The north Cascade Mountain loop is 371 miles long, and takes about 7.5 hours of non-stop driving. The drive covers many different environments. It goes through towns, cities, mountains, high desert and forests. This road-trip can be done in a day or weekend. There are many campgrounds along the way, hiking trails to explore and vistas to view.
The City of Burlington is about 65 miles north of Seattle, and it takes just over an hour to get to the Highway 20 exit. Highway 20 is the North Cascades Highway, and crosses several mountain passes. It is closed every winter at Nehalem, due to snow and avalanche conditions. It passes through several small towns on its way to Nehalem, and the gateway to the North Cascades National Park. Once off I-5, follow the signs through Burlington and Sedro Woolley to the North Cascades National Park or Highway 20.
Heading east on Highway 20 brings travelers to Diablo and Ross Lakes. The Skagit River has three dams in its watershed, which create these lakes. The jagged peaks of the north Cascade Mountains begin after leaving this area, and climbing into the heart of the mountains. It’s 73 miles of exquisite scenery to Winthrop, which takes 1.5 hours to drive. It is worth stopping at the scenic look-outs, and other stops along the highway.
Remember to have enough gas to get through the north Cascades, because there are no little towns or gas stations on the highway. Cell phone coverage may be sporadic due to the tall mountains.
There are several campgrounds and hiking trails through the mountains. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/camping.htm.
Winthrop is a small western theme town on the east side of the northern Cascade Mountains. This small town decided on the western theme in 1974, when Highway 20 was being built. They hold annual activities, such as the Methow Valley Rodeo and Winthrop Auto Rally. This year, the rodeo will be held September 1-2, and the auto rally will happen September 7-9.
Summertime activities in the area include hiking, birding, camping, cycling, backpacking and more. For more information, visit http://www.winthropwashington.com/index2.html.
From Winthrop to Leavenworth is 115 miles, and takes just over 2 hours to arrive. The drive takes the traveler past Lake Chelan via Highway 153, then to Highway 97 south towards Leavenworth.
Leavenworth is a small Baravian theme town on the east side of the Cascade Mountains along Highway 2. The town is filled with Baravian restaurants, gifts and art. It is a thriving artist community, with weekly Art in the Park events. It has many festivals through-out the year, including the Wenatchee Salmon Festival in September, the Baravian Ice Festival in January and the Mai Festival in May.
Summertime activities in the area include hiking, biking, birding, camping and river rafting/kayaking. For more information, visit http://www.leavenworth.org/modules/pages/index.php?pageid=1.
From Leavenworth to Gold Bar is 72 miles along Highway 2, and takes 1.5 hours to drive. It travels through Tumwater Canyon, past the cut-off for Lake Wenatchee, then through Stevens Pass. Just on the west side of the pass, Deception Falls will be on the south (left) side of the road. There is a parking lot on the north side of the highway, and there is a wonderful hiking trail to view the falls.
The town of Gold Bar sits on Highway 2, and the road to Wallace Falls cuts through the town. Wallace Falls can be seen from the highway to the north. The state park has a campground, and a trail to the top of the three waterfalls. The middle falls is the largest at 265 feet tall. The trail up is steep in places, though can be climbed by most individuals. There are places to view the falls along the trail. The water move swiftly, so obey the posted rules.
For more information on Wallace Falls, visit http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Wallace%20Falls.
From Gold Bar to Seattle is about 43 miles, and takes about 1.5 hours.
Part 2 of the Cascade Mountains. . .
(Link to part 1 http://pingroof.com/article/visiting-the-cascade-mountain-national-parks)