Geography of the North Cascades

The geography of the North Cascades describes a range of rugged mountains in British Columbia, Canada and Washington, United States. In Canada, the range is officially named the Cascade Mountains but is commonly referred to as the Canadian Cascades.


The Fraser River and Similkameen River in British Columbia form the northern boundary of the North Cascades. On the east, the Okanogan River and the Columbia River bound the range. On the west within the United States, the foothills of the range are separated by a narrow coastal plain from Puget Sound, whereas in Canada there are few if any foothills and the range drops steeply to the floodplain of the Fraser Lowland.

The southern boundary of the North Cascades is less definite. For the purposes of this article, it will be taken as US Highway 2, running over Stevens Pass, or equivalently, the Skykomish River, Nason Creek, and the lower Wenatchee River. This roughly follows Beckey's division.[1]:17 Sometimes the southern boundary is defined by Snoqualmie Pass and the approximate route of Interstate 90.[2]


There are various formally named subranges, and some informally named ones. Formally named subranges include the:

Informally named ranges include the Coquihalla Range, which lies between the Coquihalla River and the Fraser Canyon south of an imaginary line roughly connecting Coquihalla Pass with the town of Boston Bar. The Coquihalla Range includes a group of horn-like summits known as the Anderson River Group, also known as the Llamoid Group due to conferred names such as Vicuna Peak, Yak Peak, Guanaco Peak, etc.

Protected areasEdit

A group of hikers in E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

The North Cascades include various protected areas. Chief among the areas in Washington is North Cascades National Park, occupying much of the area between Mount Baker and the Cascade divide. Contiguous with the Park are Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Designated wilderness areas in the range include:

In British Columbia, protected areas include

Notable peaksEdit

The following North Cascades peaks are notable for their height (absolute elevation):

Mountain Height Coordinates Prominence Parent mountain First ascent
(ft) (m) (ft) (m)
Mount Baker 10,778 3,285 48°46′N 121°48′W / 48.767°N 121.800°W / 48.767; -121.800 8,881 2,707 Mount Rainier 1868 by Edmund T. Coleman and party
Glacier Peak 10,541 3,213 48°6′45.05″N 121°6′49.70″W / 48.1125139°N 121.1138056°W / 48.1125139; -121.1138056 7,501 2,286 Mount Rainier 1898 by Thomas Gerdine
Bonanza Peak 9,511 2,899 48°14′16″N 120°51′58″W / 48.23778°N 120.86611°W / 48.23778; -120.86611 3,711 1,131 Glacier Peak 1937 by Curtis James, Barrie James, Joe Leuthold
Mount Fernow 9,249 2,819 48°09′44″N 120°48′30″W / 48.16222°N 120.80833°W / 48.16222; -120.80833 2,809 856 Bonanza Peak 1932 by Oscar Pennington, Hermann Ulrichs
Goode Mountain 9,220 2,810 48°28′58″N 120°54′39″W / 48.48278°N 120.91083°W / 48.48278; -120.91083 3,800 1,200 Bonanza Peak 1936 by Wolf Bauer, Philip Dickett, Joe Halwax, Jack Hossack, George MacGowan

(The above table uses a topographic prominence cutoff of 1,000 feet (300 m), in order to list only highly independent peaks.)

Mount Baker with Boulder Glacier in foreground.

The following peaks are notable for their topographic prominence:

Mountain Height Prominence Parent mountain
(ft) (m) (ft) (m)
Mount Baker 10,778 3,285 8,881 2,707 Mount Rainier
Glacier Peak 10,541 3,213 7,501 2,286 Mount Rainier
Round Mountain 5,320 1,620 4,780 1,460 Mount Baker
Mount Spickard 8,979 2,737 4,779 1,457 Mount Baker
Welch Peak 7,976 2,431 4,728 1,441 Robinson Mountain
Three Fingers 6,850 2,090 4,490 1,370 Glacier Peak
Mount Shuksan[3] 9,131 2,783 4,411 1,344 Mount Baker
Remmel Mountain 8,684 2,647 4,370 1,330 Mount Lago
Mount Prophet 7,650 2,330 4,080 1,240 Three Fingers
Mount Outram 8,074 2,461 3,678 1,121 Hozomeen Mountain
Mount Lago 8,743 2,665 3,300 1,000 Silver Star Mountain

The following peaks are notable for their large, steep rise above local terrain. Peaks are listed in descending order by elevation.

