Ross Lake National Recreation Area

Ross Lake National Recreation Area is the most accessible part of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, and offers camping and hiking.

The National Recreation Area includes three reservoirs: Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Gorge Lake -- water gateways to more remote areas. Ringed by mountains, it offers many outdoor recreation opportunities along the upper reaches of the Skagit River.

General Management Plan

The purpose of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area General Management Plan (GMP) is to articulate a vision and management strategy for Ross Lake NRA over the next 15 to 20 years.

In creating this plan, North Cascades National Park Service Complex articulates a future vision for Ross Lake National Recreation Area - one that has been defined largely by you: the owners and users of this public land. Over the course of the GMP planning effort, you shared with us a clear vision for Ross Lake NRA: one that recognizes the North Cascades as a national treasure; one that preserves and protects the natural and cultural histories of this land as they are; and one that connects visitors with this place, its mountains and waters, its history, diversity, and wildness.

We believe this plan heeds your suggestions, concerns, and call to maintain and enhance what we have. This final GMP sets forth actions to manage Ross Lake NRA as a gateway to millions of acres of wilderness by providing enhanced visitor opportunities along the North Cascades Highway, preserving a remote backcountry experience on Ross Lake, and ensuring the long-term stewardship of the surrounding North Cascades ecosystem and wilderness.


  • Trails: Improve existing trails and construct new day hiking and accessible trails primarily along the highway corridor.
  • Campgrounds: Consider new camping facilities at the Newhalem Creek Campground and at Upper and Lower Goodell group sites.
  • North Cascades Visitor Center: Update the exhibits, multi-media programs, and activities at the North Cascades Visitor Center.
  • Wilderness Information Center: Continue upgrades to the facility to improve visitor services and operational efficiencies.
  • Thornton Lakes Road: In order to comply with the current wilderness boundary, close the upper one mile segment of the Thornton Lakes Road, convert old road to a new trail, and improve the trailhead with parking. Maintain and upgrade the trail to Thornton Lakes.
  • Ross Dam Trailhead: Enlarge the footprint of the parking lot to accommodate a turn lane, pull-through spaces for six oversized vehicles, and capacity for 40 passenger vehicles.
  • North Cascades Highway: Recommend nomination and designation of the North Cascades Highway as a National Scenic Byway.

For updates and more information about this recreation area and the management plan, please visit the NPS.

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