North Cascades Highway, a scenic drive in Washington.

North Cascades Highway
North Cascades Highway

The longest road in Washington State, United States, is North Cascades Highway, sometimes referred to as State Route 20 (SR20). The route travels 436 miles (702 km) from Discovery Bay on the Olympic Peninsula to Newport, which is close to the Idaho state line.

The Whidbey Island, Upper Okanagan Country, Kettle River Range, and the Selkirk Mountains are just a few scenic areas the route passes through. However, the North Cascades National Park is home to the trail’s most beautiful section.

Where is the North Cascades Highway located?

A 225 kilometers (140 miles) stretch of the road belongs to a so-called Loop Cascade. This section of the highway begins at Twisp (Methow Valley), climbs to North Cascades National Park, and follows at Sedro Woolley (Skagit Valley).

Along the way, you will pass by Diablo and Ross Lakes overlooking, Liberty Bell, more than 300 glaciers, many waterfalls, mountain rivers, and the historic town of Concrete. The road reaches its highest point in the Washington Pass, 1669 meters (5477 feet) above sea level. The second highest point on your way would be Rainy Pass at 1486 meters (4875 ft).

You can locate this road on the map below:


Enlarge the map

Information about the North Cascades Highway :

The route is a part of Washington’s northern Cascade Loop, a 702 kilometers (436 miles) driving trip through the mountains.

The first man started exploring these areas in 1814. Miners came to extract gold, zinc, platinum, and lead between 1880 and 1910. A dam was finally constructed in the valley in the 1920s. The National Park Service created a protected area surrounding the lakes in 1968. In 1979, the unpaved road was reconstructed and paved.

The route offers sweeping vistas of the North Cascades and follows the Skagit River. Be aware that until Mazama or Winthrop, there are no petrol stations or restaurants following Marblemount.

Road preview:

You can obviously have a preview of that drive. Here is a YouTube video that shows a part of the road:

How to get to the road?

The North Cascades Highway is one of the first National Scenic Highway in the United States. Prepare for sweeping vistas, alpine meadows, wildlife-watching opportunities, and recreation galore. This mountain scenic drive begins in Sedro Woolley. To get to Sedro Woolley, take Exit 230 off of I-5, follow WA-20 East, or head North on WA-9. Note that the North Cascades Highway is closed from mid-November to April. Check road conditions before heading out near these dates.

Not so far from this road, you can also drive the Hurricane Ridge Road, the Coquihalla Highway, or even the Sea to Sky Highway.

You can visualize how to get there on this approximative map of the drive:

Is the North Cascades Highway open?

You can view the unspoiled mountain vegetation and fauna as the route traverses the North Cascades National Park. There are also many locations for camping, hiking, and rock climbing. The good news is that there are no admission fees for North Cascades National Park.

Due to the possibility of avalanches, the road is closed in the winter and the first part of spring. It typically operates from early May until late November (around Thanksgiving day). The weather will determine the precise dates. Also, you can check more information about road closures on the official website.

Travelers may enjoy a variety of breathtaking landscapes during the route. Every year, tens of thousands of motorists traverse Washington State’s stunningly gorgeous North Cascades Highway (State Route 20), taking in the area’s impressive geologic features and alpine flora and animals. Get ready for expansive views, alpine meadows, animal viewing possibilities, and tons of leisure. Spectacular scenery that is also a rich, interconnected system of living creatures, climate, and geology can be seen only along the road. To finish the Cascade Loop, spend a few days more!

Picture credit: By David Taylor – https://www.flickr.com/photos/taylordaal/16860195576/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=108286470 / By Laurel F – https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelfan/8048716867/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=116076583


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