From May to November, the stunning North Cascades Scenic Loop Highway opens with breathtaking views around every turn of lakes, rivers, mountain peaks and stop-worthy towns. A section of this highway closes in the winter due to the heavy snowfall, so if you’re traveling in early spring or late fall, check with Wsdot before hitting the road. If the road is open, you’ll be rewarded with lush green Pacific Northwest evergreens and more roadside cascade waterfalls than you can count.
From Seattle, head north to Burlington and hop on State route 20 and turn East. Stop in Newhalem for a rest stop and explore the North Cascades Visitor Center, then continue toward Winthrop. Keep an eye out for Sasquatch road crossings! Take in the views and stretch your legs at the Diablo Lake and Washington Pass overlooks.
From Washington Pass you’ll descend to the tiny hamlet of Mazama. Pop in the Mazama Store and pick up one of their famous sea-salt baguettes – if the locals haven’t beat you to it. Step back in time in the Western theme town of Winthrop, WA for the obligatory photo op of the Winthrop Emporium. Sit in a saddle and indulge in a scoop (or two) of homemade ice cream at Sherri’s Sweet shop and if you have time, a round of mini golf. Wander the boardwalks and check out Winthrop Mountain Sports and the Courtyard Quail. History buffs will love the Shafer Museum chock full of mining equipment and historic buildings from the area.
Just 8 miles down the highway is bustling Twisp, WA where you can grab lunch at the counter in Glover Street Market, and visit the artist studios and interpretive center or grab a pint at TwispWorks– a former forest service ranger station turned community space.
Enjoy the scenic drive along the Methow river, then follow the Columbia River through apple orchards to Wenatchee, then on to the postcard worthy Bavarian theme town of Leavenworth, WA. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Alps! Wander down Front Street and have a beer tasting at the Icicle Brewing Tasting room, or pick up a pretzel at one of the bakeries.
Once you’ve had your fill, head over to the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort for a peaceful stay along the banks of the Icicle River. At Sleeping Lady, indulge in a gourmet dinner and breakfast (included) and take advantage of the bike rentals, hiking trails, art walk, and organic garden. Relax at the Aspen Leaf Spa or curl up with a good book in the library.
After a night or two of mountain bliss, get a change of pace in downtown Seattle at Hotel Ändra. The hip Belltown location is a perfect base for visiting the best of Seattle’s landmarks; close to the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. Dine in style at Lola, located in the lobby. After dinner, get a drink and a discover your new favorite band at local hangout The Crocodile, or catch a flick and some chocolate popcorn at the retro Cinerama.
In the morning, grab breakfast across the street at the Dahlia Bakery. Then, work your way north to Edmonds and take the Kingston Ferry. Sit back and enjoy the short ride, then stop in the quaint town of Port Gamble and admire the historic buildings and views of the Hood canal. Stay the night across the canal at The Resort at Port Ludlow, where you can golf, kayak, or take a cooking class. When you get hungry, you’ll enjoy inspired northwest cuisine at Fireside Restaurant paired with wine from the Inn’s award winning cellar.
For more island adventures, continue north to Whidbey Island and cross the high bridge at Deception Pass. Pull over at the state park and hike down to the shore to skip rocks and watch the sunset.
Follow Highway 20 back to the mainland and pause along the piers in the adorable town of La Conner, home of the Skagit Valley Tulip festival. Wrap up your road trip by picking up a souvenir from one of the many artisan shops or art galleries, and stroll behind the shops for water views.