Introducing North Cascades
Dominated by Mt Baker and – to a lesser extent – the more remote Glacier Peak, the North Cascades is made up of a huge swathe of protected forests, parks and wilderness areas that dwarf even the expansive Rainier and St Helens parks to the south. The crème de la crème is the North Cascades National Park, a primeval stash of old-growth rain forest, groaning glaciers and untainted ecosystems whose savage beauty is curiously missed by all but 2500 or so annual visitors who penetrate its rainy interior.
Geologically different to the South Cascades, these wild northern giants are peppered with sharp, jagged peaks, copious glaciers and a preponderance of complex metamorphic rock. This gives them their distinctive alpine feel and has helped create the kind of irregular, glacier-sculpted characteristics that have more in common with the mountains of Alaska than the 'rounder' ranges further south. Thanks to their virtual impregnability, the North Cascades were a mystery to humans until relatively recently. Steep peaks such as Liberty Bell weren't climbed until the late 1940s, the first road was built across the region in 1972 and, even today, it remains one of the Northwest's most isolated outposts.