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18 Awesome North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites

North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is a rugged mountain range over 200 miles long and 50 miles wide with deep valleys and sheer cliffs towering up to 7,000 feet in Washington State. The region has never been heavily populated due to its remote location.

The North Cascades National Park Is Worth A Visit

The North Cascades is a rugged mountain range over 200 miles long and 50 miles wide with deep valleys and sheer cliffs towering up to 7,000 feet. The region has never been heavily populated due to its remote location; according to local historians, no permanent settlers lived there until 1880. This area has seen very few tourists during the past century, which is partly why it remained undisturbed for so long. Three main roads run through the park: U.S Route 20 (east-west) and State Routes 542 (south) and 903 (north).

One thing I liked about the Cascades is that there are so many lakes. Local power companies have dammed up larger lakes such as Ross Lake and Diablo Lake to provide hydroelectric power for towns in the area. There are 19 reservoirs within the park boundaries. The best way to see these lakes is from a boat since steep slopes, and cliffs surround them with no shoreline access, at least not easily accessible. The larger lakes have marinas that rent boats. I decided to head out on a pontoon boat for a few hours and explore Diablo Lake, but I wasn’t prepared for how rough it would be sailing across this lake. It was an adventure I won’t forget anytime soon.

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History of the North Cascades National Park

The North Cascade National Park in Washington State claims to be “home to the most dangerous rapids in America.” The park itself was established by Congress on June 25th, 1938, with its boundaries including land that was once the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The visitors’ center was opened in 1972 after increasing public interest in recreation activities at the park. The main attractions are the rapids they claim are some of America’s most dangerous, but hiking trails and campgrounds are located near rivers where salmon swim upstream for spawning. This area of the Cascade Range is characterized by peaks of over 6,000 feet covered with snow through most of the year. However, the area is also known for having one of Washington’s worst landslides.

Places and Things to See and Do in North Cascades National Park

As I was visiting North Cascades National Park, I was amazed at the beauty of this place. Here are the ten great places and things I noted one could do and see while in North Cascades National Park:

1. Diablo Lake Scenic Vista:

The Diablo Lake Scenic Vista is a great place to view the reservoir and many peaks that surround this picturesque body of water. Mount Baker and a few other mountains border this lake to the south, while others can be seen north. It’s certainly a breathtaking sight.

2. Artist Point:

If you’re going all out on your visit, I recommend visiting Artist Point, which is only about an hour from Marblemount (where you can access Highway 20 and Ross Dam Trail). At this location, there are views of five glaciers, including Boston Glacier and Forbidden Peak. Many have compared this view with Logan Pass in Glacier National Park in Montana since it’s just as impressive.

3. Cascade Pass:

This is a 3-mile hike that leads to the historic pass, which was the site of an old mining town and general store (now long gone). Once there, you’ll be able to see Sahale Glacier and Boston Glacier. You can also travel over this pass and view Cedar Butte and Cutthroat Peak before descending towards Ross Lake National Recreation Area.

4. Diablo Dam:

If you’re into dams, then you should check out Diablo Dam. I know it’s not very exciting or beautiful like many other places in North Cascades National Park. Still, it’s worth seeing if only for the novelty of such a huge dam next to such a tiny little city (which is appropriately called Diablo after the dam, of course).

5. Horseshoe Basin:

This hidden little gem is great for hikers and other nature lovers since it’s a difficult yet rewarding hike. There aren’t too many views from this area, but some creeks and a few places to set up camp. It’s certainly different than most areas in North Cascades National Park.

6. Hurricane Ridge:

This place has breathtaking 360-degree views that look out over North Cascades National Park and into British Columbia. While you can’t see any glaciers here, you can view Mount Spickard and Forbidden Peak from this majestic overlook point perched at 5 feet in elevation.

7. Washington Pass Overlook:

This is a wonderful place to stop if you’re taking the North Cross Highway from Winthrop, WA to Twisp, WA. There are great views looking west into British Columbia and east towards the heart of North Cascades National Park. You can also see many peaks in this general vicinity surrounding Washington Pass, about a mile away from the overlook point itself.

8. Blue Lake:

Located in Ross Lake National Recreation Area in North Cascades National Park, this gem has no established trails leading to it (at least not when I was there during mid-late summer). Still, you can see it from pretty far away, thanks to various mountains surrounding it.

