North Cascades and Skagit Valley Photo Tours
The North Cascades range in the northwestern corner of Washington State contain some of the most rugged and inaccessible mountains in the lower 48. Mount Terror, Eldorado, Forbidden Peak, Mount Despair and Mt. Fury are some of the foreboding names of the peaks lurking in this steep, practically inaccessible corner of wilderness.
Also known as the American Alps, the range boasts deep valleys, old growth forests, soaring pinnacles, uncounted waterfalls and the highest concentration of glaciers in the US (outside of Alaska). The Skagit River drains the western slopes, powering 3 huge dams as its glacial-fed waters plunge down from the high peaks soon slowing and meandering through the lush farm lands of Skagit Valley.
Here in April tulips are a bloom at the annual Skagit Valley Tulip festival. Come prepared for a riot of bright colors…and lots of mud!
Nearby, the Skagit River Delta is home to snow geese, trumpeter swans, bald eagles and many more species of birds. The Padilla Bay Estuary has wonderful trails for walking and enjoying the salt air and views.
A little further west is Deception Pass State Park. Here the channel between the mainland and Whidbey Island is spanned by the Deception Pass Bridge and affords breathtaking views of the forest, cliffs and ocean.
Photographic attractions are everywhere. Old barns, verdant farmlands, creeks filled with salmon, migrating birds, bald eagles, bays, estuaries, lakes and rivers: all of these and more await you in the Skagit Valley.
Andy Porter Photography Guided North Cascades and Skagit Valley Photo Tours
We provide customized tours to accommodate people of all ages and hiking prowess. Here are a few of places we can take you!
Sauk Mountain: this short (2 miles, one way) trail ascends a ridge via about 25 switchbacks and affords sweeping views of the Skagit Valley and a panorama of the North Cascades. Camping is possible near the top. The sunsets and sunrises from the summit are astounding.
Maple Pass: The Lake Ann – Maple Pass trail is a 7-mile loop (elevation gain: 2,500 ft) ascending a ridge carpeted with vibrant wildflowers in the summer and golden larch in the fall to a grandstand view of the North Cascades. The trail tops out at more than 7,000 feet before plunging down a series of switch backs to the shores of Rainy Lake and the parking area. Camping is allowed along the way, or this can be completed as a day hike.
Sahale Glacier Camp: This is the highest official camp in the North Cascades National Park. The views are unparalleled. The trail is a little less than 6 miles, but gains more than 4,000 feet in elevation. This trail is very strenuous! But the reward at the top (in decent weather) is well worth all the travails to get there. The camp itself is located on three mounds of scree at the base of Sahale Glacier. The National Park Service has created tent “pads” surrounded by rings of stone, like turrets on a castle. Sahale Camp is one place you will never forget.
Horseshoe Basin: Nestled in a less visited part of North Cascades National Park, Horseshoe Basin is a wonderland of waterfalls, wildflowers, meadows and sharp pinnacles. The hike to get there is 10 miles over rugged terrain, up and over Cascade Pass then down on the east side, heading towards Stehekin. The basin is home for the remnants of the Black Warrior Mine. 2 large caverns were blasted into the cliffs to serve as the mine workers camp and kitchen. The views in the basin and from the mine are astounding.
Park Butte Lookout: On the south side of Mount Baker is the Park Butte Fire Lookout. Now open to the public and available for overnight stays (first come, first stay the night!) the lookout is precariously perched in a ledge overlooking the Nooksack River and Bellingham. This is a fantastic spot to capture images of the moon and stars over Mount Baker.
North Cascades Scenic Drive: This 2-hour drive from Mount Vernon takes us up the Mount Baker Highway to more than 5,000ft elevation. Along the way we’ll’ stop at Picture Lake for photographs of Mount Shuksan and then continue to the roads end at Artist’s Point. From here trails spread out in all directions, the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail is actually a climbers trail, to the summit of Mount Baker!
Here we can bask in the beauty of the North Cascades, or take any level of hike we choose.
Fir Island is located in the heart of the Skagit River Delta and is home to tens of thousands of migrating birds as well as incredibly scenic barns and farms. There are plenty of wonderful flat walks along the shore.
Deception Pass State Park offers miles of easy hiking trails, car camping and fantastic, sweeping views of the Deception Pass Bridge.
Depending upon your length of stay and inclinations we can take in several hikes and add photo tours of the scenic areas in the valley
Planning for Your Tour
When to come for a visit? The best months to visit the North Cascades are June-September. Each year the snow in the high country melts and the trails become accessible starting in June and July. Sauk Mountain melts out first, sometime in June and Sahale Camp in mid to late July. September is a wonderful time for a visit, the falls colors and lack of bugs make back country trips more pleasant. Nighttime temps can drop to freezing at any time of year.
Weather – North Cascades Weather is…unpredictable. Summer brings some hot sunny days, and also cold and rainy periods. Late July and August can see weeks of beautiful sunny days, or solid rain. Fall weather is cooler and nights can see temps well below freezing. Generally temps in the summer are in the 70’s in the day and 50’s at night.
What to bring for imaging?
• Camera, lenses, filters, a tripod (light weight, if possible), extra batteries and memory cards.
• Water, snacks and any other food/beverages.
What you need to bring, equipment-wise, is dependent upon the adventure you choose. For backpacking and overnight stays you’ll need a good backpack, sleeping bag and pad, hiking shoes, and your clothes and sundry items, which we’ll cover later in the trip planning. We can supply tents and cooking equipment or you can bring your own. Day hikes require a simple day backpack for your camera gear and food/water.
What is “strenuous”? All trail guide books rate the difficulty of each hike. But these terms are dependent upon your frame of reference. “Easy” means that the trail is short and almost completely flat. “Moderate” means that there may be some elevation gain, usually no more than 500 feet, and the trail is not taxing for someone in decent shape. “Strenuous” means that the trail is both longer (up to 10 miles in a day) and gains significant elevation, up to 2,500 feet. Remember that you’ll be carrying not only your camera gear on these trails, but if there is an overnight stay, your pack may be as heavy as 30-40 lbs! “Very Strenuous” is a hike that gains more than 3,500 feet elevation in one day. I see people aged 7 to 75 on the hard trails often, so your age is not the most important factor, it’s more of your experience with backpacking and general fitness level. Please speak to me directly and we can discuss which level is best for you and your companions.
Setting up a Customized Tour
One, two or multi-day tours are available from May through the end of September. Fill in the form below giving me some idea of your interests and I will get back to you right away with specific suggestions. Please contact me with ANY questions!
North Cascades Day Hike – $200.00 per person
North Cascades Overnight or Multi-day Trip – $250.00 per person per day