The American Alps

McAllister Creek is south of Diablo Lake and nearly smack in the center of the North Cascades, and provides stunning views of the snow-capped peaks beyond. But while there is still year-round ice on many of the North Cascade summits, photo comparisons from the 100-plus years since this image was taken show those glaciers are rapidly disappearing. Photo: Courtesy of the National Park Service, North Cascades NPS Complex Museum Collection

The American Alps Peaks, Valleys and World-Class Singletrack in Washington's North Cascades

They were scattered on both sides of the dusty, washboard trail like cast-off plastic bones, their cylindrical shapes bulging from the North Central Washington heat.

Most the water bottles were clear or white, and we searched through the torn-up mat of ponderosa needles for the odd spots of color. Those were the best. They were usually from hallowed locales like Moab or Durango. Places we wanted to go. Places we dreamed of riding.

It was 2001, in the tiny tourist town of Chelan, WA. The bottles were remnants of a regional mountain bike race held at the local Echo Valley ski hill, shaken from the racer’s frames on this particularly bumpy section of trail. While neither myself, my brother, nor our friend Cody actually needed any bottles, for three small-town, teenage wannabe mountain bikers, they were tokens of a larger, more exciting world, a taste of cutting edge in our backwoods bubble.

Or that’s what we thought at the time. With our attention on our recycling bin, we missed one key detail: we forgot to look up. If we had, we’d have realized the surrounding terrain was some of the most impressive in the country: the North Cascade Mountains, nicknamed "the American Alps" for their archetypal peaks and Sound of Music-esque alpine meadows. Even then they were packed with trails of all types, a dreamland for any ambitious rider with a taste for an adventure. We just hadn't noticed yet.

Nor had the larger mountain bike industry (with a few exceptions). That notoriety was still to come. When it did…well, our North Cascades “backwoods bubble” would change the sport, traversing highs and lows as unique and world-class as the terrain over which it traveled.

This article is for our Subscribers and Plus Members.

Gain access by purchasing an online or print subscription.

Basic Free Subscription
$0 / Year

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Sign Up

Plus Online Subscription
$19.95 | Year

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

 Get Plus 
Free Trial

Premium Print Subscription
$34.95 | Year*

  • 4 Issues/year of our print magazine mailed directly to your front door

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Go Premium

Already a Member?

Login