North Central Washington Travel Guide
  • Plan Your North Central Washington Vacation

Plan Your North Central Washington Vacation

Wilderness embraces much of north-central Washington, replete with old timber towns, cascading creeks, glacial peaks, and low-hanging valleys dusted with wildflowers. The region’s natural beauty creates a feeling of journeying to an out-of-the-way, rural retreat. This is the quintessential Great Outdoors, a place of snowcapped summits, sparkling lakes, evergreen forests, and—despite a road closure that walls off the east and west in winter—surprising accessibility.

Because of the depth of their glaciated valleys, the North Cascades are uncommonly reachable. One of the most popular drives in the state encircles the region, from the old lumber towns of Sedro-Woolley and Marblemount to the northwest, over Washington Pass to Mazama, where the family-run country store is a must-stop for a bowl of soup and baked goods, through the riverside stops of Twisp and Winthrop to the northeast. Both towns boast riverfront brewpubs with live music on summer weekends as well as good selections of craft beer. Farther south, the resort community of Chelan, on the southern tip of a pristine, 50-mile, glacier-fed lake of the same name, chalks up some 300 days of sunshine per year. The lake stretches 1½ miles at its widest and descends 1,486 feet at its deepest. Bavarian-style Leavenworth, 23 miles northwest of Wenatchee, bustles with shopping and a variety of festivals, including an annual Oktoberfest celebration.

Most permanent residents live along the loop, on ranches and orchards and in pocket-sized towns, all gateways to the northern ridges of the Cascade Range. In winter, these peaks, which climb 4,000 to 9,000 feet and higher, have the greatest measured snowfall in North America—more than 80 feet in high places on the western slopes. Washington Pass closes in November, cutting off the Cascade Loop until April, but the region remains accessible via Interstate 90. Still, when Highway 20 reopens in spring, travelers on both sides line up, waiting to be among the first to travel back over the byway.


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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Winter sports The nonprofit Methow Valley Sport Trails Association maintains 120 miles of groomed trails in the North Cascades during winter, when the region is also busy with snowmobiling, heli-skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports.
  2. Summer sports The groomed trails of winter are used for mountain biking, trail running, and hiking when the snow melts. Mountain lakes, ridges, and rivers also provide a perfect playground.
  3. Cascade Loop Visitors to the North Cascades don’t have to be athletic. This scenic byway circles through the mountains, offering some 400 miles of stunning sights.
  4. The Old West With its wagon wheels, wooden sidewalks, false fronts, and hitching posts, riverside Winthrop gives a glimpse into frontier days.
  5. The Old World The Bavarian-style mountain town of Leavenworth lights up for the holidays, Oktoberfest, and its annual accordion festival.

When To Go

When to Go

With its evergreen foothills, impressive peaks, and general accessibility, the North Cascades—often likened to the Alps—is a popular destination...

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Travel Tips

North Central Washington Travel Tips

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