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Another First Timer

buffalo
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Another First Timer

I have spent three weeks each of the last 5 years at Glacier National Park (I'll be at Glacier from 8/30-9/16, 2013) but I have another week of vacation to use and want to try North Cascades...

1. What is the best time to visit (note the dates above that I'll be at Glacier, I also need to separate the trips by at least a month due to work)? I'm thinking late July...Would most trails be melted out by the last week of July?

2. I am a day hiker (not a backpacker) but I'll do day hikes up to 20 or more miles and up to about 4,000-4,500 feet of gain..what would you consider to be the 5 best day hikes within those limits?

3. What is the best campground (or should I break up my stay between a few campgrounds to minimize distance from trail heads)..if so, what campgrounds would you recommend on each side of the Park..I prefer decent sized campsites and more privacy if possible...don't need great amenities...

4. I'd be flying into Seattle..where should I load up on provisions (food, plastic silverware, styrofoam cooler, etc.)?

5. Can you buy firewood at the campgrounds? If not, where would I get this most conveniently (I like fires every night)...

6. What is the best route from Seattle Airport to the Park?

Seattle, Wa
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1. Re: Another First Timer

1. Late July is iffy. Trails on the east side of the park will probably be melted out, or mostly melted, but much on the west side will not be. If you want to visit the Mt Baker area those trails aren't reliably clear until August.

September is better. Much better. In fact, if you can come late September, when the larches are turning on the east slopes (usually last week of Sept/beg of Oct), it's so beautiful you'll swoon.

I just saw you have to leave a month between your Glacier trip and this. So that means you'll either come Oct 15th, which is late and the weather will be iffy at best, or you need to be done by July 30th? Hmm. Not ideal. You can come that last week in July, but you should expect that there will be some very spectacular areas that will not be accessible. You'll need a serious plan B for just about everything on the west slopes that you plan. On the bright side, there will be flowers where it's melted out.

2. Geez, the world is your oyster if you'll do 20 miles a day with that kind of elevation gain! Actually you don't need to, though you can certainly make most of these hikes longer. Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm is THE classic. If you can make it to the Mt Baker area (at the end of the Mt Baker Hwy) Ptarmigan Ridge. Heather&Maple Pass. Easy Pass. Cutthroat Pass. Grasshopper or Windy Pass, on the east side. Desolation Peak would be neat but you need to arrange a boat ride to the trailhead. There are many others that would be contenders but those are my top picks for day hikes. Many of these trails are outside the national park, though the scenery is of the same caliber.

3. On the Cascade River Road are two campgrounds--Marble Creek and Mineral Park- that allow you to easily access Cascade Pass. They are secluded and rustic. There is also a few walk in sites at the trailhead--you need to get a permit for those at the visitor center. Colonel Creek is the big west side campground; it's in a good location. On the east side, I like Klipchuck. It's outside the park but well located for east side hiking, and has nice big sites and is quiet.

If you really want to get up high there is Meadows Campground--it's in an old burned area high up the Hart's Pass Road, near to the Grasshopper and Windy Pass trailheads. It's very lightly used and you will get your privacy, and views. The star watching is killer. It will be cold at night. You'll need a car with a bit of clearance to be comfortable on this road though I did see a Prius do it last year.

4. I'd probably shop in Seattle though you also could in the Mt Vernon/Burlington area. Since you need to traverse the urban area there are lots of choices.

5. No. You'll pass places that sell firewood, though. Expect burn bans in many places, especially on the east side, in summer. This is how fires start.

6. I-5 to Hwy 20 is really the only way.

Get this book:

amazon.com/Hiking-Here-WOW-Cascades-Guides/d…

Here's another good one, with more hikes in the NC area that you'll be visiting:

amazon.com/Hikes-Washingtons-Cascades-Nation…

Edited: 2:47 pm, December 27, 2012
western WA
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2. Re: Another First Timer

Welcome to Washington, toddnick!

buffalo
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3. Re: Another First Timer

Lots to learn...before I get too far in though...

If last week of July isn't that great for many of the best higher elevation hikes, I'm wondering if I should just wait until another year if I have a chance to visit in August or September (although that time frame is reserved for the Alps in 2014)...

Thoughts??

Edited: 3:10 pm, December 27, 2012
Seattle, Wa
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4. Re: Another First Timer

If you have lots of vacation time and wouldn't mind checking the area out even if it might not be at its best, you could still have a nice trip in late July. And who knows, we might have a dry spring and you might get lucky with the snowpack (probably not, though). For this you'd want to base yourself on the east side, in Mazama or Winthrop. This is a great area and you could have a lovely week there.

If this is potentially the only time you might get to the North Cascades and your vacation time is in short supply, and so you really wanted to make sure you could see everything you wanted to see, then it would be better to wait until you can come in August or September. September still should have nice weather, and few bugs or people (August will have bugs and people).

And as I said earlier, late Sept/early October is absolutely magical in the NE Cascades, though the weather on the west side is a bit more of a toss up.

.

5. Re: Another First Timer

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