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On The Loop: Skagit Valley & Fidalgo Island

As you continue westward on Highway 20, the looming peaks of the North Cascades National Park give way to rolling hills, acres of farmland and a series of small communities including Birdsview, Hamilton and Lyman. Next, you’ll reach the town of Sedro-Woolley, known for its logging history which is visible via the downtown's collection of life-size wood carvings. The town is also known for its downtown shopping and dining scene — several new boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and breweries have opened within the past year! Consider camping in style (“glamping”) or more traditional accommodations at Willowbrook Manor, just outside of town. Guests enjoy luxe accommodations, gardens, fields of chamomile and the popular “tea and tour” program — hop on a cruiser and explore the area’s country roads! 

Visit Sedro-Woolley during Independence Day week and join locals at Loggerrodeo. Check out logging and chainsaw carving contests, the rodeo, bluegrass jubilee and fireworks.

The next community you’ll encounter is Burlington, located at the crossroads of Interstate 5 and Highway 20. It’s a great base from which to explore many recreational activities within easy driving distance. Visit during Berry Dairy Days in June, celebrating local berry harvests and dairies. There is also an exceptional Visitor Information Center in town, so pop in to get guidance from the locals and pick up some pointers on the many things to do nearby!

Take a quick jaunt south to the town of Mount Vernon. The historic community sits at the juncture of several rivers and sloughs, an irresistible attraction for an assortment of bird species — have those binoculars handy! The riverfront and adjacent downtown are ideal for exploring on foot and is featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Mount Vernon is also home to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which draws guests from around the world each spring!

Continue driving deeper into the Skagit River Valley, where the fields are dotted with quaint farmhouses and prolific heritage barns. The Skagit Valley is home to the largest commercial flower bulb industry outside of Holland. Beginning in March and continuing through May, the entire valley is one huge carpet of blooms, backdropped by dramatic views of 10,775-foot Mount Baker and the North Cascade mountains. La Conner is a friendly hamlet full of artists, fantastic architecture and adorable waterfront shops, all tucked within acres of fields between Mount Vernon and Anacortes, your final destination in this segment of the Cascade Loop. Be sure to visit the Museum of Northwest Art, the Skagit County Historical Museum, and the Gaches Mansion which is home to the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, one of just 12 in the U.S.

Anacortes is very much a maritime community — its historic downtown resides along the waterfront and is the heart of Fidalgo Island. Explore a wealth of funky shops and boutiques. The seafood here is outstanding, so be sure to dine out and order the fish! Build some extra time into your itinerary to take a whale-watching tour with Island Adventures, where excursions lead to sightings 95 percent of the time! Rent a kayak from Anacortes Kayak Tours and paddle through saltwater while taking in views of abundant sea and bird life!

Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island, is a bustling port town with a pedestrian-friendly downtown which hosts the Anacortes Arts Festival in August. Washington State ferries connect Anacortes with four of the San Juan Islands – Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, San Juan – and provide service to Sidney, B.C. near Victoria. If you have limited time, take a short and quick ferry ride to Guemes Island.  In Anacortes, enjoy lovely parks, beaches, community forestland, great gallery browsing and excellent antique shopping. Oh, and don’t forget to take a drive to incredibly scenic Mt. Erie and the Deception Pass bridge - on your way to the next region of the Loop -- Whidbey Scenic Isle Way!

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The Skagit River flood plain is some of the richest agricultural land in the Northwest. Coastal/Northern Straits Salish people fished, hunted and harvested shellfish and berries.

Local tribes initially traded pelts for supplies. By the 1820s non-native traders and trappers crossed the Cascades and settled, resulting in trade with the Hudson Bay Company, diminishing native trade routes. In 1855, the Point Elliot Treaty was signed and many of these tribes moved to the Swinomish Reservation on Fidalgo Island. In spite of challenges, native people maintain active communities throughout the area today. Look for new interpretive signs, covered pavilion and restrooms at the Kukutali Preserve in La Conner: http://lovelaconner.com/kiket-island-kukutali-preserve/

In 1791, Spaniard Juan Francisco de Eliza charted Rosario Strait, naming it Canal de Fidalgo. British Captain George Vancouver explored Rosario Strait in 1792 and named Deception Pass. Mining, timber and logging contributed greatly to the development of the area during this time. Agriculture has been the main industry for the Skagit Valley since the late 1800s. Today’s massive flower bulb industry began as an extension of the early flower production of Mary Brown Stewart who started growing tulips with bulbs from Holland in 1906. 