North Cascades National Park Boondocking

18 Awesome North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites

1. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Baker Lake Horse Camp

Address
Baker River Trail
Concrete, Washington
GPS: 48.750486, -121.555574
Elevation: 774′

Management: Public – Forest Service

Free Dispersed camping in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest’s Mt. Baker Ranger District. No reservations. First come, first served. Location was great, plenty of parking. Predominantly users were tent campers, camping in the sandy creek bed. The parking lot is the trailhead for Baker Lake Trail.. A unisex one hole crapper , was clean but door did not lock. Cell service nonexistent.

2. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Salmon Creek

Address
Deming, Washington
GPS: 48.885715, -121.656418
Elevation: 2212′

Management: Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt and 2 .5 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. Off wa. 542 up forest service road 3070. Primitive. Bring in BRING OUT!!! Outstanding view. There is a little place to park a van, suv, or car on the left about two miles in. Keep going another 300 feet and there is a turn around with good camping spots around.

3. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Anderson and Watson Lakes Road

Address
Concrete, Washington
GPS: 48.66812, -121.61458
Elevation: 4183′

Management: Public

The road in is Dirt. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. Along the 10 mile dirt road to the Anderson and Watson Lakes trail are 5 camp sites, most with phenomenal views, the first site 4 miles in and the last site just before the trail head at 4600ft. Most sites have views of Baker Lake and the dam below. Sites have stone fire rings and gravel parking. Nearest toilet is a vault toilet at the trailhead parkinglot. Trailhead parking requires NW Forest pass. No info on requirement for pass on the road.

4. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Lower Sandy

Address
Concrete, Washington
GPS: 48.691991, -121.681192
Elevation: 732′

Management: Public – Forest Service

The road in is Gravel and 2 miles from a paved road. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. Multiple dispersed campsites at the end of a gravel road along Baker Lake. There is along small dock. Some sites have fire rings and picnic tables. There is one pit toilet.

5. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Salmon Ridge Sno-Park

Address
Deming, Washington
GPS: 48.90363, -121.69466
Elevation: 2014′

Management: Public – National Park Service

Located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest approximately 13 miles east of Glacier, Washington on the Mt. Baker Highway, State Route 542. The park is a large open area directly across the road from the Silver Firs campground. It is approximately 48 miles from Bellingham. There are campsites down a road inside the park but they can be difficult to maneuver in and out of if your rig is too big ( I have a 30ft TT). There is a smaller area about 10 miles down the mountain closer to Glacier that is a wide area and pretty level and somewhat private.

6. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Mt Baker NRA Sno-Park

Address
National Forest Development Road 12
Concrete, Washington
GPS: 48.675068, -121.740808
Elevation: 1663′

Management: Public – State Park

This is a free dispersed campsite. First come -> first camped. No reservations are accepted. Large fire pit, not official. This is off the side of the gravel parkinglot used for the snow park. Enough room for 4 tents, and could make more room under the trees. Lots of gunfire around and there are as many shells as pieces of gravel in the lot. Bugs aren’t too bad, but would bring bugspray.

7. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Ross Lake Recreation Area

Address
Unknown
Rockport, Washington
GPS: 48.998188, -121.067101
Elevation: 1604′

Management: Public – National Park Service

The road in is Gravel. There are 16-29 campsites at this location. All Ross Lake campsites are equipped with fire-rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. While there are 19 campsites on the lake, only the Hozomeen campground is accessible by car (from Hope, British Columbia). Permits are not required for day use or for camping in car-accessed campgrounds along State Route 20 or at the drive-in campground at Hozomeen.

8. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Paved Clearing inside the National Forest

Address
Deming, Washington
GPS: 48.90429, -121.86181
Elevation: 1293′

Management: Public – National Park Service

This site is right next to the river and there is a tent site on the river in the same location. It is not a level pad so you would need to park closer toward the road to level out. The marked location is approximate; It is about 100 feet on the right past Mile Marker 38. I would recommend this spot if you are staying in the clearing down the hill for a nice spot to sit and enjoy the river and have a cookout. Great boondocking in/near the North Cascades National Park.

9. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Chipmunk Rapids Recreation Center

Address
British Columbia
GPS: 49.10148, -121.6261
Elevation: 1234′

Management: Public

The road in is Gravel. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay No restriction at Chipmunk Rapids Recreation Center. Free private sites next to creek. Loved that there were no rules or restriction so please bring common sense. Great place close to city.

10. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Forest Route 1550

Address
Marblemount, Washington
GPS: 48.50088, -121.251087
Elevation: 1072′

Management: Public – Forest Service

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest dispersed camping spot. It’s in a lush forest by the Cascade River. Short distance from the Cascade Pass trailhead and Hidden Lake trailhead. Great spot.

11. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Sutter Creek Rest Area

Address
State Route 20
Concrete, Washington
GPS: 48.494541, -121.541748
Elevation: 253′

Management: Public – Rest Area

The road in is Paved. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. Nice spot relatively close to the Northern Cascades NP. Is basically a rest stop (no toilets, as others have mentioned) between the road and river. There are two river access points on either end of the rest stop (one dirt path, and one gravel road) but the river has a very swift flow – not recommended for swimming. There are a number of picnic tables in the grassy area next to the river. Enough space for 10 passenger cars or so. Great boondocking in/near the North Cascades National Park.

12. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Canyon Creek Sno-Park

Address
National Forest Development Road 31
Deming, Washington
GPS: 48.904735, -121.911067
Elevation: 1060′

Management: Public – State Park

Canyon Creek Sno-Park is open all year. This is a free dispersed campsite. First come -> First Camped. Reservations not accepted. Beautiful places to camp on the edge of the Nooksack River. The directions have the way point just at the turnoff from the Mt Baker Road turn-off. In actual fact, continue to drive about 6 miles up the road and you will come to some dispersed sites just as the road crosses the river. The road is mostly paved except for 1 rough patch. There are several places to camp.

13. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Clearing inside the National Forest

Address
Deming, Washington
GPS: 48.90661, -121.89644
Elevation: 1260′

Management: Public – National Park Service

This site is rarely used by anyone. It is just an open area about two miles past Glacier on the (first) Left past mile marker 36. There is a road inside the area that leads to a tent site about 50 yards up the hill. This site is a place where the forestry service piles fill dirt and at times will come and grab some. I stayed here for two weeks and never saw them but they did leave a note on my trailer alerting me to the fact they knew I had been there for close to or over the two-week limit (you are allowed 14 days in any 30 day period). If you are like me and use a generator this is a great spot. No one around to complain about the noise and you are close to Glacier, which is a nice little town with a coffee shop/bakery (No WIFI). and a small general store. There are also great hiking trails all around.

14. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Hwy 20 pullout

Address
Rockport, Washington
GPS: 48.490705, -121.564748
Elevation: 240′

Management: Public

Small pullout on the side of the road. Has a small pond and Beaver dam. Very beautiful site. The only disturbance was the heavy (at times) traffic. Lots of motorcycles headed over the pass. We pulled our 25 foot rv along side of the road. You could another rv with some manuevering. Great boondocking in/near the North Cascades National Park. Would stay here again.

15. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Vedder River

Address
Chilliwack, British Columbia
GPS: 49.076474, -121.708646
Elevation: 945′

Management: Public – Forest Service

Down the lake road about 12 miles you will see a large pull off area right before a bridge and salmon catchment. This is where we stayed for a week along with other local Canadians. We were invited by them to stay but were told it was a free spot. A lot of people were there waiting for the salmon to arrive which we got in on as we purchased a Canadian fishing license (very pricey!). But we had an amazing time, just clean up your mess as the locals come out to clean up after all the camping! Tent spots are available along the road too.

16. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Hard Creek Bridge

Address
Marblemount, Washington
GPS: 48.480533, -121.22489
Elevation: 1827′

Management: Public – Forest Service

Just a pullout at the Hard Creek bridge on Cascade River Road. Right off the road, 1 Fire ring, water fall near by and an open view. There were many more pullouts along the way and further down the road. We stayed on the other side of the bridge.

17. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Pioneer Horse Camp

Address
Pacific Northwest Trail
Concrete, Washington
GPS: 48.679871, -121.897119
Elevation: 2172′

Management: Public – Forest Service

Free Dispersed camping in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest’s Mt. Baker Ranger District. This campsite does not use a reservation system. First come, first served.

18. North Cascades National Park Boondocking Sites – Casecade River Rd (hidden large site)

Address
Marblemount, Washington
GPS: 48.46935, -121.20742
Elevation: 1545′

Management: Public – Forest Service

The road in is Dirt and 4 miles from a paved road. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 35 feet. You may stay 14 days at Casecade River Rd hidden large site. Follow Cascade River Rd to Mile Marker 14, then take the next right. Then you will take the next right again (about .2 miles down the trail). It is a large spot that I think will accommodate any size rig. There is enough room to turn around anything. There are about 4 fire rings set up but the best spot is at the end. The first like 10 miles is paved then very well maintained dirt road. Once you take the first right, it is a trail road but still very smooth. After the second right, still smooth except one spot that you cross a dry creek bed. Great boondocking in/near the North Cascades National Park.



