North Cascades Loop

Rafting on Skykomish RiverCourtesy of Washington State TourismRafting on Skykomish River near Index on the Stevens Pass Highway.

Print a map of this route

The route traced here was impossible until 1972, when the rugged northern Cascade Mountains were finally breached by a highway. Now the mountains serve as the first leg of a remarkably diverse loop that embraces serene wilderness preserves, charming towns, bountiful orchards, and gleaming waterways — all blending harmoniously over the course of an impressive 400-mile journey.

1. Sedro-Woolley
This logging town, whose enigmatic name combines the Spanish word for cedar (cedro) with the surname of one of its early settlers, serves as the gateway to the North Cascades. Known as America’s Alps, the mountain range is beautifully preserved in North Cascades National Park — 505,000 acres of fragrant forests, flower-strewn meadows, imposing mountain peaks, intriguing wildlife (bears, wolves, cougars, deer, ptarmigan — a subarctic grouse — and more), and 318 glaciers (about half the total to be found in all of the lower 48 states). A park information center on the western edge of Sedro-Woolley helps visitors get off to an informed start in their explorations of the region.

2. Baker Lake
At Concrete head north off the North Cascades Highway (Rte. 20) and follow a U.S. Forest Service spur to 9-mile-long Baker Lake. A recreational reservoir east of snow-capped Mt. Baker — a 10,778-foot volcano that on occasion still spews out clouds of steam — the lake is a popular place for hiking, sailing, canoeing, and angling for trout, salmon, and whitefish. In spring Baker Lake attracts the state’s largest gathering of ospreys, which return every year to nest.

3. Rockport State Park
A mecca for hikers, campers, and picnickers, Rockport State Park contains groves of old-growth Douglas fir up to 300 feet tall. More than five miles of trails crisscross the park, some allowing close-up views of wetlands and the forest understory, and others leading to sunny overlooks.

4. Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area
Between Rockport and Marblemount, Rte. 20 passes the Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area — some 1,500 acres that have been set aside as a sanctuary for the hundreds of bald eagles that arrive in late fall. From their perches in cottonwood trees along the banks of the river, the birds eye the water, then dive for salmon and steelhead. Visitors can view the birds from river rafts (launched from Marblemount) or from various turnouts along the route.

5. Gorge Creek Falls
Emerging from a 500-foot-long tunnel, Rte. 20 rejoins the Skagit River and soon arrives at Gorge Creek, which cascades hundreds of feet over ledges and boulders. For a thrilling perspective on the stream, stand on the steel bridge and peer through the grating into the turbulent water 900 feet below.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy