Activities For Dogs In North Cascades National Park

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Introduction

Tucked away in the Northwest corner of the United States is one of the country's greatest national treasures: North Cascades National Park. Replete with stunning vistas, lush forests and crystal clear waters, this natural paradise is a great destination for both adventure seekers and the easy-going types. It may not be well-known as a dog-friendly park, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still have quite a bit to offer. Between the recreation areas, roads and Pacific Crest Trail there is plenty to explore, and under the watchful gaze of one of the United States' most gorgeous mountain ranges, it's impossible to ignore the sheer majesty.

Boat-In Camping

Popular
0 Votes
Sunny Day
Cheap
Hard
24 - 48 hrs
Items needed
Watercraft and life vests
Tent and Sleeping Bag
Dog Bags
Leash
Wetsuit and towels
Food and Water
Activity description
With this activity, we're starting out big: boat-in camping. While most of North Cascades is inaccessible to dogs, that doesn't include the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan Recreation areas, which merely requires them to be on a leash. Both of these areas are quite large with plenty to explore, but for a true adventure, consider boating in and camping. It's not an easy process between getting permits, loading gear, boating in and actually camping, but it's super adventurous, takes up half a day to a couple, and outside of supplies, is actually pretty minimal in terms of cost. It is, however, best reserved for summer or warmer weather for the sake of safety but can be done year-round for the ultra-hardy types.
Step
1
Thorough planning
The first step to the entire process is going to come down to picking a day to camp and getting a backcountry permit, which is required. Advanced registration takes place in March and May and covers most of the year. There are walk-up permits available as well at various visitor centers and stations, but they are first-come, first-served, so reserving ahead of time is best if possible. The application fee is $20 but there is no permit cost, so along with the free park entrance, it's super cheap. The website also outlines the average temperatures and weather, which can help you decide when it's best to go. This is also a great time to get a map so you can choose your launch point and destination. A call or stop in to talk to park rangers beforehand is advisable as well for the most thorough preparation.
Step
2
Packing supplies
Compared to your average camping trip, boating in will take a significant amount of additional supplies. Outside of camping gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, food, water and all of your dog gear, you'll also need a watercraft, boat rack for your vehicle (though there are rentable options at Ross Lake Lodge), and appropriate and legally-required boating gear such as life jackets. Because the lake is so cold, it's best to also don a wetsuit under your gear in case the boat flips and towels (and other methods) to quickly dry off and warm up, as well as any additional protection for your dog. Make sure to also pack for any sudden changes in weather.
Step
3
Departure
Once you've got all your ducks in a row, it's time to become one yourself! Make sure all of your permits and supplies are in order, then you can depart. Head to your rental location or launch point. Make sure you have both a physical and digital map in case you lose reception and map out your route beforehand if need be. Check in with any necessary authorities, load up your craft (including your dog - and make sure they're comfortable and stable!), paddle out, then let your adventures begin!
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Pacific Crest Trail

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Sunny Day
Free
Normal
1 - 4 hrs
Items needed
Leash
Dog Bags
Water
Activity description
While there may be significant restrictions on where dogs can hike within the park, they don't happen to include one of the longest and most picturesque trails in the entire country: the Pacific Crest Trail. At its northernmost point, which you can explore just outside the park, it touches the border of Canada and continues south until it hits Mexico in Southern California - not that you'll go anywhere near that far. Regardless, there is a great deal of the trail that also goes through the park and provides plenty to see of the gorgeous Cascade Range, all of which is dog-friendly, as long as you stay on the trail. It's moderately difficult because there are significant grades to hike and weather to battle at times but otherwise, it's free and can take up as much or as little time as you and your dog would like.
Step
1
Map your hike
Before you and your dog just jump on the trail, you'll first want to do some basic research, including checking the weather, as well as access points to get on the trail itself. Hopping on the trail is actually a little easier outside of the park but can still be done inside if planned for carefully (to make sure you're staying in dog-friendly areas to get there). You'll also want to decide how long you'd like to hike and which sections of the trail are suitable for both the weather and the abilities of both you and your dog. The trail actually has its own website full of information on individual sections of the trail, which is super helpful in making these types of decisions.
Step
2
Grab and go
Unlike the first activity, this one is considerably easier. Once you've mapped your route and how to get there, all you need to do is pack your supplies and head to your chosen departure point. Make sure you have both a physical and digital map for safety and orientation and double check the weather before you embark. Otherwise, enjoy your hike!
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Marvel at Diablo Lake

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0 Votes
Sunny Day
Free
Easy
1 - 3 hrs
Items needed
Dog Bags
Leash
Camera
Activity description
Like we've mentioned, there are a fair amount of restricted areas where dogs aren't allowed, but luckily, most of the space around Diablo Lake isn't included. While you may wonder why we're just telling you go to see a lake, you'll understand when you get there (or see pictures). Because of the fine rock sediment created by glaciers, the lake has an almost milky look that is as vibrant as it is colorful. In summer, the lake takes on a distinct turquoise color and given the dog-friendly trails nearby and scenic overlook just off highway 20, it's a spot you shouldn't miss. Considering it's free to enter the park and only takes some gas to get there, it's cheap, if not free and perfect for a sunny day when the lake's true colors shine.
Step
1
Choose the trail
Out of all the activities, this one is definitely the easiest, but it can involve more if you'd like it to. Because the recreation areas like Ross Lake are dog-friendly, there are a fair amount of trails you can hit, some of which meander around the lake itself. Consider whether you want to hike to a nice viewpoint or if you'd prefer to just drive. We recommend the prior, not only because you'll see views that few others will, but also because it will get you and your dog some exercise in the process.
Step
2
View and explore
Look at where the dog-friendly areas end, then map out a basic course around Diablo Lake. For those less adventurous or less mobile, you can drive straight up to the lookout point just off the 20 just north of Colonial Creek. For more gorgeous lookout spots, continue northeast towards Ross Lake, as it too features several significant lookout points. While enjoying nature's beauty, keep your pup by your side. Together, explore the area staying mindful of other spectators. Hydrate often, even though you are in the car as opposed to on foot. Be sure to leave the area pristine by picking up after your dog.
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Right near Ladder Falls is also the Temple of Power, which features a gazebo made from parts of the old Diablo switching station, all of which makes for great photo ops!

Fathom the Falls

A rock's throw from Highway 20 just past the Skagit General Store is Ladder Creek Falls, which is not only naturally beautiful, but is illuminated with various colors once the sun goes down. Dogs can travel up to 50 feet from the road so with any luck you'll still be able to see it, but if not, have a friend nearby to trade off watching them.

Conclusion

North Cascades National Park may not be the MOST dog-friendly park on the list, but it certainly has an absolute ton to offer if you know where to look. Between the gorgeous recreation areas, surrounding Cascades and a sprawling trail that courses through a fair amount of the park (let alone all the way to Mexico!), visitors and their dogs won't likely be disappointed by the endless natural beauty.