Highway 2, also known as Stevens Pass, travels between Monroe and Leavenworth. The pass cuts through several small towns and the scenic mid-section of the Cascade Mountains. This drive is beautiful at any time of the year. Several stops along the road worth viewing include Deception Falls. The east side descends into pine forests and passes through the Lake Wenatchee area. Highway 2 continues past Lake Wenatchee and winds through Tumwater Canyon. Right after the canyon sits the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. This stretch of highway is part of the north Cascades loop, which turns north and returns through Highway 20, also known as the North Cascade Highway. The other option is to head south through Blewett Pass towards I-90 (Snoqualmie Pass).
Cayuse Pass & Mount Rainier
The most scenic route to Mount Rainier is through Enumclaw and Cayuse Pass. The pass is the route to reach White Pass and Chinook Pass. Travelers staying on Cayuse Pass travel the back side of Mount Rainier, dropping down to Ohanapecosh area, and then into the Stevens Canyon area of Mount Rainier National Park. This is a rugged portion of the park with breathe-taking views of the surrounding mountains, deep cut gorges through rock and spectacular waterfalls. The road leads up to Paradise and the meadows above the lodge. To end this scenic loop, travelers head west, and leave the park through Longmire.
Mountain Loop Highway
The Mountain Loop Highway starts in Granite Falls and ends in Darrington. This road trip is open from spring until fall, depending on the weather. It wanders through thick forests, and follows the South fork of the Stillaguamish and Sauk Rivers. The area is filled with numerous hiking trails, all worth the hike. Some of the best are Lake 22, Coal Lake, Goat Lake and the Ice Caves. The road is paved to Barlow Pass, then becomes compacted gravel. The town of Monte Cristo is a 5 mile hike from the Pass along a service road. The highway travels north past Lake Monte Cristo, through thick forests and onto Darrington. From Darrington, travelers return to I-5 through Arlington.
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Highway 20 travels through the North Cascades and the west side wanders through the heart of Whidbey Island. Starting at the city of Burlington just north of Mount Vernon on I-5, Highway 20 travels west-bound towards Anacortes. Before Anacortes and the ferry to the San Juan Islands, Highway 20 turns south. Cranberry Lake is home to various water birds, and it’s common to see a bald eagle or two. Traveling further down the highway, there are several small towns, including Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Freeland, Langley and Clinton. The highway weaves its way through forests and farmlands to Clinton and the ferry docks. The ferry is a fantastic way to return to the mainland ending in Mukilteo.
Chuckanut Drive, also known as State Route 11, starts in Fairhaven which is located just south of Bellingham and ends in Edison. This stretch of road follows the coastline, travels through beautiful forests and offers fantastic views of the San Juan Islands. Along the way, travelers are treated to beauty around every corner, including waterfalls, wooded ravines and sparkling expanses of salt-water. Laramie State Park is a great side-trip offering hiking trails through lush forests. The Oyster Bar is worth stopping at, though parking can be challenging during the restaurant’s busy times. At Edison, travelers have a choice to travel out to Padilla Bay and down to Highway 20 or return to I-5.