Visitors Guide to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center

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Elevation: 1,200’

Site: 20.1 acres

Number of buildings: 16

Square feet: 38,582

Completed: July 2005

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is a hub of discovery in one of the wildest and most biologically diverse landscapes in North America. Operated by North Cascades Institute in partnership with the National Park Service and Seattle City Light, this award-winning residential campus is nestled on the shores of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park. Amenities include overnight lodging for up to 92 participants, multimedia classrooms, library, meeting spaces, lakeside dining hall, amphitheater, outdoor learning shelters, trails leading into the surrounding wildlands and a dock on Diablo Lake for paddling adventures.

The Environmental Learning Center hosts a wide variety of activities and gatherings for people of all ages in support of the Institute’s mission to “inspire environmental stewardship through transformative learning experiences in nature,” including school programs, conferences and weddings, Base Camp "Learning & Lodging" stays, Diablo Lake boat tours, and a wide variety of classes and field excursions.

The North Cascade Environmental Learning Center announces that civilization has established a firm foothold in the forest, but we’ve come in peace.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
raven photo by
lara swimmer
dave moskowitz

What should I bring?

A sleeping bag or bedding (pillow and mattress cover sheet are provided), seasonally-appropriate clothing including warm and rainresistant layers, change of shoes and/or slippers for lodges, toiletry items, a towel, alarm clock and flashlight/headlamp. Optional: small lock (we recommend leaving valuables at home), insect repellent, book and/or journal for downtime and a camera.

What are the accommodations like?

The Learning Center has three guest lodges, each with 7-8 rooms and shared, gender-specific restrooms with private showers; two lodges also have group lounges with gas fireplaces. Each room has four twin beds (in the form of two bunk beds), two desks, reading lamps and wardrobes with lockable compartments. There is radiator heat in each room with a thermostat.

What is the food like?

Thanks to the farmers, ranchers, fishermen and producers in Washington, we offer our guests food that is both delicious and nutritious. Meals at the Learning Center are served buffet-style and feature organic, sustainably-produced and locally-grown food whenever possible. If you are attending a program and have dietary restrictions, please notify us at least two weeks in advance at (360) 854-2599.

What is the weather like?

The Learning Center sits at 1,200 feet, so temperatures are not as extreme as you might imagine. Spring is warm and wet, summertime is moderate with temperatures often in the 70-80’s and fall brings warm days with chilly mornings and evenings. Winters are cold and wet and occasionally bring snowfall. Rain is a possibility in all four seasons. Weather forecast, air quality, directions and more useful information can be found at

When do I check in?

A detailed letter will be emailed to you before your program at the Learning Center with all the information you will need to prepare for your stay with us, including check-in times, supplies list and an activity agenda.

Is there a key to my room?

While we don’t provide keys to the lodge rooms, you can lock your room when you are inside it. There is a lock box in each room for your valuables with enough room for a purse, camera, laptop or other small valuables. We have padlocks to loan out.

If I forgot a sleeping bag or towel, are they available?

Yes, we have bed and bath linen supplies available for a $10 fee. A fresh mattress cover sheet and pillow with case is supplied with each bed.

Will my cellphone work? Is there internet access?

Our remote location is not conducive to cell phone reception. You can call out on our phones – Seattle calls are considered local, but for all other calls, please bring a calling card with you. The Learning Center supplies a wireless internet signal and there is an internet-connected computer in the library.

Can we bring snacks, beer or a bottle of wine?

Yes, you can bring your own snacks provided they are stored in airtight containers or in the refrigerators in the lodges. You are welcome to bring your own adult beverages and consume them in your room.

Is there a place nearby to purchase food, snacks or supplies?

Newhalem, eight miles west of the Learning Center, has a small seasonal convenience store. Marblemount, 20 miles west of the Learning Center, has a gas station and convenience store, post office and several eateries. Concrete, approximately 40 miles west of the Learning Center, has the nearest full-service grocery store.

Is there any need to bring money to the Learning Center?

The book store at the Learning Center sells clothing, water bottles, postcards, books, gifts and field naturalist supplies. The store does not sell food, phone cards or stamps. We accept cash, Visa, MasterCard and personal checks. There are no ATM or vending machines on campus.

