The Gorge Overlook Trail is a paved walk along the rim of the Skagit River gorge, with views of the deeply carved gorge, free-flowing waterfalls, the Gorge Dam, impounded Gorge Lake, and distant peaks with snowfields that feed the river. It’s handicap-accessible out to the overlook, and if you continue on the unpaved portion of the trail, it will loop back to the parking lot. Your walk will be a half mile, whether you return the way you came or do the full loop.
The North Cascades are the wildest and steepest mountains in the continental U.S. outside Alaska, and are named for the many magnificent waterfalls that cascade from hanging glaciers and steep cliffs. The ice age lives on here, with more than 300 active glaciers within North Cascades National Park – more than any other national park, including Glacier NP.
The powerful flow of North Cascade waterfalls makes the Skagit River an excellent hydroelectric resource. The cascades are intensified by a combination of climate and steep terrain, with heavy precipitation, glaciers, and snowfields providing a constant, year-round flow to the watershed.
The 300-ft Gorge High Dam was completed in 1961, turning this section of the Skagit River into Gorge Lake. A short distance upstream are two larger dams and impounded lakes: Diablo and Ross. Gorge Dam fine-tunes the flows from these reservoirs, providing a key link in the hydropower system for Seattle City Light.
The river’s flow turns huge turbines in the powerhouse 2.7 miles downstream, generating electricity that travels through high-capacity transmission lines from these remote mountain lakes to power Seattle and western Washington. (Stop in Newhalem to visit the powerhouse.)
The cache: The cache is a small lock&lock in the rocks below the overlook. Start down the unpaved path, and just around the corner, out of sight of the overlook, you'll find the cache in a hollow under a large triangular boulder. No need to take more than a step off the trail. Some woody debris marks the spot, and (possibly) a rock of a different color.
Pikas live in these rocks, and if you're lucky, you might see or hear one. A pika watched me and whistled when I placed the cache.
This is the first permitted physical cache in Ross Lake NRA. It was placed with the support of the Interpretive Specialist, and approved by the Superintendent, North Cascades National Park Service Complex.