North Cascades National Park EV Travel Guide

In 2023, North Cascades National Park was the least visited park in the continental U.S. that’s reachable by car. To put this in perspective, there’s a park in Alaska that beats it in terms of visitors, as well as a park in Florida that’s not reachable by car! This is a little weird because it’s only about an hour away from Interstate 5 and only a couple of hours outside of Seattle.

One possible explanation is that unlike Seattle and I-5, North Cascades isn’t on the coast benefiting from the warmer ocean air. Instead of rain, the area gets lots of snow and experiences much, much colder winters.

But, the bigger problem by far is that the visitor numbers are kind of deceptive. The official North Cascades National Park is mostly inaccessible by road (and even then, only on some dirt/gravel roads), but it’s part of a “North Cascades Park Complex” that includes the national park and two national recreation areas (lakes/reservoirs). If we actually count all of the visitors to the complex, the park is among the top 25! So, it’s not a little-visited park after all.

It’s not a park where you can reach everything by road, so if you’re trying to see the whole thing, you’d better plan ahead and bring backpacking gear. But, there’s still a lot to see from the main road (SR 20) and the other side roads to reach other parts of the park. Late spring to early fall are basically the only times to visit the park itself or the complex, as it’s snowed in most of the rest of the year.

If you make the trip when it’s open, you’re in for some great views of lakes, mountains, glaciers, wildlife, and plants. Some of the best views in the complex are available right off the highway, making for photography and sightseeing opportunities nearly anybody can enjoy. If you’re a hiker, there are hundreds of miles of trails, short and long. Biking is popular in the park, but mainly on the highway. Boating is another popular activity, but permits are required if you bring your own boat.

Pets are only allowed in the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan areas, along with any roads. They are generally not allowed on the trails except for the Pacific Crest Trail (leashed). Read more on that here.

Getting There In An EV

Quick Facts and Tips:

  • If the plan is to visit only along SR 20, the park is fairly accessible. Even my Bolt EUV with truck tires can get across the park from I-5 to Pateras (the two closest points with DC fast charging) with a one-hour charge at one of the Level 2 stations in the middle of the complex, so EVs with better range shouldn’t have an issue. Trip planning software is recommended.
  • During 2024, several DC fast charging stations are supposed to open along SR 20. Be sure to check on the progress of these stations on Plugshare before relying on them.
  • The nearest lodging with charging is at the Inn at Mazama.
  • There are no in-park campgrounds with electric hookups, but once the L3 stations are open, you should be able to use an EV to power creature comforts at campsites. Alternatively, you can stay at a powered RV park outside of the park, but always call to make sure it’s OK before planning on charging an EV.
  • It should be easy for most EVs to reach the ferry launch points for Lake Chelan (near US-97). But, you’ll need to come up with an electric boat if you want to brag that you reached the Stehekin Lodge under all electric power.

All in all, the park is very reachable with a little bit of planning. It’ll soon be even easier to visit!

Links For More Park and Nearby Information

Here’s a video with great information about what you can do at the park and how to do it well.

Featured photo by Deby Dixon, NPS (Public Domain).