Can I come the night before my class starts or stay an extra night? Can my friend or partner stay with me even if they don’t attend a class?

You or your family member/friend can enroll in Base Camp, a flexible, inexpensive program that allows people to participate in the Institute’s natural and cultural history activities without committing to a singletopic program. Other options include camping at nearby Colonial Creek Campground or a staying at a motel in Marblemount or Concrete.

Is campus wheelchair-accessible?

All of the buildings and campus pathways are ADA-accessible. The Learning Center campus is built on a hillside, so we recommend assistance in navigating beyond the central campus. We also have a ADA scooter available for use.

What if I get hurt or sick when I am at the Learning Center?

North Cascades Institute is committed to the safety of our staff, guests and community. The closest hospital is in Sedro-Woolley, 90 minutes away. The closest advanced life-support ambulance comes from Concrete, one hour away. If you have a medical condition and are concerned about being more than one hour from definitive medical care, please consult your physician.



for up to 92 visitors, plus housing for staff and students

MULTIMEDIA CLASSROOM, the Wild Ginger Library and aquatic and terrestrial labs

LAKESIDE dining hall and a recycling & compositing center


SHELTERS, amphitheater trails and a dock on Diablo Lake

ADA-ACCESSIBLE facilities and pathways


Top Three Spots in the North Cascades, The Seattle Times

Top Ten Great Getaways, ParentMap Magazine

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Rating, US Green Building Council

Designing and Building with FSC Award, Forest Stewardship Council

Merit Award, American Institute of Architects

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is located at milepost 127.5 on the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) in the heart of North Cascades National Park. It is accessible year-round. We suggest planning for three hours of travel time from Seattle, or two hours from Bellingham or Winthrop.

Google Maps and Apple Maps will find our location if you search North Cascades Environmental Learning Center or 1940 Diablo Dam Road Rockport WA. Cell service is spotty east of Sedro-Woolley so know how to find us before you head in to the mountains. Be careful not to get directions to our administrative office in Sedro-Woolley.

The gate at the top of the Diablo Dam Road closes between 4:30 PM and 7:30 AM every day. If you are arriving for a program when the gate is closed, simply use the phone at the gate, give the operator your name and the gate will be opened for you.


From west of the Cascades: Take Interstate 5 to exit 230, North Cascades Highway/State Route 20 East. Drive 65 miles to Diablo Dam Road, milepost 127.5. Turn left, drive over Diablo Dam, turn right and park at the end of the road in the lot.

From east of the Cascades: Take North Cascades Highway/State Route 20 West. Drive 35 miles west from Washington Pass to Diablo Dam Road, milepost 127.5. Drive over Diablo Dam, turn right and park at the end of the road in the lot.

LEARNING CENTER AND AREA TRAILS RubyArm RossLake Ruby Mountain (7408 ft) Colonial Peak (7771 ft) Pyramid Peak (7182 ft) Davis Peak (7051 ft) Sourdough Mountain (5985 ft) S OU R D O U G H M O U N TA I N TRAIL PYRAMID LAKE TRAIL Arm THUNDER KNOB TRAIL ROSS LAKE TRAIL STETATTLE CREEK TRA I L DIABLO LAKE TRAIL Sourdough Creek Gorge Creek Ladder Creek ColonialCreek Colonial Creek Campground Newhalem Creek Campground Diablo LEARNING CENTER Diablo Dam Gorge Dam GORGE OVERLOOK TRAIL LADDER CREEK FALLS TRAIL Ross Dam Diablo Lake Overlook Ross Lake Overlook Diablo Lake Gorge Lake Newhalem EAST B A N K T R A L DEVILS DOME TRAIL D e e r C r e e k H orsetail Creek Happy C r e e k BigB eaverCreek Devils Creek SkymoCreek StetattleCreek Lillian Creek 1 mile N HAPPY PANTHER TRAIL BIG BEAVER TRAIL ThunderCreekTHUNDERCREEKTRAIL PyramidCreek T h u nd er May Creek • (360) 854-2599 GETTING HERE North Cascades Institute welcomes participants of any race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or marital status, age, sensory, physical or mental disability or any other legally-protected status. National Park Service U.S. Department of Interior

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