Skagit Tours and Recreation

The Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, surrounded by the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, is located in one of the most scenic areas of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle City Light provides a variety of recreational programs to help foster visitors’ enjoyment and stewardship of this special landscape.

A view of Diablo Lake over the front of a tour boat

Skagit Tours

There's nothing like the beauty of the North Cascades. You can experience it all on one of our Skagit Tours—designed for fun and education for all ages. Presented in partnership with North Cascades Institute and National Park Service, Skagit Tours have connected visitors to the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest and our clean hydro resources for nearly 100 years.

Enjoy the stunning beauty of Diablo Lake aboard the Alice Ross IV—a glass roof boat designed to provide the best views from inside or outside the boat. As you cruise the glacier-fed lake, you will learn about the surrounding ecosystem, enjoy spectacular views, and hear stories about the development of the local dams and powerhouses.

Exterior of Gorge Inn
Photo credit: Bassetti Architects

The Gorge Inn is one of the earliest buildings constructed at Newhalem and was originally the cookhouse for providing meals to City Light workers in the early days of constructing the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. Over time, it also hosted thousands of visitors who came to the area to experience Skagit Tours, where they were treated to the famous “Dam Good Chicken Dinner.” This Skagit tradition is back – and now comes with a vegetarian option as well. Dinner also includes salad, side dishes, dessert, and beverage.

While at the Gorge Inn, enjoy interpretive displays about the cultural history of the Skagit Project and the surrounding area, as well as a special section on the life of J.D. Ross, the “father” of Seattle City Light and the Skagit Project.


Location: Main St., Newhalem, WA

Hikers walking up a trail through the trees

Outdoor Recreation

City Light works with local partners to provide access to the abundant recreational opportunities in the Skagit Project area. One of the highlights of the Skagit Project is the Environmental Learning Center, constructed by City Light on the shores of Diablo Lake and operated by North Cascades Institute. City Light also provides annual funding to the National Park Service and US Forest Service for construction of new facilities, operation and maintenance of existing facilities, and development of educational materials.

Skagit Project attractions include:

Trail of the Cedars is three-quarter-mile loop with a short spur trail to the Newhalem Creek Powerhouse. Sights include large western red cedar trees, Douglas fir trees and vegetation regenerating from the 2015 Goodell Creek Wildfire. The bridge from Main Street to the trail provides great views of the Skagit River.

A group of hikers at the Trail of the Cedars trailhead
Photo credit: North Cascades Institute

Hours: Open daily year-round.

Location: End of Main St. in Newhalem

Ladder Creek Falls is one of the most spectacular and accessible waterfalls in the area. The trail continues through the Ladder Creek Gardens to Gorge Powerhouse. Finish the loop by crossing back over the river on the walkway along an old railroad bridge. For a visual treat, visit at night for a light show that illuminates the falls from dusk to 11:00 PM. Visit the National Park Service website for more information.

Ladder Creek Falls trail at night
Photo credit: North Cascades Institute

Hours:
Open daily year-round. Lighted from dusk to 11:00 p.m.

Location: Newhalem, WA
Trail starts at the parking lot across the river from Gorge Powerhouse. Follow the trail to the right and cross the suspension foot bridge.

In the summer and into the fall, City Light operates a ferry on Diablo Lake to provide transportation for guests and customers of the Ross Lake Resort, which offers lodging and equipment rentals on Ross Lake. Hikers or backpackers heading to or returning from Ross Lake may also opt to take the ferry. For additional information or to contact the Ross Lake Resort, visit Ross Lake Resort's website.

Ross Lake Resort cabins
Photo credit: Ross Lake Resort
Please visit our Summer 2022 Tours and Recreation blog for the current Diablo Lake Ferry Schedule. 


Gear Restrictions for the Ferry

Please note that each passenger is allowed three items (any combination of the following):

  • Standard tote (approx. 30” x 20” x15”)
  • Standard cooler (approx. 36 quart cooler)
  • Backpack or duffle bag

Passengers may also bring one additional small item (e.g., fishing gear, small cooler bag, diaper bag) and one small personal item (e.g., purse or small backpack that passenger will carry while on board).

Additional gear guidelines:

  • Try to pack gear in hard-sided totes or coolers
  • Secure fishing gear, rod cases, and tackle boxes
  • No loose gear, grocery bags, paper bags, or other similar open bags
  • No firewood
  • No personal watercraft
  • Any firearms must be secured with the ferry captain
  • All fuel must be stored in the ferry fire locker during passage

Nestled on the shores of Diablo Lake, the award-winning North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is a hub of discovery for all ages, offering programs for adults, teachers, families, and children, and is the result of an exemplary partnership between the North Cascades Institute, Seattle City Light, and the National Park Service. For more information or to sign up for a program at the learning center, visit the North Cascades Institute’s website.

North Cascades Environmental Learning Center building
Photo credit: North Cascades Institute

Visitors looking down at the Gorge Powerhouse machinery

Tourist Attractions

Come see history come to life in the City Light company town of Newhalem, founded in 1918. Once home to more than 300 City Light workers and their families, Newhalem now provides a welcoming experience to travelers along State Route 20.

Attractions include:

Stop in the Skagit Information Center on Main Street to view interpretive displays, shop for unique souvenirs and books, and get all your questions answered by our friendly staff.

Skagit Information Center building

2022 Hours of Operation:
9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Open Friday–Sunday, May 27– June 26 
Open seven days a week, July 1–September 30

Location: Main St., Newhalem, WA

Print out or stop by the Skagit Information Center to pick up a free copy of the Walk Historic Newhalem self-guided walking tour. The walking tour will introduce you to the historic features of the town and the nearby hydroelectric facilities—Gorge and Newhalem Creek.

Download the Walking Tour

Descarga la Caminata Guiada

Historic aerial photo of the town of Newhalem

Established in 1922, the General Store is one of four existing buildings on Main Street from the original construction camp. The company store serves residents, workers, and visitors alike. Stop in for some famous homemade Skagit fudge, snacks and beverages, camping supplies, and other essentials.

Fudge for sale at the Skagit General Store

The General Store is currently open from Monday through Thursday, 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. Store days and hours of operation will be expanded starting Memorial Day weekend.

Location: Main St., Newhalem, WA

Stop by the visitor gallery inside Gorge Powerhouse to learn more about how power is produced at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. The gallery offers a great view of the generator floor, interpretive displays, and a historic photographic timeline of the Skagit Project.

Visitors inside the Gorge Powerhouse Visitor Gallery
Photo credit: North Cascades Institute

Location: Gorge Powerhouse, Newhalem, WA

Contact Us

For more information about Skagit Tours, including reservation information, visit the North Cascades Institute website, contact us online or call (360) 854-2589.

For more information about recreational and educational programs at the Skagit Project, contact us online or call (206) 386-4478.