Nostalgic North Cascades Highway

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State Route 20 in the North Cascades region is also known as North Cascades Highway. The highway is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in the state of Washington. Highway 20 considered to be one of the best scenic highways not only in USA but also in the world.
Highway 20 crosses Rainy Pass at 4, 860 feet and Washington Pass at 5, 477 feet. The sides of the highway is packed with picnic and hiking spots all along. The Alpine Meadows on the way are full with wildflowers in the months of July and August. Ross Lake and Diablo Dam overlooks are great for photo shoots. The green forest and blue sky compliment the teal water of Ross lake and jade water of Diablo dam. Their distinct colours is caused by finely ground rocks dust suspended in the water.
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Across the highway, Newhalem is a pretty little town, where every highway rider should stop by. The North Cascades National Park Visitor center offers audio-video exhibits, info and maps about the the park. Visitors can secure permit for camping and back country travel. Beyond Newhalem lies the majestic Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest reserve – a 1.7 million acres forest of pure delight.
However, services like food and supplies, and accommodation is very limited in the small town of Newhalem. You should be heading to Marblemount which has all the facilities including lodging. The pristine town to has many hiking trails, which you can take should time permits.
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Concrete town

The North Cascades Highway follows the course of the curvy Skagit River. The water of the river unlike the colours of waters of lakes and dames in the region is pristine white. The river is popular for fishing, rafting and boating activities. In December and January, many bald eagles fly to the spot to feed on aplenty salmon in the area. You can spot these eagles perched on tall trees. If you are a bird lover you should be taking a guided bird-watching tour.
There few miles from Newhalme, there lies the friendly little town of Concrete. The historic town was one the foremost centre for cement production in USA. The interesting thing is the town has changed very little and a stroll across its streets can evokes a feeling of nostalgia. The Concrete high school is well-known for its bridge like structure under with the highway passes.

Driving On North Cascades Highway: Things To Know

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The North Cascades region is located in Western Washington. For most of the year,  the region is snow covered, making it very difficult for travellers to take a trip. Because of extreme snow from November to April, the authority were forced to close the highway indefinitely for the safety of riders. Summer season is the best time to take a ride along the scenic  Highway.

When summer arrives, snow gets cleared and roads become dray, the North Cascade region becomes a place of travel related activities. There are many beautiful mountains, green forests and heavenly coasts, dams, lakes and wildlife in the North cascades and the curvy scenic highway itself attract the tourists. If you are planning to fuel your two or four wheelers next summer to explore those nostalgic alpine meadows and sweeping vistas while driving here is the detailed guide for you.

Begin your drive from Sedro-Woolley. To reach the town, you have to take Exit 230 off, follow WA 20 East, or head directly to North on WA-9. North Cascades remain closed from mid-November to April. So. plan your trip accordingly. The drive traverse through the Skagit River and there are plenty of seasonal farms laden with apples , berries, pumpkins and honey along the way.

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As you approach Concrete, which is just 24 miles from Sedro-Woolley, giant concrete silos with ‘Welcome to Concrete’ sign will welcome you. This small tow is a beautiful town and sister town to Newhalem. There is small parking lot if you decide to stop by the town. If you take the Baker River Road you will reach Shannon Lake and Baker Lake if you drive along Baker Lake road. These places are hotspots for fishing, boating, kayaking and water-skiing.

Back on WA-20 and continue to east  from Concrete, watch out for eagles during winter. The area has second largest eagle population in the country. Squat Eagle Festival held  in the month of January with actives at Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount. The Howard Miller Steelhead Park has facilities for year-round tend and RV camping, boating tours, hiking trails, fishing and fasting. The park also houses the famous Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Centre, which offers eagle presentations and viewing stations.

Once at Rockport you can take the 4.2 mile round  trip to the summit of Sauk Mountain rewards. You will be rewarded with incredible views for the effort. Rockport State park has carefully preserved original old growth forest system. At Rockport you have two options. Continue your journey along the east on WA-20 or take WA-530, which connects to Darrington and you will access to the famous Mountain Loop Highway.

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Anyway, as you continue your journey along the east you will approach a beautiful town named Marblemount. Beyond marble mount and upto 90 miles there are very few gas stations and  facilities are scarce. So check your gas tanks at Marblemount and buy some eatables.

Six miles down the east of Marblemount is located the soul of North Cascades region – the famous Ross Lake National Recreational Area located. This area comprises of Ross Lake, Gorge Lake and Diablo Lake. Glacier-capped jagged peaks, rivers, lush green forest and waterfalls all around are breathtaking. This is the place for photography aficionados.

Just nine miles down you will reach Newhalm, which houses the North Cascades Visitor Centre. The centre offers tourists learning of the surrounding area through exhibits and video presentations. There are many trials around the Newhalem. One important trail is Picket Range that lays within the North Cascades National Park.

