Let’s travel west where we’ll lose ourselves in the Pacific Northwest wilderness and venture deep into the North American Alps, the lesser-known North Cascades National Park. This hidden gem of a National Park reveals a rugged beauty expressed as jagged peaks, deep forested valleys, cascading waterfalls and over 300 glaciers – more than any other U.S. Park outside of Alaska. We’ll experience all this stunning nature along twisting, winding roads leading through the conifer clad mountains and take to the trails leading to brilliantly clear, glacier fed turquoise lakes, past rushing rivers with waterfall cascades and so much spectacular scenery and views along the way. If Mother Nature allows, we’ll be entranced by a deep dark sky glittering with millions of stars, more than you’ve ever seen.
We’ll feel the history as thousands of voices from the past crackle to life in this alpine landscape, from Native Americans to early European and American fur traders and explorers to homesteaders and miners, all of which called this land home. Mountains aren’t the only thing we’ll encounter, we’ll also set our minds to island time as we visit Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands serenely set in the heart of the Salish Sea. Horseshoe shaped Orcas Island is not only rural and hilly green paradise but is also home to magnificent orca whales who we’ll try to spot on our cruise around the islands.
So grab your sense of adventure along with some comfy clothes and join us on an exploration of Washington’s wondrous wilderness!
Day One: San Juan Islands
After arriving in Seattle, we’ll make our way out to the San Juan Islands. It’s here where we’ll spend 2 days relaxing and taking in the fresh sea air. We’ll grab a ferry from the town Anacortes that will whisk us away to our new home where we can upack, relax, and enjoy the evening.
More details to come!
Day Two: Whale Watching
Orcas are on the agenda today! Our whale watching cruise will take us around the San Juan Islands in search of Humpbacks, Minke, Gray, and Orca Whales. Along the way, we’ll encounter stunning scenery and may catch sight of seals, sea lions, porpoises, bald eagles, otters, and sea birds. It’s a thrilling day out on the water!
Day Three: North Cascades Scenic Byway
We depart today by ferry back to the mainland, but do not despair, the mountains await! After stopping at a local place for an included lunch, we’ll begin our scenic drive along the North Cascades scenic byway.
Your eyes will be glued to the windows as the twisting and winding road passes through rugged mountain peaks past rushing waterfalls and alpine glaciers.
Our first stop to immerse in the amazing wilderness is Thunder Knob. This is a good leg stretcher trail to take in all the stunning scenery surrounding us.
Cross the bridges spanning the rushing creek, through the forest with its mossy carpet. There is a climb uphill but it’s worth the effort to see what is revealed at the top!
After our walk, we’ll be rewarded with more incredible scenery at glacial fed Diablo Lake with its turquoise color and jagged mountain background.
Now onto our home for the next four nights, the splendidly solitude Freestone Inn. Relax in the quiet setting and enjoy more views from your private veranda overlooking the lake or warm up and get cozy by your own fireplace.
Day Four: Washington Pass Overlook
Let’s get back out into the beautiful Cascades! We’ll retrace our steps from yesterday, viewing the scenery from a different perspective with our first stop at the Washington Pass Overlook.
Follow the easy paved path that cuts through pine scented forest to staggering scenery of towering spires.
Ross Dam Trail:
We’ll continue our route along the byway towards the forested trail leading to the impressive Ross Dam.
Ross Lake Overlook:
After our short hike, we’ll take in the sweeping views at the Ross Lake Overlook…
Blue Lake Trail:
…then rest our legs for our next walk in the wonderful wilderness to Blue Lake. This mountain lake sits quietly at 6254 feet among towering granite peaks, forests, and flowering meadows.
We’ll take our time on this gem of a walk taking in all the diverse landscapes and cool our feet in the lake’s icy water.
Once back at the Freestone Inn, you can relax the night away as you please.
Day Five: Stehekin
We’ll spend today visiting the unique community of Stehekin, nestled deep in the heart of the North Cascades only accessible by boat, plane, or foot. We’ll get here by boat, no worries!
More details coming soon!
Day Six: Falls Creek Falls
We’re off to the Western town of Winthrop for the day, but first we must make a stop to view the magnificent Falls Creek Falls. Follow the easy, gently graded trail to the first cascading waterfall and stop to take in its beauty.
If your thirst for falling water isn’t quenched by just one, follow a gentle switchback from the lower viewpoint to the top of the first falls. Here you can experience views of the upper falls and observe the rushing water over the rocks creating the lower falls.
