The North Cascades Highway

Trip Start Unknown
Trip End Ongoing

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of United States  , Washington
Saturday, June 26, 2010

The North Cascades Highway (Washington SR-20) offers the northern most route across the Cascade range in Washington state, just south of the Canadian border.  The eastern (and highest) part of the road is closed during winter because of heavy snowfall and the danger posed by avalanches from the thick snow-pack.  Like most mountain pass roads, the date of its reopening varies from year to year, depending mostly on the weather and quantity of the snow, though usually it is open by early May.

The road follows a many thousand year old Indian trade route allowing passage from the central part of the state to the coast.  About 150 years ago white settlers began using this route for access to the inland fur trade and for new mining opportunities in the Cascade mountains.  Over the years a road was constructed somewhat piecemeal, and several dams were built along the Skagit River to help provide hydroelectricity for the growing city of Seattle.  In 1968 President Johnson signed the law creating North Cascades National Park, which route 20 bisects into north and south units.  The eastern part of the road was finished in 1972, finally completing the route between the Skagit and Methow valleys.

The drive is one of the most scenic in the northwest and is a pleasant half day trip between the coast and the inland.  The western part of the drive is through scenic farm land of the Skagit valley, with the massive peaks of the Cascades apparent in the distance and looming ever larger as your drive continues.  The Skagit River is blocked by a series of dams (including Gorge and Ross dams) which form lakes that are popular recreational venues in the summer.  There are many turnouts so be sure to stop and enjoy the views.

The scenery becomes ever more dramatic as one heads east with the most majestic and tall mountains along the route located on the eastern side of the Cascades.  Here you will cross two mountain passes, Rainy Pass (4855') and Washington Pass (5477') as you head towards the Okanogan Valley.  This eastern rain-shadow is beautiful and very popular with hikers, campers and backpackers in the summer. 

The Skagit River valley provides winter habitat for a large collection of bald eagles.  In the spring thousands of beautiful blooming tulips are a photographer's delight in the Skagit Valley

The accompanying photos are arranged sequentially as we traveled from west towards east.

To see high resolution views of these photos, please go to this link: .  For full screen enlargements, click on the right sided icon of the slideshow playing at the bottom of the post.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Pamela Duckie on

I have always wanted to travel the Cascade Highway....What a special treat! Thank you.

drfumblefinger on

So glad you liked, it Pamela Now get out there are see it for yourself!!!!

Laura Spehar on

Karl, you are making me so jealous with all your travels. These pictures are absolutely beautiful. We just came back from Alaska with my Dtr and family for our 25th aniversary. We saw a lot of beautiful scenery there too. Your pictures are awesome. Love you

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: