This story was created in partnership with Cascade Loop, Washington. All photos from Cascade Loop.
The quantity of cities, towns, and activities along the Cascade Loop allows road-trippers to personalize their vacation with ease. We recommend travelers fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and rent a car from there. The loop is best traveled in five to seven days and can be driven in either direction. Summer and fall seasons offer the most temperate, sunny weather.
Day 1: Everett to Leavenworth (about 2 hours)
Everett is just 40 minutes north of Seattle. If you’re not international, you could even fly into Paine Field Airport in Snohomish County. From there to Leavenworth you’ll drive alongside the Skykomish River and on to Stevens Pass Greenway, with views of jagged mountain peaks in the distance. If you haven’t been to Leavenworth, you’re in for a treat. From the architecture to the food, the entire town is Bavarian-styled. Grab a German beer and pretend you’re in Europe.
Also along the way, hike to an incredible waterfall in Wallace Falls State Park, go whitewater rafting in Index, or photograph the fall colors in Tumwater Canyon outside of Leavenworth. Be sure to check out Espresso Chalet near Bridal Veil Falls.
Day 2: Leavenworth to Mazama (about 2.5 hours)
Next you’ll drive down into Wenatchee and Columbia River Valley, up through Lake Chelan Valley, and then to Methow Valley. What does it mean when there are so many valleys in less than 100 miles? Lots of mountains and great views.
Wenatchee and Columbia River Valley
Wenatchee Valley is historically known as the Apple Capital of the World. Visit the Pybus Public Market, where they boast to have the “world’s best farmers market.” Hike one of the Horse Lake Trails through grasslands of rolling hills.
Chelan Valley is known for the 55-mile long Lake Chelan that sits in the middle of the valley and is surrounded by beaches, woods and vineyards. Stay at a resort, rent a boat on the water, or taste the local wine at one of the many wineries.
Drive along the Methow River through Methow Valley. Travelers will notice that because of the confluence of two rivers, the valley is a popular spot for fishermen. Go fishing for big ones, hike to Cutthroat Lake in the fall to see the larch changing colors, or be in Winthrop for the hot air balloon festival.
Day 3: Mazama to North Cascades National Park (about 1.5 hours)
As if you haven’t had enough stunning views, now you’ll enter North Cascades National Park, where many snow-capped peaks rise above 9,000 feet, waterfalls are ubiquitous, and more than 300 glaciers still remain. Hike up to one of the park’s turquoise-colored lakes, rent a kayak to explore Devil’s Creek on Ross Lake, or go wildlife viewing and searching for wildflowers. Choose to camp in the park or stay in one of the towns of Newhalem, Marblemount or Rockport.
Day 4: North Cascades National Park to Anacortes (about 2 hours)
We recommend spending another morning in the park before heading out towards Skagit Valley and Fidalgo Island. Slowly leave the mountains behind you in exchange for rolling hills of farmland, small communities, and finally, an island in the sea.
In the spring, experience the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival or the La Conner Daffodil Festival. In the fall, visit the annual Festival of Family Farms to experience farm tours, harvest markets, and pumpkin patches.
Upon arriving in Anacortes, there are many activities to choose, from fishing and crabbing to dining and shopping. We recommend making a whale watching tour your first priority. There’s nothing like seeing a ten-thousand-pound orca breach from the water.
Day 5: Anacortes to Everett (about 1 hour)
This next section is known as Whidbey Scenic Isle Way, where you’ll want to focus on the food and the history. Oak Harbor is the largest town in this section of the drive, and Coupeville is the second-oldest town in Washington, with more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit—or even stay overnight in—the historic Captain Whidbey Inn surrounded by old-growth fir trees.
Spend a calm morning sea kayaking off Whidbey Island or try fresh oysters at a restaurant nearby. Finally, spend some time in Everett before finishing up your west coast USA road trip. We particularly recommend a stop at the Boeing Future of Flight Museum.
The Cascade Loop is best traveled in five to ten days. Whether you’re a rock climber, bird watcher, or photographer, this route is easily one of the best west coast USA road trips out there. Bonus: you get to see one of the least visited national parks in the country. If you like peace and quiet in nature, North Cascades is for you.