SPECIAL REPORT • The West's untapped treasure

The North Cascades National Park Service Complex, the only suchdesignation in the system, is made up of three parts: the Ross Lakeand Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas and the North CascadesNational Park - 684,313 acres in all.

It is connected to a jigsaw puzzle of other wild areas that addup to some 1 1/2 million acres of pristine land. On the west sideof the park is lush rain forest. The east side is dry ponderosa andlodgepole pine country.

WHERE: North Cascades is 52 miles east of Interstate 5 alongState 20.

WHEN:Open year-round. State 20, however, is closed in winterat milepost 134 near the park's eastern boundary; it's usually openfrom mid-April until mid-November. The road is busiest July throughSeptember.

COST: Free. You need a Northwest Forest Pass (check at thevisitor center) to park at some trailheads.

SERVICES: Visitor center is just off State 20 on the westedge of the village of Newhalem at milepost 120.

There's camping near Newhalem at Goodell Creek Campground ($10)and Newhalem Creek Campground ($12). Up on Diablo Lake, there'sColonial Creek Campground ($12).

There are two resorts within the park: North Cascades StehekinLodge (509/682-4494 or www.stehekin.com) and RossLake Resort (206/386-4437 or www.rosslakeresort.com);both are only accessible by boat or foot. Lodging and dining areplentiful in Sedro-Woolley and Marblemount on the west side andWinthrop on the east.

For information, contact the following: Marblemount, NorthCascades Chamber of Commerce (360/873-4432 or www.marblemount.com);Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce (360/855-1841, 888/225-8365, or www.sedro-woolley.com),and Winthrop (509/996-2125, 888/463-8469, or www.winthropwashington.com).

ACTIVITIES: The local power company, Seattle City Light,offers a boat tour of Ross Lake in July and August (Thu-Mon;206/684-3030).

At Washington Pass Overlook, park your car and take the pavedtrail to its upper, eastern terminus for the panoramic view out toLiberty Bell Mountain and into the beginning of Methow Valley.

FYI: Backcountry camping permits (available from theWilderness Information Center; 360/873-4590, ext. 39) arerequired.

CONTACT: (360) 856-5700 or www.nps.gov/noca.

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