11 Amazing Trails to Hike at North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades is full of lush green forests, high alpine meadows, miles upon miles of mountains covered by snow with cascading waterfalls making for excellent hiking trails. Here are my top 11 favorite hikes to try out when visiting this gorgeous national park. North Cascades National Park is an amazing place for lovers of nature and beautiful scenery like mine. It’s truly a breathtaking sight to behold and experience in person.

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #1. Cascade Pass Trail

From Marblemount, take the Cascade River Road for 23 miles to the trailhead. The route is paved at first, then turns to gravel. At the finish, it gets narrow and steep. By the end of June or early July, the Cascade Pass parking lot is usually open. This is the most popular path in the park, and weekends may be rather crowded.

Near Rockport, Washington, you’ll find this 6.5-mile out-and-back route. It takes an average of 3 hours and 44 minutes to finish this moderately difficult route. Because this is a popular hiking region, you’ll almost certainly run into other people while exploring. The months of June through September are ideal for hiking this trek. Dogs are not permitted on this trail, so leave them at home.

Length: 6.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,781 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Forest, Views, Rocky, No dogs,

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #2.Trail of the Cedars Nature Walk

North Cascades National Park

This trail is open, however it must be accessed from the Skagit River National Park side. It’s a lovely trail with the Skagit River as a backdrop. Natural surfaces (soil, rocks), gravel, a wooden boardwalk with edge barriers, or a wooden bridge with rails are all options for the trail surface. It usually measures at least 5 feet in width.

The eastern loop, which runs clockwise from roughly 0.6 to 1.2 miles, is the most accessible part of the trail. The trail’s overall gradient is judged to be fairly gentle (5 percent or less). For the surface type and gradient, all-terrain tires or motorized equipment may be required. There are benches for relaxing along the walk.

Length: 1.7 mi
Elevation gain: 72 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, stroller friendly, Hiking, Walking, Running, Forest, Partially paved, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #3. Thunder Creek Trail

Hike through a stunning old-growth forest that leads to a glacier brook. At roughly 2 miles, there is a suspension bridge. This 10.3-mile out-and-back track near Marblemount, Washington, is a must-see. It takes an average of 4 hours and 18 minutes to finish this moderately difficult route. Although this is a popular backpacking, birding, and camping trail, you can still find some seclusion during the quieter hours of the day. The months of March through October are ideal for hiking this trek. Dogs are not permitted on this trail, so leave them at home.

Length: 10.3 mi
Elevation gain: 1,305 ft
Route type: Out & back

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Bird watching, Forest, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No dogs

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #4. Gorge Creek Falls Trail

North Cascades National Park Boondocking

This 0.5-mile circular route near Rockport, Washington, is worth checking out. It takes an average of 11 minutes to accomplish this trip, which is considered easy in the North Cascades National Park. Because this is a popular spot for birding, hiking, and walking, you’ll very certainly run into other people while exploring. The months of March through October are ideal for hiking this trek. Dogs are not permitted on this trail, so leave them at home.

The walk is paved for the first third of the way, with views of the Slavic river and dam. To complete the loop, there is a 2/3-mile easy walking track. On both sides of the bridge, you can simply cross. If you’re frightened of heights, it can be unsettling, but it’s so gorgeous that it’s worth it!

Length: 0.5 mi
Elevation gain: 39 ft
Route type: Loop

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Forest, River, Views, Waterfall, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No dogs

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #5. Skagit River Loop Trail

North Cascades National Park

This hike begins at the Visitor Center on a short boardwalk trail and proceeds through the forest to a large viewing platform with benches. The trail becomes a natural surface after about 0.2 miles and continues onto the River Loop Trail. Keep an eye on the river for salmon spawning. This trail connects to Loops A and B at the campground for a longer hike. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.

The wooden boardwalk throughout the first 0.3 miles of the trail is the most accessible part. The majority of the trail is assessed to be relatively easy (5 percent or less) in gradient, with the sharpest sections occurring between 0.3 and 0.4 kilometers north. After around 0.3 miles, all-terrain tires or motorized equipment may be required due to the surface type and gradient.

There are benches for relaxing along the walk. The North Cascades Visitor Center and facilities are handicapped accessible, according to the park website. The Sterling Munro Boardwalk route is the most accessible part of the trail.

Length: 1.9 mi
Elevation gain: 95 ft
Route type: Loop

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Camping, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Partially paved, River, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #6. Ptarmigan Traverse

North Cascades National Park

This is the legendary and beautiful Ptarmigan Traverse, which begins near Marblemount in the North Cascades of Washington State. This is a serious alpine traverse that bridges 5 glaciers, traverses cliffs, and at times requires complex route finding, except for the first few hours on the approach and the last day’s exit. Only experienced mountaineers with knowledge of glacier travel, crevasses rescue, steep snow/ice terrain, rock scrambling, route-finding, and other skills should attempt it.

