The magestic North Cascades region of Washington is a land of intense beauty, world-class recreation and wonderful communities.
It could take a lifetime to explore this region on foot via its hundreds of hiking trails, and in fact many Washingtonians spend their weekends doing just that. For hikers, rugged terrain rewards with craggy, snow-capped granite peaks against miles of blue sky. North Cascades National Park offers some of the most secluded backcountry hiking in the continental United States.
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SCENIC DRIVE >> the North Cascades Highway
From tulip fields to the wild west, Highway 20 cuts across the rugged North Cascades and delivers an unrivaled variety of scenic beauty.
Head east from the town of Sedro-Woolley and you will start to see lush foothills of the North Cascades. Next is the town of Concrete, where Lake Shannon just to the north provides pleasant kayak paddling with stunning views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. If you’re looking for a picnic spot, wait for Howard Miller Steelhead Park just up the road in Rockport where you can enjoy your lunch along the Skagit River. After lunch, cool off with a stop at Cascadian Farm’s roadside stand for a cone of ice cream made from their organic berries. It’s the best.
From here, the landscape becomes more forested as you begin your ascent into the North Cascades. Along the Skagit River, fishermen cast for steelhead, the same salmon that draws hundreds of Bald Eagles to this corridor each winter. Navigate the sharp twists and hairpin turns as you increase in elevation, keeping your eye on the road as you steal glances at the stunning Cascade peaks and the aquamarine Diablo Lake. Highway 20 bisects North Cascades National Park, so the scenery here is wild and pristine. Get up close to this wildness with a short hike along the Thunder Creek Trail near Diablo Lake, which departs from Colonial Creek Campground. Back on the highway, continue east and watch for the turnout viewpoint at Washington Pass (elevation 5,477 feet), not to be missed for the views on a clear day. As Highway 20 descends into the Methow Valley, the granite, glaciered peaks of the North Cascades give way to open Ponderosa Pine forest.
Round Trip: 3.5 milesHiking Time: 2 hoursHigh Point: 2,800 feetElevation Gain: 200 feetBest Hiking Time: May through OctoberMaps: Green Trails #171 Chiwaukum MountainsGetting There: Take Hwy 2 to the Icicle Creek Road (junction just west of Leavenworth). Drive 15.5 miles to the Chatter Creek Campground, and find the trailhead on the left side of the road about .75 mile from the campground.Whom to Contact: Wenatchee River Ranger District, (509) 548-6977Status: Trail currently inaccessible due to road flooding. Prognosis unclear until Icicle River subsides enough to allow reconassaince.