Kick Back in Mazama
The 250 residents of Mazamaa hamlet perched in the Methow Valley, on the park's eastern edgedon't want you sitting on your tush. The Mountain Transporter shuttle ($5-$55; 509-996-8294) will take you and your bike to dozens of promising trailheads, and Methow Adventures (866-638-4691, www.methowadventures.com) can gear you up for a custom biking, rafting, or fishing trip. Rest your bones at the Freestone Inn ($105-$220; 800-639-3809, www.freestoneinn.com), where every room has a stone fireplace and steelhead fishing is only steps away. Mazama's best eats are at the Freestonethink pecan-crusted troutbut for down-home chow, try the Burnt Finger Bar...
Acres: 684,302 Contact: 360-856-5700
THE NORTH CASCADES LOOK A LOT LIKE the Alps, with razorback peaks, alpine meadows, and plenty of glaciers. But the similarities to Europe end there: The park is almost all wilderness, and there are few roads in. Since backpacking on this steep terrain can be slow going at best, the smart way to see it is on horseback. The Courtney family, based in the hamlet of Stehekin, has been running pack trips in the region for two generations, with a low-key style that emphasizes good food, minimal impact, and stunning scenery.
Just getting to the Courtneys Cascade Corrals is an adventure. As a private inholding in the park, Stehekin has no road access and must be reached by ferrya 50-mile trip up Lake Chelan, through a glacial trough thats more than 8,500 feet deep. Once youve hooked up with the Courtneys, youll ride on a surefooted Norwegian fjord horse, heading up the Stehekin River Valley to your base camp at Bridge Creek.
Your routine each day will be blessedly simple: Wake up; stuff yourself with pancakes, eggs, and bacon; ride the park trail of your choice; then go on a hike to burn off the grub. Youll travel to amazing spots like Buckner Meadows, Mount Logan, and McAlester Lake; while youre soaking in the views, dont be surprised if you feel the urge to yodel.
GETTING THERE: Cascade Corrals (509-682-7742, www.courtneycountry.com) offers scheduled horsepacking trips ($995, six days) and custom outings for a minimum of six riders. Theres also a hiking option: You carry a daypack; the horse carries the rest ($750, six days).
WHEN TO GO: July through September.