Travel Hints & FAQ

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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 respite from driving while feeling the fresh saltwater breezes of the Puget Sound. We recommend you do both.

How do I find out more about the trails and campsites along the Loop?
Many of the trails and campsites along the Loop are part of the National Forest and National Park system. The Outdoor Recreation Information Center offers information on both Forest & Parks at (206) 470-4060. Call the regional Forest Service Ranger Stations for current conditions and information for each individual Loop region or visit the regional Forest Service website, The Washington Trails Association also offers current trail condition information at (206) 625-1367, or There are many well-marked trailheads that start right from the Cascade Loop scenic highway that you can stop at impromptu to stretch your legs a bit or eat a picnic lunch. For additional information on camping along the Loop, see the "How to do the Loop" camping itinerary.

How long will it take me to drive the entire Cascade Loop?
The average trip taken on the Loop is 2-4 days. However, you can spend as little as a day or as long as two weeks exploring the Cascade Loop's diverse offerings. To see a good cross-section of the entire Loop (440 miles) we suggest a 2-3 day trip. This gives you time to spend one or two 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 hard 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 go on-line at

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 do 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.

What is the Cascade Loop Association?
We are a non-profit tourism organization whose mission is to provide visitor information on the Cascade Loop scenic highway. We work with Chambers of Commerce, Washington State Department of Tourism, Hotels, Motels, Attractions, Forest Service, Park Service and many other tourism-related organizations to provide comprehensive information on the Cascade Loop. 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

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.

Which direction is the best way to travel the Loop?
If you're planning to travel over the North Cascades Highway 20 portion of the Loop between Mazama and Newhalem, it's a bit more spectacular to travel in a counter-clockwise direction (from east to west). On this section of the Loop east to west is better because 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. The same holds true for Mount Liberty. 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.

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