North Cascades Scenic Highway

As the North Cascades Scenic Byway loops between massive peaks and along lakes colored turquoise by glacial silt, you’ll see why these mountains are called “the American Alps.” Many argue that the North Cascades Highway is the most scenic in Washington State.

Of all the passes that traverse the Cascades, this is the most mountainous, with high hairpin turns and jaw-dropping vistas. It’s so rugged, it closes during winter months. And it’s so stunning that travelers line up before sunrise on the day it reopens in the spring in order to be among the first across.

Here you’ll find 1920s-era company towns, organic farms selling their produce and, at journey’s end, one of Washington's most beautiful outdoor recreation destinations—the Methow Valley. Load up your mountain bike, grab your hiking boots, bring your appetite and enjoy.

CLICK TO EXPLORE ON MAP to find more things to do, places to stay and eat along this route.

1. Burlington

From the mountains to the sound, Burlington is located in the heart of area activity. Within two hours of Deception Pass, Chuckanut Drive, Whidbey Island, the San Juan Islands Ferry, Seattle and the Canadian Border, Burlington is a great starting point for a fun vacation. It is also located at the intersection of Interstate-5 and SR-20, also known as the North Cascades Highway.

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2. Sedro-Woolley

Experience Washington State's rich history in Sedro-Woolley, based on the can-do spirit brought by hard working men and women as they forged their way in the great forests of this valley called Skagit. Visiting Sedro-Woolley’s historic downtown is a trip back in time. Brick buildings, fronted with comfortable wood benches beneath old-fashioned light poles are the backdrop for the numerous chainsaw carvings and murals depicting the city’s colorful past.

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3. Cascadian Farm Roadside Stand

As you're descending the mountain, you'll probably be craving a fresh raspberry milkshake made with real ice cream, right? Just past Marblemount, pull over to the tiny farm stand (open seasonally) and prepare to have your expectations blown... in a good way. Our staff loves this place and cannot convince the car to pass by without stopping.

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4. Skagit Tours

Come be a part of Skagit history! Seattle City Light has been offering the popular Diablo Lake & Lunch Tour for more than 80 years. Cruise past amazing scenery while you learn about the area's natural and cultural history and the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project which provides clean, low-cost, renewable power to Seattle.

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5. North Cascades Institute

North Cascades Institute connects people, nature and community through science, art, literature and hands-on exploration of Cascadia’s natural and cultural history. They help people experience the Pacific Northwest so all will care for this special place.

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6. Washington Pass Overlook

Wheelchair accessible, this trail is paved to a lookout on a ledge overlooking Liberty Bell Mountain. This alone is worth the trip from the west side, because of spectacular views, and the myriad hiking trails in the area including access to the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a must-stop photo-op on your North Cascades Highway road trip.

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7. Winthrop

Located in the Methow Valley, you'll find the old west town of Winthrop‚ a town that has earned a solid reputation for hospitality and charm. Explore the downtown and head up to savor the magnificent views and enjoy a fine dinner or take a horseback ride at Sun Mountain Lodge.

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8. Twisp

Located at the convergence of the North Cascades Highway and the Loup Loup Pass crossing to the Okanogan Trails Scenic Byway, Twisp will probably be part of any journey you take to any of our north central and northeast Washington byways. There are plenty of good reasons to pull over. From a world-class coffee roaster to a vibrant arts community—not to mention near unlimited outdoor recreation, Twisp is worth a stop.

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