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14 Best Campgrounds at North Cascades National Park

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Jan 3, 2022

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Dramatic mountain peaks and turquoise bodies of water define camping at North Cascades National Park. This high elevation national park of northern Washington is perhaps the most rugged place to visit in the state. The park encompasses over a half-million acres, including the noteworthy Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas.

The scenic and seasonal North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) runs across the entire park between roughly May and November, depending on weather conditions. The drive along this scenic roadway is an adventure all its own and connects many dramatic attractions along the way. Just a few pitstops worth pulling over for include the Skagit River, Diablo Lake, and the Methow Valley.

Several campgrounds line the North Cascades Highway, including four of the five campgrounds operated by the National Park Service. The highway also passes through the two national forests bordering either side of the park, with additional Forest Service campgrounds to spend the night.

North Cascades offers other unique overnight opportunities, including boat-in campsites, scenic community campgrounds, and remote backcountry sites. Find the best spots to pitch a tent or park an RV with our list of the top campgrounds at North Cascades National Park.

1. Colonial Creek Campground

Diablo lake access at Colonial Creek
Diablo lake access at Colonial Creek | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Colonial Creek is one of the most popular campgrounds in the North Cascades. It's centrally located within the park, off the North Cascades Highway, near the shores of Diablo Lake. Its camping season typically stretches from May to September, though select lakefront sites on the South Loop remain open throughout the winter with limited facilities.

Colonial Creek Campground is split between a North and South Loop. The North Loop has 41 campsites available, and the South Loop has 96. Most sites cater to tents and mid-sized RVs, though no hookups are available. All visitors to the campground have access to flushing restroom facilities and drinking water.

Colonial Creek stays busy thanks to its public pier and boat launch onto Diablo Lake. Numerous hiking trails can also be found close to the campground, including the hike to Thunder Knob and the trail to Fourth of July Pass, one of the best hiking trails in the North Cascades.

Colonial Creek also receives some of its popularity from being one of the best campgrounds close to Seattle. It's approximately a 2.5-hour drive from the Emerald City to Colonial Creek Campground.

2. Newhalem Creek Campground

North Cascades National Park Visitor Center
North Cascades National Park Visitor Center | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Newhalem Creek is one of the largest campgrounds within the park and a great home base for exploring the North Cascades. It's a popular spot for small to mid-sized RVs, with over 107 pull-through sites available. And the privacy afforded through the campground's dense foliage makes the campground popular for tent campers, too.

The campground is open seasonally between May and September, depending on the weather. Ranger programs and other interpretive events occur at the campground throughout the season. sites are also available at Newhalem Creek Campground and can accommodate up to 30 people. All guests have access to flushing toilets and potable water.

The North Cascades Visitor Center is within a short walk from the campground. Here, a large-scale relief map of the park, a multimedia exhibit gallery, and an educational movie theater add insight to a visit.

The small unincorporated community of Newhalem can also be reached from the campground within a short drive. This small community is home to popular trailheads like Ladder Creek Falls and the Trail of the Cedars.

3. Goodell Creek Campground

Tent campsite at Goodell Creek Campground
Tent campsite at Goodell Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the opposite bank of the Skagit River from the Newhalem Campground, Goodell Campground is another popular campground on Highway 20 at the heart of the park.

The main campground at Goodell Creek has 19 sites available, which can be reserved during the peak season between May and September. These non-electric sites are best suited for tent camping and small RVs. Goodell Creek also has two large group camps farther up the creek, which accommodate 30 to 50 people.

The Skagit River provides much of the appeal of the Goodell Creek Campground, and nearby tributaries provide even more to fish and explore. The North Cascades Visitor Center and Skagit Information Center in Newhalem are also within a short walk or drive of the campground.

4. Mineral Park Campground

Mineral Park Campground
Mineral Park Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Mineral Park Campground is accessible via the seasonal Cascade River Road and a 17-mile drive from the town of Marblemount. Designated wilderness areas and dense forest landscapes surround the campground, including a great view of Mount Baker on clear days. And the Wild and Scenic Cascade River is a constant presence amid the campsites.

Mineral Park Campground is best suited for tent campers and small recreational vehicles. It's also best suited for those who enjoy more remote settings. Twenty-one sites are available, split between a west and east zone. Vault toilets are within a short walk of all the campsites, and overnight users will want to pack in all the water they need.

5. Early Winters Campground

Early Winters Campground
Early Winters Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For those traveling from Winthrop, Early Winters Campground is the first Forest Service campground encountered when heading west on Highway 20, toward Diablo Lake. It's a 15-minute drive to the campground from Winthrop. This proximity to the Methow Valley makes the campground a good first or last stop on a North Cascades multi-day adventure.

Early Winters is a nicely forested campground next to the creek of its own name. It has a dozen sites available on a first-come, first-served basis, of which all usually fill up during the summer. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring and access to vault toilets. Campers also have access to drinking water during the summer months.

The sites are large enough to accommodate RVs up to 32 feet long. No hookups are available. The sites are close to Early Winters Creek, and the highway, interspersing the babbling water with traffic noise. And for eight dollars a night, it's one of the most affordable campgrounds in the region.

6. Gorge Lake Campground

Lakeside camp spots at Gorge Lake
Lakeside camp spots at Gorge Lake | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Gorge Lake is a National Park Service campground, west of the Diablo Dam. It offers six year-round lakeside camping sites near the streaming sounds of Stetattle Creek. The campground is reached via State Route 20 and lends access to many nearby natural attractions, including Diablo Lake.

Gorge Lake Campground is best suited for tent camping and small recreational vehicles. Vault toilets are available at the campground, but all overnight users need to pack in all their own supplies, including water. A boat ramp to access Gorge Lake at the campground is available to all overnight and day-use visitors.

Popular hiking endeavors from the campground include the Pyramid Lake Trail and the Sourdough Mountain Trail. For educational opportunities, the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center can be reached within a 10-minute drive.

7. Baker Lake Campgrounds

Baker Lake camping
Baker Lake camping | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Baker Lake is a nine-mile reservoir, west of the park within Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. It has several recreational opportunities lining its shores, including the 14-mile Baker Lake Trail on the eastern shoreline. On the western shoreline, several Forest Service campgrounds serve as popular spots to spend the night.

The lake and its campgrounds are accessible from Highway 20 and Baker Lake Road. The first two campgrounds along the route are Horseshoe Cove and Bayview Campgrounds. These two popular spots support RVs and tents, with no hookups available. Both sites accept reservations in advance.

More campgrounds line the shore farther north, with Shannon Creek Campground at the end of the road, approximately 23 miles from Highway 20. Baker Lake Road is also a spot to find places to primitive camp. And the entire area is a very popular place to enjoy the outdoors throughout the summer.

8. Howard Miller Steelhead Park

The Wild and Scenic Skagit River
The Wild and Scenic Skagit River | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Howard Miller Steelhead Park is adjacent to the Wild and Scenic Skagit River, on the west side of Highway 20. Its proximity to the river makes it a popular spot for county residents and river enthusiasts from across the world.

The county park is named after a long-term Skagit County commissioner, Howard Miller, and features nearly 50 spaces for RVs and 10 walk-in tent sites. Amenities at the campground include hot showers, clean restrooms, and a playground area. Reservations can be made over the phone.

Fishing and rafting are prevalent on the adjacent Skagit River, and a public boat ramp at the park helps facilitate these endeavors. Hiking and biking along the shore are also popular from the park, and the interpretive Wetland Wildlife Trail extends from Howard Miller before connecting to other trails in the area.

Official site: https://www.skagitcounty.net/Departments/ParksAndRecreation/parks/howardmiller.htm

9. Klipchuck Campground

Klipchuck Campground
Klipchuck Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Klipchuck Campground is on the east side of Highway 20, approximately a six-mile drive west of Mazama. It's within Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest and is operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Forty-six standard sites are available, catering to tents and small RVs, although no hookups are available.

Every site at Klipchuck Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Many of the sites connect, catering to larger groups that want to reserve more than one site. And with a nightly fee of $12, it's an affordable option for all types of camping.

All overnight guests have access to vault toilets and potable water at the campground. Outside of the summer season, the water is turned off. Guests also have access to the nearby Early Winters Creek, and the Driveway Butte Trail, which begins at the campground's entrance.

10. Lower Valley Campground, Stehekin

Boat landing at Stehekin
Boat landing at Stehekin

Stehekin is a small community at the northern tip of Lake Chelan, within the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. It's only accessible by hiking trail, boat ride, or aquatic aircraft.

The rustic North Cascades Lodge and adjacent Golden West Visitor Center are among the few man-made landmarks in Stehekin, as well as the savory Stehekin Pastry Company. To make the most of this scenic region, it's recommended to book a site at the Lower Valley Campground.

Lower Valley Campground is the largest, land-based campground near Stehekin. It has 10 sites available, only a short walk from the visitor center and lodge. And it's nothing short of a postcard place to pitch a tent, with dazzling views overlooking Lake Chelan.

Stehekin also serves as a great place to explore the backcountry of the North Cascades, and the Pacific Crest Trail meanders throughout the area before terminating at the international border.

11. Lone Fir Campground

Mountain backdrop at Lone Fir Campground
Mountain backdrop at Lone Fir Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Lone Fir Campground is within Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest outside the eastern boundary of North Cascades National Park, less than 30 miles from the old western town of Winthrop. It has 27 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The campground is adjacent to Early Winters Creek and is surrounded by great mountain views and a thriving forest. The two-mile, interpretive Lone Fir Trail extends directly from the campground, and the popular Cutthroat Creek Trail can be accessed within a short drive.

