UPDATE 06/02/22: The Cascade Highway is officially open as of May 10. A very snowy April and May means that there is still over 8 feet of snow in many places. I wouldn’t expect trails to be fully clear of snow for a while, though the park should become more and more snow-free and accessible each day. So, while you should be able to drive most places, it’s still going to be a while before conditions are at their best.
UPDATE 6/5/21: The Cascade Highway is open for the season. Cascade River Road is still closed and should open up sometime next month. As for trail conditions, most of the snow below 4,000 feet has melted, making for clear but muddy hiking. Ross Dam Trail, a short hike at about 1,900 feet, is nice and clear- check out photos here. Above 4,000 feet, expect lots of snow (and don’t forget your microspikes). June is looking pretty okay for North Cascades National Park, as long as you’re prepared and check the Current Conditions before you head out! You can also check recent reports on AllTrails to see how other hikers have fared on trails you’re interested in. Happy hiking!
In most places, June is one of the most pleasant months– it’s early summer, not cold but not yet blazing hot. That leads many people (myself included) to plan visits to National Parks in the Pacific Northwest, including the wild and vast North Cascades National Park. But, is June actually the best time to visit?
Is June a Good Time to Visit North Cascades National Park?
While the Cascade HIghway is usually open by mid-May, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to roam around freely. Snow melts much later in the Cascade Mountains than most people realize. This means that, unless you’re a huge fan of snowshoeing and winter camping, there won’t be too much for you to do in June.
Many of the trails above 4,000 feet will be completely snow-covered or closed off. Since there is a near-complete lack of roads in the park, and most of the trails head to very high elevations, North Cascades National Park is best visited later in the year.
What to Do in North Cascades National Park Complex in June
In June, you’ll still be able to access Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Lake Chelan. If you’re interested in getting up to high altitudes, though, you’re going to need some snowshoes and a whole lot of warm clothing. You can use the Cascade Highway to get to Diablo Lake Overlook, a place you can get great views without ever leaving a paved area!
Ross Lake: Fishing, Boating, Relaxing
This lake isn’t technically part of North Cascades National Park, but it is one of the most popular areas in the whole region. It’s more accessible than the park itself, and there are plenty of things to do at Ross Lake in June. Ross Lake Resort should be opening up sometime near the middle of June; you can stay there, fish, kayak, and do whatever you like without the crowds!
Can You Hike in North Cascades in June?
This one is a toss-up. If you’ve got microspikes, snowshoes, and trekking poles, you can get to a lot of places. If you’re not accustomed to winter hiking, though, it’s going to be a bit tough for you. Any trail that’s below about 7,000 feet in elevation should be hikable, albeit still icy and snowy. You can do a lot of hiking in June at North Cascades, as long as you’re prepared for wintery conditions!
If you’ve got a bit of toughness about you, and a bit of experience with winter camping, you can still go a lot of places and have a lot of fun in North Cascades in June:
What are Winters Like in the North Cascades?
Winters in the North Cascades are extremely cold and incredibly snowy. So snowy, in fact, that the Cascade Highway simply shuts down for the season. That’s right, an entire state highway just up and closes because the snow is so heavy and constant! Clearing the snow is a long process that typically begins in early May.
By the middle of the month, cars can freely drive between Newhalem and Winthrop, the two towns on either side of the Cascade Pass. Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and the Famous Ross Lake Resort all see their first visitors sometime in May-June.
The winter months are brutal, and the “winter season” in North Cascades National Park doesn’t keep the same schedule as most of America’s other national parks. In the North Cascades, the snow starts coming down in the late fall, right around the first half of November. It doesn’t stop falling until, sometimes, April. Temperatures in the North Cascades range between 8 and 25 degrees with little variation from November 1 to April 1.
When Does the Snow Melt in the North Cascades?
It depends on which side of the park we’re talking about. The snow will melt a little faster on the eastern side because it receives 400 fewer inches of snow each year. Yes, 400- that’s how much the snow differs from one side of the park to the other! On the Ross Lake side, the ultra-heavy snow takes a long time to fully melt. Most years, there will be trails below the snow line that don’t melt completely until sometime in July.
This means June might not be the best time for you to visit. If you’re looking for a winter wonderland to snowshoe or backcountry ski in, North Cascades National Park in June is perfect. If you’re more of a summer backpacker, it’s best to wait until a more favorable month to visit the park.
August and September: The Best Months for Visiting the North Cascades
By August, the snow has receded and the park becomes a sprawling, lush, green treasure. The temperatures, in the 60’s and 70’s, rarely get too cold or too hot for comfort. Green hillsides along the trails are covered in wildflowers, and all the animals in the park are out and about.
August and September are the best times to visit North Cascades National Park. The weather is pleasant, the trails are clear and dry, and the clouds are more scarce at this time than any other. The summer is short in the North Cascades, which is one reason why it’s one of the least-visited parks in the country.
If you’re looking to visit North Cascades National Park in June, the park will be accessible, but just barely. Waiting until more snow melts- until late July-September- is the best way to experience Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and all the incredible mountains that the park complex has to offer! Generally, visiting any mountainous area in spring, like Rocky Mountain in May, is going to be snowy, muddy, or both. If you can help it, wait until summer is in full swing!