Cascade Loop National Scenic Byway

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
  • LocationWA
  • Length440 miles
Byway Visitor Information
The Cascade Loop Foundation and Association
Statewide Byway Partners
Washington State Department of Transportation
Washington Tourism Alliance
Cascade Loop Scenic Byway view of rugged mountains pine trees from the Liberty Bell Washington Pass overlook
Roni Freund Photo

Overview

Washington state's 440-mile National Scenic Byway beginning just 28 miles north of Seattle.The Loop circles through the North Cascades mountain range, along the semi-arid Columbia River Valley, past glacier-fed Lake Chelan, through the North Cascades National Park and into the Puget Sound where Orca whales play and beach-combing abounds. We are an adventurous scenic highway. We are a path into nature, a road through friendly towns and a rest stop at the end of your day with comfortable lodging and delicious Northwest cuisine.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Welcome to 440 miles of scenic wilderness, sweeping views, and exciting adventures! The Cascade Loop Scenic Byway provides traveling guests with a one-of-a-kind byway experience that introduces them to the intrinsic qualities that Washington State is often known for best–its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities–all within a condensed, well-supported road trip experience.

Most scenic byways give travelers a “slice” of their state or region. The Cascade Loop, however, delivers an absolute smorgasbord! Guests are advised to travel the Cascade Loop in a counter-clockwise direction in order to have the easiest, most convenient access to the most iconic, jaw-dropping views. The Cascade Loop Scenic Byway is divided into nine distinct regions, each defined by its unique landscape and environment.

A trip around the Cascade Loop is best enjoyed over the course of several days. Visitors traveling from overseas will spend the most significant amount of time on the byway, followed by visitors from locations throughout the United States and Canada. Guests can travel around the Loop in either direction, but it is recommended that when possible, guests travel the byway in a counter-clockwise direction so that the most iconic views and pullouts are most easily accessible.

Seattle NorthCountry - From the waters of Puget Sound, through fertile farm valleys, to the foothills of the Cascade Range, where vibrant cities and towns serve as gateways to the Cascade Loop.

Stevens Pass Greenway - Lush forests and thundering waterfalls line the scenic route up and over Stevens Pass, traversing through charming historic towns that offer friendly hospitality and remnants of the past.

Leavenworth/Cascade Foothills - A Bavarian village and classic all-American small towns nestled in the foothills of the eastern slope of the Cascades offer a diversity of recreational and cultural experiences.

Wenatchee/Columbia River Valley - Orchards, vineyards, and farmlands roll across the landscape and along the shores of the Great Columbia River, with bustling towns that are commercial hubs of Washington State’s important fruit industry.

Lake Chelan Valley - A pristine, glacier-fed lake slices deeply into the heart of the Cascade Mountains in a setting that offers abundant scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.

The Methow Valley - From the confluence of the Columbia River to the crest of the Cascade Mountains, with miles of open range, endless star-filled skies, natural recreation, and a frontier atmosphere of the Old West, year-round experiences are enjoyed by all.

North Cascades - Dramatic mountain peaks and spectacular scenery across national forest and parklands—this is the Cascades at their best—with lakes, rivers, creeks, abundant hiking trails, and travelers’ rests along the way.

Skagit Valley & Fidalgo Island - A proud agricultural heritage, American bald eagles, and colorful carpets of blooms (tulips, daffodils, irises) across the lowland plains to Puget Sound, many experiences await travelers as they descend the Western side of the Cascade Mountains.

Whidbey Scenic Isle Way - Saltwater beaches and historic towns connect to the mainland by bridges and ferries and offer spectacular scenic views of farmlands, forests, and snow-capped peaks of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges.

Driving Directions

From Everett travel East on US 2 through the Snohomish Valley, over Stevens Pass, into Chelan County where you meet the mighty Columbia River at Wenatchee. Continue North on US 97A along the Columbia to Lake Chelan, then catch Highway 97 and continue to Pateros, where State Route 153 takes you through the Methow Valley toTwisp, where State Route 20 takes you over North Cascades Highway. Continue through the Skagit Valley, to Fidalgo Island where you will head south onto Whidbey Island. Catch State Route 525 to the Clinton where a Washington State Ferry will carry you back to the mainland.

Points of Interest

  • Japanese Gulch Park

    147 acres of land including trails, a dog park, waterfront access, open space, and a community garden.

  • Osprey Park

    85-acre park offers over 2 miles of walking trails to the Sultan River, most of which are accessible.

  • Tumwater Canyon Dam

    A stretch of the Wenatchee River where the colors of autumn splash brilliantly through the forest

  • Ohme Gardens

    Nationally acclaimed 9-acre alpine garden perched high on a rocky bluff above the Columbia River where visitors enjoy native stone pathways, spectacular views, pools, and waterfalls.

  • Lake Chelan

    A glacier-carved lake valley surrounded by rolling orchards and vineyards.

  • Methow Trails

    Largest Cross-Country Trail System in North America, and great for summer recreation, too!

  • Liberty Bell Mountain

    Peak overlooking North Cascades Highway between the Methow and Skagit valleys.

  • Tulip Festival

    A community-wide celebration held each spring during the beautiful blooming season.

  • Deception Pass Bridge

    One of Washington states most photographed sites.

  • Diablo Lake Overlook

    Great views, trails.

  • Samish Overlook

    Parking, restrooms, observation deck.

  • Mount Erie

    Both a trail and a road lead to the summit.

  • Washington Pass Overlook

    View Liberty Bell Peak and Early Winter Spires.i

Itinerary

  • Five Days on the Cascade Loop

    Day 1: Everett to Leavenworth (about 2 hours)

    Everett is just 40 minutes north of Seattle. From there to Leavenworth you’ll drive alongside the Skykomish River and on to Stevens Pass Greenway, with views of jagged mountain peaks in the distance. If you haven’t been to Leavenworth, you’re in for a treat. From the architecture to the food, the entire town is Bavarian-styled. Grab a German beer and pretend you’re in Europe. Also along the way, hike to an incredible waterfall in Wallace Falls State Park, go whitewater rafting in Index, or photograph the fall colors in Tumwater Canyon outside of Leavenworth. Be sure to check out Espresso Chalet near Bridal Veil Falls.

    Day 2: Leavenworth to Mazama (about 2.5 hours)

    Next you’ll drive down into Wenatchee and Columbia River Valley, up through Lake Chelan Valley, and then to Methow Valley. What does it mean when there are so many valleys in less than 100 miles? Lots of mountains and great views. Wenatchee Valley is historically known as the Apple Capital of the World. Visit the Pybus Public Market, where they boast to have the “world’s best farmers market.” Hike one of the Horse Lake Trails through grasslands of rolling hills. Chelan Valley is known for the 55-mile long Lake Chelan that sits in the middle of the valley and is surrounded by beaches, woods and vineyards. Stay at a resort, rent a boat on the water, or taste the local wine at one of the many wineries. Drive along the Methow River through Methow Valley. Travelers will notice that because of the confluence of two rivers, the valley is a popular spot for fishermen. Go fishing for big ones, hike to Cutthroat Lake in the fall to see the larch changing colors, or be in Winthrop for the hot air balloon festival.

    Day 3: Mazama to North Cascades National Park (about 1.5 hours)

    As if you haven’t had enough stunning views, now you’ll enter North Cascades National Park, where many snow-capped peaks rise above 9,000 feet, waterfalls are ubiquitous, and more than 300 glaciers still remain. Hike up to one of the park’s turquoise-colored lakes, rent a kayak to explore Devil’s Creek on Ross Lake, or go wildlife viewing and searching for wildflowers. Choose to camp in the park or stay in one of the towns of Newhalem, Marblemount or Rockport.

    Day 4: North Cascades National Park to Anacortes (about 2 hours)

    Spend another morning in the park before heading out towards Skagit Valley and Fidalgo Island. Slowly leave the mountains behind you in exchange for rolling hills of farmland, small communities, and finally, an island in the sea. In the spring, experience the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival or the La Conner Daffodil Festival. In the fall, visit the annual Festival of Family Farms to experience farm tours, harvest markets, and pumpkin patches. Upon arriving in Anacortes, there are many activities to choose, from fishing and crabbing to dining and shopping. We recommend making a whale watching tour your first priority. There’s nothing like seeing a ten-thousand-pound orca breach from the water.

    Day 5: Anacortes to Everett (about 1 hour)

    This next section is known as Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, where you’ll want to focus on the food and the history. Oak Harbor is the largest town in this section of the drive, and Coupeville is the second-oldest town in Washington, with more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit—or even stay overnight in—the historic Captain Whidbey Inn surrounded by old-growth fir trees.

    Spend a calm morning sea kayaking off Whidbey Island or try fresh oysters at a restaurant nearby. Finally, spend some time in Everett before finishing up your west coast USA road trip.

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