is a little over 7 miles long with over 2000 ft. elevation gain and it takes you through the evergreen forest with views of Lake Rainy and Lake Ann. There is a side trail that takes you to Lake Ann and adds 1.25 miles to the hike total.
After the morning’s hike, you have a few options for spending the rest of the day. You can jump on other trails like Rainy Lake Trail, an easy 2-mile walk to Rainy Lake, Cutthroat Lake also an easy 4-mile hike to the lake or one of the prettiest lakes in the cascades the Blue Lake.
If you are looking for something more low-key, you can spend the afternoon enjoying the views of the North Cascades Scenic Highway, explore small country towns – Winthrop or Twisp or float down Methow River.
Day 3: E-Bike Wine Tour in Chelan
Chelan is only a little bit over an hour’s drive away from Winthrop and a town with a beautiful Lake Chelan, surrounded by wineries. You could spend a day here just enjoying the views, swimming in the lake, kayaking or taking E-Bikes from winery to winery.
The E-Bike Wine tour starts at 11 am, which gives you plenty of time to make it to Chelan from Winthrop, maybe even stop at Cinnamon Twisp for some cinnamon buns 😊
On tour, you will visit three different wineries where you can enjoy the views while tasting delicious wine. Or just enjoy the views. By 3 pm you will be done and still have plenty of sunlight to visit Lake Chelan State Park or go kayaking/swimming in the lake.
Wineries we visited on tour were Fielding Hills Winery, Tsillan Cellars and One Wines. We also visited Nefarious Cellars on our own and just sat on their porch enjoying the view and the wine for hours.
If looking for a dinner with a view, Sorrento’s at Tsillan Cellars is a place to be.
Fly out the next day.
This is a short North Cascades itinerary and can be modified to fit your needs in many different ways depending on how much time you have and what you like to do.
If looking for more things to do in Washington State, I would add a visit to Leavenworth and a hike to beautiful Colchuck Lake. Also, Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Park have amazing hikes you can do or scenic drives you can enjoy.
If wine is more of what you are interested in, a visit to Yakima Valley and Walla Walla Valley is a must.
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