After getting a taste of the Northern Cascades at Mount Baker, we couldn’t wait to see more. East of Bellingham, WA is Northern Cascades National Park, one of the least visited national parks in the US. The fact that the park is penetrated by just one unpaved road accounts for the lack of traffic. Scenic Highway 20 runs through the middle of the park, but the Ross Lake National Recreation Area borders the road, so it takes bit of a hiking to actually set foot in the national park.
As with most national parks, dogs aren’t allowed on the trails at Northern Cascades, so getting there wasn’t high on our priority list. And it really didn’t matter because the scenery is fantastic in the national recreation area, and dogs are welcome on the trails. We made a stop at the visitors center near Newhalem and took a walk around the River Loop Trail before continuing up the road to Diablo Lake.
Diablo Lake is a brilliant turquoise color thanks to “glacial flour.” Surrounded by glaciated peaks, the lake is fed by steams which carry fine rock sediment created by the glaciers. The particles wash into the lake and refract the light, giving it this distinctive color in the summer.
One-third of the remaining glaciers in the lower 48 states are located here in the Northern Cascades complex. The terrain varies from rugged alpine peaks to lowland forests and wetlands, and the changes in elevation, rainfall and exposure combine to create an incredible eight life zones. It is undoubtedly one of the most special places we’ve seen.
Ross Lake stretches nearly 25 miles all the way up to the Canadian border.
East of the park on Highway 20 is Winthrop – a charming town with a western theme. We found a nice pet friendly campground on the outskirts of town, but if you need a pet friendly hotel you’ll find accommodations as well.
If you’re looking for a great bite to eat, check out the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. The food is good, as is the beer – and their pet friendly back patio overlooks the riverbank.
On the way back to Bellingham we took a closer look at Diablo Lake on the Thunder Knob Trail. This 3.6 mile trail is an easy hike through the forest with views of the lake and surrounding peaks. Buster and Ty didn’t appreciate the scenery as much as Rod and I did, but they did have a good time sniffing around.