Plan Your North Cascades Highway Road Trip

  • 01 of 09

    North Cascades Highway Overview

    Western Highway 20 Entrance to North Cascades National Park
    ••• Western Highway 20 Entrance to North Cascades National Park. © Angela M. Brown (2009)

    From fertile river valleys to jagged glacial peaks, a trip along Washington's North Cascades Highway is packed with extraordinary sights and fun activities. This scenic drive follows State Route 20 from Sedro-Woolley in the west through to the town of Twisp in the east. It passes through the North Cascades National Park Complex, a sprawling wilderness area that extends from the north end of Lake Chelan up to the Canadian border. A road trip along North Cascades Highway is the way that most people experience North Cascades National Park.

    • Sedro-Woolley to Concrete
    • Rockport and Marblemount
    • North Cascades National Park Visitor Center
    • Newhalem
    • Gorge Dam Overlook
    • Ross and Diablo Lake Overlooks
    • Methow Valley
    • Hiking and Nature Trails Along North Cascades Highway

    The official North Cascades Scenic Highway covers 140 miles. It is a portion of the Cascade Loop, a popular multi-day Washington road trip.

    Note: The high elevation sections of Highway 20 are closed during the winter.

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  • 02 of 09

    Sedro-Woolley to Concrete

    The Skagit River Near Sedro-Woolley
    ••• The Skagit River Near Sedro-Woolley. Getty Images

    Beginning in the small logging town of Sedro-Woolley, the western section of the North Cascades Highway parallels the Skagit River. Sedro-Woolley and its neighbor, Concrete, offer the full range of visitor services, including gas, grocery stores, and lodging.

    The scenic Skagit River, is wonderful for river rafting and wildlife watching, is rich in ​salmon, and is the winter home of a significant population of bald eagles.

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  • 03 of 09

    Rockport and Marblemount

    Bald Eagles Along the Skagit River
    ••• Bald Eagles Along the Skagit River. Getty Images/Steve Whiston - Fallen Log Photography

    As you follow the North Cascades Highway through Rockport and Marblemount you'll enjoy great river access and seasonal bald eagle watching.

    Howard Miller Steel Park in Rockport is situated on the Skagit River, providing camping and picnicking spots as well as excellent river and wildlife views.

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  • 04 of 09

    North Cascades National Park Visitor Center

    Visitor Center at North Cascades National Park
    ••• The visitor center for the North Cascades National Park, located near Newhalem, offers exhibits, trails, restrooms, and a book shop. Rangers are available. © Angela M. Brown (2009)

    The visitor center for the North Cascades National Park, located near Newhalem, offers exhibits, trails, restrooms, and a bookshop. Rangers are available to provide advice about recreation opportunities and current conditions.

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  • 05 of 09

    Newhalem

    Skagit General Store in Newhalem
    ••• The Historic Skagit General Store is a nice road stop along the North Cascades Highway and is the place to hang out and get a snack while waiting to join the Diablo Lake tour. © Angela M. Brown (2008)

    A stop at the small community of Newhalem along the North Cascades Highway gives you access to several fun things to see and do.

    Skagit General Store
    The Historic Skagit General Store makes a nice road stop along the North Cascades Highway and is the place to hang out and get a snack while waiting to join the Diablo Lake tour.

    Diablo Lake Boat Tours
    Scenic lake and dinner cruises are available through Seattle City Light in Newhalem. Drive over Diablo Dam to boat dock. Takes you to the base of the Ross Dam Powerhouse.

    Diablo Dam was completed in 1930. At the time, it was the tallest dam in the world.

    "Old Number Six" Historic Steam Locomotive
    "Old Number Six" is a restored Baldwin steam engine, now located in Newhalem. It serves as the meeting place for the Lake Diablo boat tours. Kids like to climb in it and ring the bell.

    Visit the Gorge Powerhouse
    The visitor gallery at the Gorge Powerhouse includes photos and exhibits covering the construction of the dams on the Upper Skagit...MORE River and their early days as a tourist attraction.

    Ladder Creek Falls and Gardens
    On the wooded hillside behind the Gorge Powerhouse you'll find a loop train that will take you to Ladder Creek Falls. At one time the area was home to lighted gardens that were a major attraction. While the gardens have fallen into disrepair, you can see what remains as you explore the area. During their glory days, the gardens were lit at night, with music playing from hidden speakers.

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  • 06 of 09

    Gorge Dam Overlook

    Gorge Dam Overlook in North Cascades National Park
    ••• Gorge Dam Overlook in North Cascades National Park. © Angela M. Brown (2009)

    You can enjoy this scenic view of the Gorge Dam and Gorge Lake at an overlook just a short hike from the parking area located right along North Cascades Highway. The first portion of the trail is accessible. Hike a little farther to get a different view of the Gorge Dam.

    East of the Gorge Dam the Skagit River becomes a series of reservoirs, which the North Cascades Highway continues to skirt.

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  • 07 of 09

    Ross and Diablo Lake Overlooks

    Diablo Lake at Highway 20 Viewpoint
    ••• Diablo Lake at Highway 20 Viewpoint. © Angela M. Brown (2008)

    Dams along the Skagit River form the major reservoirs of Diablo Lake and Ross Lake. The glacial silt in the water gives these lakes a stunning blue-green color that is extremely gorgeous and photogenic. As you drive along North Cascades Highway, don't miss the opportunity to stop and enjoy the view from marked vista points.

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  • 08 of 09

    Methow Valley

    Spring in Methow Valley
    ••• Spring in Methow Valley. Getty Images/Lidija Kamansky

    The eastern section of the North Cascades Highway descends from Washington Pass and Rainy Pass down into Methow Valley and the communities of Mazama, Winthrop, and Twisp.

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  • 09 of 09

    Hiking and Nature Trails Along North Cascades Highway

    Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail in Newhalem
    ••• Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail in Newhalem. © Angela M. Brown (2008)

    As you travel along North Cascades Highway you'll find many places to stop and stretch your legs with an easy and scenic hike. You'll also have access to the backcountry trail systems in North Cascades National Park, including portions of the Pacific Northwest Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

    Trail of the Cedars
    The Trail of the Cedars nature walk in Newhalem is a family-friendly short hike through the rainforest.

    Ladder Creek Falls
    A hilly loop trail located across a footbridge and behind the Gorge Dam Powerhouse in Newhalem.

    Sterling Munro Trail
    A view of Pinnacle Peak is your reward at the end of the Sterling Munro Trail, which can be accessed at the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center.

    River Loop Trail
    The 1.8 mile River Loop Trail starts at the North Cascades National Park visitor center.