Plan Your North Cascades Highway Road Trip

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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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Sedro-Woolley to Concrete

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia Commons

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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Rockport and Marblemount

Trail to Hidden Lake Peaks at Marblemount, Washington
Patrick McManus/Getty Images

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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North Cascades National Park Visitor Center

North Cascades National Park Visitor Center
Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

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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Blue Lake in autumn, Newhalem, Washington, United States
Alfons Hauke/Getty Images

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 a 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 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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Gorge Dam Overlook

Views along the Skagit River
LoweStock/Getty Images

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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Ross and Diablo Lake Overlooks

Ross Lake is a large reservoir in the North Cascade mountains of northern Washington state
LoweStock/Getty Images

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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Methow Valley

Spring in Methow Valley
Lidija Kamansky/Getty Images

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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Hiking and Nature Trails Along North Cascades Highway

A man hiking through the North Cascades National Park
Christopher Kimmel / Getty Images

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.
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