Frequently Asked Questions
- Which direction is the best way to travel the Loop?
- How long will it take me to drive the entire Cascade Loop?
- Is the highway open year round?
- What are the Roads like in the winter time?
- When is the fall foliage best?
- What types of passes will I need to access State Parks and trail systems?
- Do I have to take a ferry to Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands or can I drive?
- What is the Cascade Loop Association?
Which direction is the best way to travel the Loop?
We think the views are best if you travel in a counter-clockwise direction (from east to west). You get a full view of Diablo and Ross Lakes as you descend from the top of the pass. Traveling the other direction you need to look back the way you came in order to view the Lakes. However, don’t despair. If you do travel from west to east simply take advantage of the well-placed and well-marked Diablo and Ross Lakes and Washington Pass overlook pull outs for magnificent photo ops from either direction.
How long will it take me to drive the entire Cascade Loop?
The average trip taken on the Loop is 4+ days, however, you can spend as little as a day doing a part of the Loop, or as long as two weeks exploring the Cascade Loop’s diverse offerings in-depth. To really experience the entire Loop (440 miles) we suggest a 5 day trip. This gives you time to spend a couple nights on both the west side of the Loop (Snohomish and Skagit River Valleys and Whidbey & Fidalgo Islands) and on the east side of the Loop (Columbia and Methow River Valleys plus the North Cascades National Park Highway). There are marvelous picnic areas, easy and advanced hiking trails, unique towns and comfortable lodgings for you to stay in so plan to give the Cascade Loop as much time as you can.
Is the highway open year round?
All portions of the Cascade Loop Highway are open year round except a 50 mile section between Mazama and Newhalem on Highway 20. This section of the highway closes from approximately mid-November to mid-April, depending on the weather (it can stay open longer or close earlier). The remainder of the highway is open and well maintained regardless of the season. If you are traveling during winter and would like to check on the Highway 20 conditions, or any other pass conditions, phone the Washington State Winter Pass Report (800) 695-ROAD (7623) (available Oct. 15-April 15), or online at www.wsdot.wa.gov.
What are the Roads like in the winter time?
The Cascade Loop highways are well-maintained throughout every season. The west side of the Loop is a temperate climate due to the influence of the Puget Sound and rarely sees snow or freezing conditions. The mountain passes and east side of the Loop have snow in winter. The Washington State Department of Transportation is well prepared to handle snowfall on all passes. The passes are two to four lane highways that are major commerce routes and thus do not have any cumbersome switchbacks or narrow roads. However, do plan for a bit more time in winter to traverse them. See the “Is the highway open year round” for additional details.
When is the fall foliage best?
This is a hard one to determine in advance of the season! The foliage begins turning in September and continues on through November. The season will be at its height at different times each year depending on the weather during the fall. It is best to contact the Chambers of Commerce in the area during the season to get an accurate update of current fall foliage colors.
What types of passes will I need to access State Parks and trail systems?
If you to hike while on your Cascade Loop vacation, chances are you will need a pass of some kind. To determine which pass(es) you need, you’ll need to consider which agency manages the land where you want to hike-whether it’s managed by the federal government or the State of Washington.
Federal recreation sites include: national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, national historic sites, Bureau of Land Management lands, and places managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. An America the Beautiful Interagency pass gets passholders into all of these sites. A Northwest Forest Recreation Day Pass allows trailhead parking on national forest for $5 per car for one day. The pass is available at National Forest offices and visitor centers, ranger districts, via private vendors and online.
The Discover Pass is required to park at Washington State Parks, Department of National Resources lands and Department of Fish and Wildlife trailheads. For one day use only, purchase your Discover Pass Day Pass for $10/car. For a complete year’s worth of use, purchase the Discover Pass Annual Pass for $30. Purchase your pass online or in person from any of nearly 600 recreational license vendors where state fishing and hunting licenses are sold.
Do I have to take a ferry to Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands or can I drive?
You can do either. To reach the islands via bridges, travel on Highway 20 at the North end of the Loop (at Anacortes). To take a ferry catch the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry from Mukilteo (just south of Everett off I-5) and you’ll arrive at the south end of Whidbey Island. The Cascade Loop actually takes you through both bridge and ferry. The Deception Pass Bridge at the North end of Whidbey is a very high bridge that is one of the most scenic bridges in the Northwest. The ferry ride allows you to enjoy a 20 minute break from driving while feeling the fresh saltwater breezes of the Puget Sound. We recommend you do both.
What is the Cascade Loop Association?
We are a non-profit tourism organization that provides visitor information about traveling the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway. We work with Chambers of Commerce, Washington Tourism Alliance, Hotels, Motels, Attractions, Forest Service, Park Service and many other tourism-related organizations to provide comprehensive information about the byway corridor. If you have suggestions on ways we can provide you with better information, or if we have missed something you would like to see included, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.