WA-20, the road 300 yards from our
current RV setup in Grandy Creek Thousand Trails, is part of a
larger, 400 mile loop that runs through the northern end of the
Cascade mountain range. The whole loop is called the North Cascades
Scenic Highway and it runs through North Cascades National Park,
Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, Ross Lake National
Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and the
Okanagen – Wenatchee National Forest.
We did not drive the whole route
today. We limited our drive to the section which starts at our
campground near Concrete, WA, and extends up to Washington Pass which
divides the coastal side from the flat side of the mountains. The
elevation in Concrete is about 50 feet above sea level and the pass
lies at about 5,500 feet.
The drive was beautiful from the outset. The road took us through the Skagit riverside communities of Concrete, Rockport, Marblemount and Newhalem before changing into a steady uphill pull. The road still follows the Skagit, skirting the Gorge powerhouse, Diablo Dam and Lake and Ross Dam and Lake until it diverts away from the river and heads up into a volcanic wonderland of waterfalls, jagged mountain peaks, crystal-clear streams, dense fir and cedar forests. Approaching the pass, trees are much scarcer and basalt and tremendous sedimentary ash deposits become the view.
Right at Washington Pass, we pulled
into a parking area and took a stroll to the spectacular viewpoint.
The ridges of almost-vertical mountain abruptly descending into
forest-filled valleys surround the viewpoint. The downgrade into
eastern Washington can be seen switchbacking around and down the
valley. It is almost straight down to the much lower highway as it
swings by beneath the viewpoint. You could almost spit on the
vehicles below but they were so far away one would never know if the
gob hit the windshield.
Our fuel economy, as shown on our
truck’s info panel, certainly went up as we returned. The speed limit
almost all the way back averaged around 40 mph and the grade was set
up, at least for our vehicle, perfectly. I put it in Drive, turned on
the towing feature and the truck’s speed stayed almost right on the
limit for the 70 mile descent back to Concrete.
The North Cascades Scenic Highway is a superb drive. The scenery is fantastic, the road is good, abundant forest groves line the road almost all the way and the mountains near the pass are stunning. Glaciers, volcanoes, turquoise rivers and lakes, waterfalls, deep green flora – what more could one want?
We took a few pictures and they can be seen by clicking the link. https://photos.app.goo.gl/vd4Au2xPhZg8NwhW7