Lone Fir is a great beginning or ending point for exploring the North Cascades. It also tends to be a popular spot for overnight cyclists and family tent camping. The campground is open seasonally between June and October. Potable water is available during the summer, and vault toilets are accessible throughout the year.

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/okawen/recarea/?recid=59303

12. Hozomeen Campground

Hozomeen Campground
Hozomeen Campground | Seattle Municipal Archives / photo modified

Hozomeen Campground is a free campground operated by the National Park Service that attracts international attention. It's at the tip of Ross Lake near the Canadian border, and only accessible from the United States by hiking trail or watercraft. Visitors can also reach the Hozomeen Campground via an access road from Hope, British Columbia and a border crossing.

Over 75 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis at Hozomeen, as well as other designated camping areas. Despite the primitive and relatively remote setting of this scenic campground, Hozomeen is a popular place to stay throughout the limited summer season. The stunning alpine scenery framed behind the campground is worth the day trip alone.

13. Sahale Glacier Campground

Sahale Glacier Campground
Sahale Glacier Campground

The massive expanse of rugged terrain that is the North Cascades is best experienced via a backcountry campground. Permits are required for all overnight travel into North Cascades backcountry, and the Sahale Glacier Campground is one of the most sought after permits. At an elevation of over 7,500 feet, the six sites at Sahale Glacier Campground reveal an exposed and panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Beginning at the terminus of the scenic Cascade River Road, it's a roughly six-mile hike up Cascade Pass to reach Sahale Glacier Campground. This trail is one of the best hiking trails in Washington, with spectacular views along Cascade Pass. Other hiking paths and backcountry campsites stem from this memorable mountain route.

Perhaps the best view, however, is waiting atop at the backcountry campsite. This scenery include the terminal moraine of the glacier itself, which takes on different colors throughout the day. Sunset and sunrise tend to be two magic moments at the at Sahale Glacier Campground.

14. Big Beaver and Little Beaver Boat-In Campgrounds

Ross Lake Overlook
Ross Lake Overlook

For a unique overnight experience in the North Cascades, the defining shores and turquoise waters of Ross Lake have 19 boat-in campgrounds to discover. The largest campgrounds are the Big Beaver and Little Beaver Campgrounds, hosting seven and five sites respectively.

Backcountry permits are required to spend the night at any of these shoreside sites, and proper food storage techniques apply. Vault toilets are available, but campers need to pack in their own water.

Half the adventure of these shoreside camping spots is simply traveling across the water. Direct access to Ross Lake is only available from Canada, utilizing the boat ramps at the Hozomeen Campground.

To access Ross Lake from the North Cascades Highway, boaters launch onto Diablo Lake at the Colonial Creek Campground, paddle five miles, and portage around Ross Lake Dam. Ross Lake Resort offers a portage service for a fee.

A Note about Camping at North Cascades National Park

  • National Park Service Campgrounds and Reservations: Reservations can be made through Recreation.gov up to 180 days before any visit.
  • Backcountry Camping and Boat-In Campsites: Permits are required for all backcountry camping in North Cascades National Park, with 60 percent of all permits available for advanced reservation beginning March 15th. For information on wilderness reservations and how to apply, visit the North Cascades National Park Wilderness Trip Planner.
  • Camping Outside the National Park Boundaries: Multiple campgrounds line the national forests that surround the North Cascades National Park System. Check the Okanagon-Wenatchee National Forest and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest websites for more information.

Where to Stay after Camping in North Cascades National Park

If you are looking for a place to stay before or after your camping trip, or if the weather isn't cooperating and you decide to abandon camping altogether, here are some nearby hotels we recommend.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Some of the best hotel options for the North Cascades can be found in the neighboring old western town of Winthrop. On the eastern flank of the mountain range and an hour drive from Diablo Lake, hotels like Chewuch Inn & Cabins offer a rustic appeal with modern amenities.
  • Directly off State Route 20, Mt Gardner Inn is another great overnight spot in Winthrop, which features 11 themed rooms and immediate access to Winthrop's downtown western motif.
  • Farther south on the North Cascades Highway, AbbyCreek Inn is a popular family hotel with a reasonable rate and extra-fun attractions, like miniature golf, Lazy River Tubing, and pet-friendly rooms.

Budget Hotels:

  • For the best places to spend the night near the North Cascades that won't break the budget, plenty of affordable options can be found across the border in British Columbia. A popular spot for Pacific Crest Trail hikers and tourists alike, the Manning Park Resort features affordable rates, spacious rooms, and a well-maintained pool and spa area.
  • Farther west in Hope, the Heritage Inn has a great reputation for a clean facility, beautiful surroundings, and quick access to Hozomeen Campground.
  • Even farther west, the Coast Chilliwack Hotel is a popular place to stay and provides first-class amenities at an affordable rate.

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