Skagit Valley Adventures
Wildlife
There is a LOT of wildlife to view here: snow geese, trumpeter and tundra swans, elk, eagles, falcons, ducks and owls to name a few.
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Whale Watching
Few things are as moving as witnessing whales up close and personal. Take a whale watching tour and have a pretty high likelihood of seeing gray, mink or orca whales, depending on the season.
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On the Water
Get on the water to get a really different perspective. Take a whale watching tour out of La Conner or Anacortes. Explore on kayak in Anacortes!
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Family Farms
Farms are wildly diverse here! Shellfish, blueberries, dairies, cattle ranches, cabbages, and of course flower bulbs!
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Historic Barn Tour
Explore 58 barns on the state Heritage Barn Register--amazing testaments to the past and today's farming culture.
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Festivals
Nothing says community like a small town American festival. Visit Sedro-Woolley's
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Side Trip: La Conner
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Amazing Food
Because there are so many local sources of produce and shellfish, it's no surprise that the food is insanely fresh and amazingly delicious here.
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Hiking
There is huge variety in the types of hiking here. Explore Washington Park or Mt. Erie in Anacortes, take a moderate walk around Baker Lake, or something steeper like Sauk Mountain
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EV Charging Stations
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Anacortes Marina at Dawn, Photo by Andy Porter
The Big Chill Ciderfest
Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival
Tea and Tour
Winery Comedy TOUR
Raptors of the Samish Flats: The Photography of Mukul Soman
This article was written by local photographer Mukul Soman. Take a look at these amazing photographs and enjoy some tips from a pro! The Skagit Valley has been one of my favorite places to photograph bird life in Washington state. Winter season is one of the best times of the year to view various species of wintering birds, especially raptors.  Every year during the months of December to March, the Valley becomes home to wintering ducks, geese and swan, which all provide plenty of feeding opportunities for aerial predators like raptors.… Read More >>>>
Mexican Mole: A Rich and Regional Traditional Sauce
I wish I could remember the first time I had mole. Even though the specific moment doesn’t stand out, I do know that I never looked at Mexican food the same once I had it. Mole (pronounced mole-LAY) is a thick, rich sauce used in many regions of Mexico. Although generally its primary ingredient is dried chiles, the type of chile and the number of different chiles varies widely depending on its origin and the recipe. (Fun fact: in Mexico, chiles have different names depending on whether they’re fresh or dried).… Read More >>>>
Gifts of Spring: Migrating Birds of the Upper Skagit
Spring is a time of great change in the Pacific Northwest. The warmer weather and abundant daylight signals species from insects to plants and animals to emerge from Winter dormancy and become active again. For migrating birds, it is a signal to begin their annual pilgrimage up North and join our forest and mountain communities. Migration is an adaptation many birds have developed over millennia to survive as Fall and Winter bring harsh weather and minimal food resources in Northern territories. Many of our feathered friends travel from the Southwestern… Read More >>>>
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+ Destinations
      Lake Chelan Valley
      Leavenworth Cascade Foothills
      Methow Valley
      North Cascades
      Seattle
      Seattle Northcountry
      Skagit Valley & Fidalgo Island
      Stevens Pass Greenway
      Wenatchee Columbia River Valley
      Whidbey Scenic Isle Way
+ Accommodations
     Bed & Breakfasts / Country Inns
     Cabins
     Camping & Glamping
     Farm Stay
     Hotels & Motels
     Large Group Venues
     Lodges & Resorts
     Pet Friendly
     RV
+ Dining & Wineries
     Beer, Breweries & Distilleries
     Candy
     Coffee
      + Farms Stands
     Restaurants
     Tea
      + Wineries & Vineyards
+ Indoor Activities
     Art Galleries & Studios
     Casinos
     Museums
     Performing Arts
      + Shopping
     Tours-Indoor
+ The Great Outdoors
     Aerial Adventures
     Boat Tours
     Camping
     Climbing
     Farms & Barns
     Fishing & Hunting
     Gardens & Outdoor Art
     Gear Rentals
     Golf
     Hiking
     Horseback Riding
     National Parks, Forests & Recreation Areas
     Pet Friendly Activities
     Photo Tours & Lessons
     Scenic View Points
     State & Local Parks
     Water Activities
     White Water
     Wildlife Viewing
      + Winter Fun
+ Visitor Info/Services
     Airports
     National Forest Ranger Stations
     Scenic Byways along the Loop
     Traveler Services: Gas, Snacks, Auto Repair
     Visitor Centers, Tourism Bureaus, Chambers
     Washington State Resources
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