A Weekend in North Cascades National Park

North Cascades Itinerary | North Cascades National Park | Things to do North Cascades | North Cascades Hikes | Where to stay North Cascades #NorthCascades

Looking for the best things to do in North Cascades National Park? We’re sharing the best hikes, viewpoints, towns, and where to stay! Ready to explore the beautiful North Cascades? Keep on reading!

We’ll never forget the day we visited North Cascades National Park for the first time. We loaded up the car bright and early, coffee in hand, and headed towards the North Cascades Highway.

We spent the day driving along the scenic roads, stopping at overlooks, playing in the snow, and admiring the unreal bright blue lakes and jagged mountains. North Cascades National Park quickly became one of our favorite areas of Washington that day.

We were blown away by how beautiful the area is and could not stop saying “oh my gosh this is incredible” and “this is the most insane drive ever!”

North Cascades National Park, nicknamed the “American Alps,” is a free (yes, you read that correctly!) National Park located about 2 hours from Seattle. Despite being so close to Seattle, it’s shockingly it’s the 5th least visited U.S. National Park.

According to the National Park Service, in 2017 there were only 30,326 visitors to the National Park. For reference, Mount Rainier had about 1.4 million visitors last year and Olympic National Park had 3.4 million visitors…woah!

We were mind blown when we found this out, as it’s easily one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. But on the plus side, the park has never felt overly crowded the few times we have visited, which is a huge perk!

We are so excited to share this North Cascades National Park itinerary, which is perfect for a weekend getaway (or longer if you have time).

The first day of this North Cascades National Park itinerary will take you to the stunning viewpoints throughout the park and squeeze in a quick hike before ending the day in Winthrop, WA, a super cute Western themed town 3.5-3.75 hours from Seattle (the drive is super scenic and we promise it doesn’t feel this long!).

You’ll kickoff your second day in Winthrop before completing a gorgeous hike of your choice and heading back home.

It’s a full itinerary full of lots of beauty and we hope you enjoy your time in North Cascades National Park as much as we did!

PS: if you’re looking for more Washington ideas, check out the rest of our Washington guides and blogs!

Some of our favorites:

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

Where to Stay

We recommend staying in Winthrop during your North Cascades getaway. The cute little Western town has quite a few options when it comes to lodging, as well as restaurants to enjoy after a long day of adventuring. Most Airbnbs in Winthrop require you to stay for more than one night, so for this North Cascades itinerary we will focus on other options instead–like inns, lodges, and campsites.


Inns + Lodges


  1. Wake up early, grab some coffee (a must!), pack a lunch, and head towards the North Cascades Highway.
  2. Stretch your legs while soaking up views of a waterfall and beautiful lake at Gorge Creek Falls Overlook.
  3. Hike the Thunder Knob Trail–3.6 miles, 635 ft elevation gain. This trail will give you mountain and water views and is good for all activity levels!
  4. Visit the insanely gorgeous Diablo Lake Overlook and admire the jaw-dropping turquoise water.
  5. Continue along the North Cascades Highway and stop at the Washington Pass Overlook. This spot, which overlooks the crazy peaks of the North Cascade Mountains, took our breath away.
  6. Walk around the shops and streets of Winthrop.
  7. Grab dinner in Winthrop. A few good options are Copper Glance, East 20 Pizza, Old Schoolhouse Brewery.
  8. For a sweet treat after dinner, we recommend some ice cream from Sheri’s Sweet Shop!
  9. Head to your lodging of choice in Winthrop and rest up for a big day of hiking and driving tomorrow!


  1. Grab breakfast and coffee at the Mazama Store. While you’re there, pick up lunch items for later!
  2. Spend the rest of the morning and afternoon hiking in North Cascades National Park. There are so many trails to choose from, but here are three popular options ranging in mileage and elevation gain:
    1. Blue Lake—4.4 miles, 1,050 ft elevation gain
    2. Heather-Maple Pass Loop—7.2 miles, 2,000 ft elevation gain
    3. Hidden Lake—8.0 miles, 3,300 ft elevation gain
  3. Drive back home!

If you have extra time…

Want to add more activities to your North Cascades itinerary? Here are some ideas of things to do if you have extra time in the area!

Food + Coffee


  • Hike more trails!
  • Backpack in the North Cascades! Make sure to grab a permit in advance. Some trail recommendations:
  • If you have extra time we recommend camping one night at North Cascades National Park as well! Gorge Lake and Colonial Creek campgrounds are both located near the water.

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