Lost River Winery:
Now it’s time to indulge in tastings at the Lost River Winery along with an included picnic lunch.
Shafer Historical Museum:
After let’s explore the town and its Wester flair.
We’ll stop by the Shafer Historical Museum and its incredible collection of Winthrop Western history, including original historic buildings and artifacts.
Don’t miss the Sa Teekh Wa Bridge spanning the Chewuch River and the Susie Stephens trail that meanders along the river.
Once back at the Freestone Inn, the night is yours!
Day Seven: Rainy Lake Trail
Today we leave the Freestone Inn, but there’s still so much more to experience in the North Cascades!
Get your walking shoes on because the trails await with the first being an easy path to Rainy Lake, another picturesque beauty surrounded by our favorite mountain ranges.
Gorge Creek Falls:
The impressive Gorge Creek Falls is our next amazing sight, another easy path to a scenic reward.
Gorge Lake Overlook:
Right nearby is the Gorge Lake Overlook, a very short trail that provides astonishing views of nature’s beauty.
Ladder Creek Falls:
Next we meander along an easy, refreshing woodland path with exotic flora to the loud and misty Ladder Creek Falls. Stop and take a long moment to feel the serenity of our surroundings.
Trail of Cedars:
One more short easy walk that’s definitely worth the extra steps, the Trail of Cedars nature path through towering Western red cedars that line the trail.
Touch the stingy bark and smell the sweet fragrance of this lovely, forested area.
Now we rest as we make our scenic drive toward our much awaited included lunch nearby.
Harold Engles Memorial Cedars:
We just can’t leave the Cascades until we visit the giant cedar trees preserved by Ranger Harold Engles who luckily refused to include this grove in a planned timber sale.
You will understand his sense of appreciation of these majestic trees as you wander under the lush canopy of the mind-boggling enormous cedars accompanied by the sound of the crashing river waters.
Camano Island Inn:
Now we make our way to our last home in Washington for the next two nights, the laid-back Camano Island set along Puget Sound, stopping for an included dinner along the way.
The waterfront Camano Island Inn will be a welcome sight and perfect place to rest the night away.
Day Eight: Leisurely Morning
Enjoy a leisurely morning here at the inn, taking in all the lovely scenery and perhaps a walk along the beach.
North is the direction today as we head to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest located on the west side of the Cascades between the Canadian border and Mt. Rainier National Park. What will we see? Amazing glacier covered peaks, spectacular mountain meadows, and old growth forests rich in history.
Our first stop is Nooksack Falls, a plunging cascade that flows through a narrow valley then drops freely 88 feet into a deep rocky, river canyon.
Onto one of the most photographed vistas in America, Picture Lake. These reflective, sparking waters feature a backdrop of craggy Mount Shuksan and a foreground of colorful wildflowers, just pretty as a picture.
A spectacular short trail surrounded by a fragile alpine ecosystem from the stunning Artist Point leads to Artist Ridge with unbelievable scenery at every step.
If we can tear ourselves away, we’ll make our way back to Camano Island, stopping for an included dinner along the way.
Day Nine: Flight Home
Today we say goodbye to our amazing Washington home as we make our way to the Seattle Airport for our flight back home.
Pricing & Departures:
This will be a Special, Intimate Small Group tour with a max of 9. There will be a good amount of walking on this tour but some accommodations can be made and as always, you are free to walk as much or as little as possible.
Air transportation is provided by United Airlines. A surcharge will apply if United Airlines increases the price of its airfare. One piece of luggage per person (baggage fee by United is not included) and one small carry-on are permitted. A valid, government-issued picture ID is required to board the plane.
Saturday, August 3: Flight # departs Newark at AM and arrives in Seattle at PM
Sunday, August 11: Flight # departs Seattle at PM and arrives in Newark at PM
Price per person is $ Twin & $ Single. No reservations accepted without a deposit of $500 per person. Make checks payable to “Group Tours & Travel”, and mail to our address above. Final payment is due January 18, 2024. There are no refunds if cancellation occurs after January 18, 2024. Group Tours is not responsible for any delays, cancellations, injuries or circumstances beyond its control and reserves the right to change the itinerary. All trip components are subject to change in accordance with Government, State and Local guidelines and/or mandates. Travel protection/cancellation coverage is available and highly recommended. This tour will run rain or shine.
The Educated Wanderer
Group Tours & Travel
PO Box 632 Berwyn, PA 19312