The Cascades offer some of the most stunning scenery in all of North America and in places rival the rugged beauty of the Rockies. The Cascades extend from Northern California into southern British Columbia in Canada running through the states of Washington and Oregon.

The Cascades include the North Cascades (that are not volcanic) and the High Cascades (that include some of the most famous volcanos). They form a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire (like the San Andreas fault line). In fact, all the volcanic eruptions in the Lower 48 have been from the Cascades over the last 200 years.


What To Know About The Cascade Mountains

The Cascades is a very young mountain range in geological terms. Whereas the Appalachians are truly ancient being around 450 million years old and the Rockies are 80-55 million years old, the Cascades are only around 7 million years old. They only date from around the late Miocene.

  • Ages: Around 7 Million Years

Most Recent Volcanic Eruptions:

  • Lassen Peak: From 1914 to 1921
  • Mount St. Helens: In 1980 (With Minor Eruptions In 2008)

The highest peak is Mount Rainier in Washington State which rises to 14,411 feet (4,392 meters). The North Cascades and the Canadian Cascades are known for being extremely rugged having been carved and gouged out by glaciers over the years.

Highest Peak: Mount Rainier At 14,411 feet (4,392 meters)

In Oregon, the Cascades run the full length of the state and are around 90 miles wide covering around 17% of the Pacific Northwest state. The Oregon part of the Cascades is almost entirely volcanic.

The Cascades boasts a number of national parks including:

  • North Cascades National Park
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Crater Lake National Park 
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lava Beds National Monument

The western slopes of the Cascades are also famous for their sometimes impossibly heavy snowfall. Mount Baker holds the record for a single-season snowfall in the winter of 1998–99 with 1,140 inches (2,900 cm) (= 95 feet (29 m)). The eastern foothills of the range can provide a stark contrast forming an arid plateau.

Related: Crater Lake National Park Is Known For Being The Bluest In The World (But That's Not All)

In Oregon: Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake has formed around 7,700 years ago as the volcano (called Mount Mazama) collapsed into a caldera. There is no outlet for this lake and the water only partly naturally fills the caldera. Crater Lake also sports a prominent volcanic island called Wizard Island. Other activities around Crater Lake include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biking, hiking, and fishing.

It is the deepest lake in the United States and second deepest in North America after the Great Slave Lake of Canada. It is famous for being the bluest lake in the world.

  • Depth Of Caldera: 2,148 Feet or 655 Meters
  • Depth Of The Lake: 1,949 Feet or 594 Meters
  • Record: Deepest Lake In The United States (Ninth Deepest In The World)
  • Rim Elevation: 7,000-8,000 Feet (or 2,100 to 2,400 Meters)

The best time to go is during the summer. In the winter snow can make access to much of the crater impossible by car.

In California: Mount Lassen

Lassen Peak is one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes and is considered an active volcano. It is surrounded by boiling mud pots, fumaroles, and hot springs. All types of volcanoes can be found in Mount Lassen National Park: plug dome (Lassen Peak), composite (Brokeoff Volcano), shield (Prospect Peak), and cinder cone (Cinder Cone).

The United States Geological Survey constantly monitors volcanic activity in the area.

The best time to go hiking at Mount Lassen is from June to October. Check on the status of the trails before heading out, as some of them might be closed due to snow; in case of fires, it might be deemed unsafe due to smoke and haze.

Related: Mount Shasta Is Home To Way More Than Just Hiking

In Washington State: Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is an imposing stratovolcano in Washington State and forms part of one of the United States' oldest national parks. It is the highest mountain in the United States and is considered to be the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. It is a truly beautiful marvel to behold. It is also the most glaciated peak anywhere in the contiguous United States.

Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Date: Established 1899
  • Size: 369 Square Miles or 957 Sq Km

Mount Rainier rises 14,411 feet or 4,392 meters above sea level and dominates the landscape around it. It is the highest point in the Cascade Range and is known for its waterfalls, subalpine meadows, old-growth forest, and picturesque valleys.

Living up to its name, it is often shrouded by clouds that pour enormous amounts of snow and rain on the mountain perpetually feeding its many glaciers and waterfalls. It is a stunning destination for hiking, camping, and skiing.

Next: It's Not Just Hawaii! California Is Home To The Largest Plug Dome Volcano In The World