Hozomeen Mountain from Hozomeen Lake
Mountain Height
(ft) (m)
Mount Baker 10,778 3,285
Glacier Peak 10,541 3,213
Goode Mountain 9,220 2,810
Mount Shuksan 9,127 2,782
Jack Mountain 9,066 2,763
North Gardner Mountain 8,956 2,730
Mount Redoubt 8,956 2,730
Eldorado Peak 8,876 2,705
Luna Peak 8,311 2,533
Johannesburg Mountain 8,220 2,510
Agnes Mountain 8,115 2,473
Hozomeen Mountain 8,066 2,459
Slesse Mountain 8,002 2,439
American Border Peak 7,994 2,437
Mount Blum 7,680 2,340
Sloan Peak 7,835 2,388
Colonial Peak 7,771 2,369
Mount Triumph 7,270 2,220
Pugh Mountain 7,201 2,195
Davis Peak 7,051 2,149
Whitehorse Mountain 6,850 2,090
Baring Mountain 6,125 1,867

Highest waterfallsEdit

The North Cascades are known for having many extremely tall glacial-fed waterfalls; the ten highest measured waterfalls are listed.

Waterfall Height Stream Location Coordinates
(ft) (m)
Colonial Creek Falls 2,584 788 Colonial Creek Diablo Lake 48°40′13″N 121°08′26″W / 48.67023°N 121.14044°W / 48.67023; -121.14044
Johannesburg Falls 2,465 751 Unnamed Below Johannesburg Peak, near Mount Torment 48°28′36″N 121°05′29″W / 48.47655°N 121.09132°W / 48.47655; -121.09132
Sulphide Creek Falls 2,182 665 Sulphide Creek Eastern boundary of North Cascades National Park 48°47′47″N 121°34′32″W / 48.79647°N 121.57563°W / 48.79647; -121.57563
Silver Lake Falls 2,128 649 Silver Creek Near Mount Spickard in North Cascades National Park 48°59′21″N 121°13′22″W / 48.98917°N 121.22278°W / 48.98917; -121.22278
Blum Basin Falls 1,680 510 Blum Creek Below Mount Blum 48°44′01″N 121°30′09″W / 48.73368°N 121.50263°W / 48.73368; -121.50263
Boston Creek Falls 1,627 496 Boston Creek Near North Fork Cascade River 48°29′35″N 121°04′32″W / 48.49298°N 121.07549°W / 48.49298; -121.07549
Torment Falls 1,583 482 Torment Creek Near North Fork Cascade River 48°29′50″N 121°06′22″W / 48.49719°N 121.10602°W / 48.49719; -121.10602
Green Lake Falls 979 298 Unnamed fork of Bacon Creek Near Green Lake in North Cascades National Park 48°41′34″N 121°29′34″W / 48.69271°N 121.49285°W / 48.69271; -121.49285
Depot Creek Falls 967 295 Depot Creek Near Mount Redoubt, North Cascades National Park 48°58′38″N 121°17′05″W / 48.97732°N 121.28477°W / 48.97732; -121.28477
Rainy Lake Falls 800 240 Unnamed Rainy Lake, Okanogan National Forest 48°29′49″N 120°44′45″W / 48.49694°N 120.74583°W / 48.49694; -120.74583

[4] Many tall waterfalls occur where meltwater from mountain glaciers drop down a headwall, which are common occurrences in the North Cascades. Many waterfalls, despite their great height, are non-notable as they are not clearly visible and often have low volume. Seahpo Peak Falls, despite its great height at nearly 2,200 feet (670 m), is an example of one of these waterfalls. A few notable exceptions do occur; Sulphide Creek Falls occurs where meltwaters from two of the largest Mount Shuksan glaciers are forced through a narrow chute over a 2,183-foot (665 m) headwall at the head of Sulphide Valley.


Geographical features in the area of the North Cascades National Park can be found in this image map:

Heinrich C. BerannRoss LakeSeattleOlympic National ParkMount Rainier National ParkLake ChelanDiablo LakeMount Shuksan - 9,131 ftMount Baker - 10,775 ftHozomeen Mountain - 8,068 ftGoode Mountain - 9,206 ftMount Logan - 9,074 ftEldorado Peak - 8,672 ftLuna Peak - 8,311 ftPicket RangeTwin Sisters Mountain - 7,020 ft 
Painting of North Cascades Nat'l Park by Heinrich C. Berann. Aerial view of the entire park from the east, looking west. Ross Lake is in the foreground, drained by the Skagit River flowing toward Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the background. Mount Baker is prominently visible on the upper right. Mouse over the picture and click on an area of interest.


  1. ^ Beckey, Fred (1987). Cascade Alpine Guide. 1 (2nd ed.). The Mountaineers. ISBN 0-89886-152-7.
  2. ^ "Level III and Level IV Ecoregions of the Northwestern United States" (PDF). Western Ecology Division. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  3. ^ "Mount Shuksan, Washington". Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  4. ^ "Showing All Waterfalls In Washington". Bryan Swan and Dean Goss. World Waterfall Database. Retrieved 2009-05-19.

External linksEdit