While this path, which runs north to south, can theoretically be completed in either direction, going from north to south is the most sensible way to complete this journey. In summary, a south-end start isn’t even worth considering. It’s possible to accomplish it whenever the road is open, which is usually from mid-June to early-November.

This traverse may be completed in 5 moving days, with some skiers claiming to have completed it in a single day. However, it is suggested that you take seven days, with two moving days, one rest day, two more moving days, one rest day, and then the long final crawl out and into the netherworld. On rest days, the body can recover and acquire strength, making the moving days much more delightful.

Length: 30.6 mi
Elevation gain: 10,905 ft
Route type: Point to point

Backpacking, Hiking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Lake, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No dogs

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #7. Forbidden Peak Trail

Forbidden Peak is a Class 5 route that includes exposed climbing. It’s best to bring your own gear and have some experience. One of Washington’s 100 steepest summits is Forbidden Peak in the North Cascades National Park.

Learn about this 6.9-mile out-and-back trail in the Marblemount area of Washington. It takes an average of 7 hours and 45 minutes to accomplish this course, which is rated difficult. Although this is a popular backpacking, birding, and camping trail, you can still find some seclusion during the quieter hours of the day. The months of April through October are ideal for hiking this trek. Dogs are not permitted on this trail, so leave them at home.

Length: 6.9 mi
Elevation gain: 5,423 ft
Route type: Out & back

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Rock climbing, Bird watching, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No dogs

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #8. Rock Shelter Trail

North Cascades National Park

This is an out-and-back with plenty of alternatives for shortening or lengthening the trip if desired. The first 0.3 miles of the trail are the most easily accessible. The majority of the trail is considered to be relatively easy (5 percent or less) in gradient, with the sharpest point being at around 0.7 miles to the southwest. Trail users in wheelchairs, mobility equipment, or strollers may require help or should avoid the steeper part for safety reasons. After around 0.3 miles, all-terrain tires or motorized equipment may be required due to the surface type and gradient.

This 2.2-mile out-and-back track is located near Marblemount, Washington. It takes an average of 45 minutes to accomplish this course, which is rated simple. This trail is ideal for birdwatching, hiking, and trail running, and you won’t see many other people while exploring it. The months of March through October are ideal for hiking this trek. Dogs are permitted, but they must be kept on a leash.

Length: 2.2 mi
Elevation gain: 127 ft
Route type: Out & back

Dogs on leash, Wheelchair friendly, Kid friendly, Stroller friendly, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #9. Stetattle Trail

The beginning of this walk along the river offers some breathtaking views of the crystal-clear, vivid blue water. The climb over the short piece of washed-out track isn’t too difficult, requiring only 2-3 jumps. After that, the trail is mainly flat and climbs the mountain to stroll by the river. This is the place to go if you want to be alone.

Near Marblemount, Washington, explore this 6.6-mile out-and-back trail. It takes an average of 3 hours and 33 minutes to finish this moderately difficult route. Although this is a popular trail for birding, hiking, and trail running, it can still be peaceful at certain times of day. The months of May through October are ideal for hiking this trek in the North Cascades National Park. Dogs are not permitted on this trail, so leave them at home.

Length: 6.6 mi
Elevation gain: 1,574 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Running, Forest, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, No dogs

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #10. Old Wagon Trail

North Cascades National Park

The Pacific Crest Trail runs alongside the Old Wagon Trail, which connects to the Stehekin Valley and passes through a lovely forest. The walk is hilly, and you may see a variety of trees, including old-growth western cedars, along the way. In the summer, you might be able to locate huckleberries here!

This 9.2-mile out-and-back track near Stehekin, Washington, is a great place to start. It takes an average of 4 hours and 33 minutes to finish this moderately difficult route. Although this is a popular trail for birding, hiking, and walking, you can still find some peace and quiet during the quieter hours of the day. The months of March through October are ideal for hiking this trek. Dogs are not permitted on this trail, so leave them at home.

Length: 9.2 mi
Elevation gain: 1,830 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, No dogs

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trail #11. Middle Fork Cascade River Trail

North Cascades National Park

Get to know this 8.8-mile out-and-back trail near Marblemount, Washington. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 4 h 51 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking in the North Cascades National Park.

Length: 8.8 mi
Elevation gain: 2,227 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Forest, Views, Wildlife, Rocky



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