As you resume your journey, the George Dam is not far. Down further you will find the majestic Diablo Lake. Then there is the Lake Diablo Overlook, a must stop for incredible encircling Cascades, Diablo lake and pickets. There are hiking opportunities for all levels.

30 Miles from Diablo there is the famous Washington Pass. The pass at 5477 feet is the highest elevation point in your drive. Interestingly this pass was once at the bottom of Pacific oceans. The scenery all around, especially the views of the peaks, is breathtaking to say the least.

As you descend down the steep slope after the Washington Pass you bid goodbye to North Cascade Highway and welcome the valley of farmland. The weather is drier and hot than what you encountered in North Cascades. The next major town is the history-rich and architectural Winthrop. Even this place has facilities for kayaking, river rafting, boating, horseback riding and fly-fishing and more. The trip ideally will take 3 hours.

6 Best Hiking Trails in North Cascades

The North Cascade region is full with hiking trails. The current blog post will explore 6 best hiking trails in the North Cascades for tourist hikers.

Skagit River Loop

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Anybody, irrespective of their ages, can go for hiking along this trail. The hiking path is well maintained and smooth. This trail is a 1.8 miles round trip along the Skagit river. The area is well populated by eagles, otters, salmon and dippers. You would want to enjoy the view of  mosey through maple and yew trees. Information and guide for the hiking available at North Cascades National Park visitor centre in Newhalem.

Thunder Knob

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You are in for a surprise! A gentle stroll over the log bridges constitute the tour. Tourists are taken for hike around moss enveloped  ledges to a little promontory just above the Diablo lake. At the middle of the trip you will get a stunning view of 9,065 feet high Jack Mountains, which is most well known mountain in the Skagit valley. The trip starts from west end of Colonial Creek Campground and constitutes 3.8 miles round trip.

Sourdough Mountain Lookout

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Hiking across is a Sourdough Mountain Lookout trail is a lung buster as this is one of the most challenging hikes int eh North Cascades regions. This steep trail does not disappoint you. Along the road you get an awesome view of flower-filled alpine meadows. You can take this 11.4 miles trip from Diablo, off highway 20.

Trapper Peak

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Trapper peak trail demands a pair of able feet for the trip. The hike is through a steep narrow-spine and 5, 964 feet high. Upon climbing you can see dramatic view of Pickett Range, Newhalem town on the bank of Skagit river and the ever-sparkling Thornton Lakes. You can take the 10.6 mile adventure from Thornton Lakes near Newhalem.

Hidden Lake Lookout

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This is on of its kind hike in that you will trudge across talus slopes and snow fields. The trip is not easy but has reward. Once you make up your mind and take the trip, you will encounter the National Forest Fire lookout positioned nearly 7, 000 feet high on the way during the 9 miles round trip. This is not all. You will have glimpse of the majestic Eldorado Glacier and Mount Rainer along. The hike starts from Sibley Creek near Cascade river road.

Big Beaver–Little Beaver

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The hike lasts several days. Tourists are made to travel through two deep, remote valleys filled with old growth timber and glacier-fed creeks. there are black bears, cougars and spotted owns to be spotted on the way. the trip stretches a 37 miles round trip. The trip can be taken from Ross Dam.

5 Little Known But Awesome Places in Concrete

Concrete is a small town but it has many tourist attractions. While some popular places like Sauk Mountain trail, Lake Tyee are well known yet there are many not-so-famous but great attractions yet to be explored by majority of visitors. In this post we will highlight 5 little known but awesome places in Concrete, Washington.

Henry Thompson Bridge

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The old bridge is located across state route 20. You may be surprised to know that the bridge is built in 1916-18 and still enjoys being the world’s longest single-span cement bridge. Back in old days the bride used to be the only access route across the Baker River  into the Skagit County. If you are planning trip, you should not miss the opportunity to enjoy a stroll over it.

Mountain Loop Highway

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This is a very scenic byway that loops through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest providing connection to Boulder River, Around the highway are located Henry M. Jackson and Concrete Peak Wilderness areas, and also hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The length of highway is 27 miles and take around 40 minutes to cross.

Rasar State Park

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Rasar State Park is a 169 acre park. The park  has playground equipment and 4,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Skagit River. This spot is well known among visitors  for Eagle watching. Best season to visit the place is early fall and early winter.Mt.

Mount Baker Presbyterian Church

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This historic church is built in 1908 and still mass being held regularly for residents for Skagit county. The main structure has not been remade to keep the old structure intact.

Rockport State Park

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The park is just 8 miles from concrete. The 670 acre park is an ancient forest. The interesting thing about the forest is that it contains old grown which has never been logged. The entire ecosystem of the park in the place as it was before. Also visit David Douglas Historical Market, which is situated within the park. David Douglas, if you don’t know him, was a horticulturalist who discovered the Douglas fir in 1825.

 Concrete is a small paradise itself within the paradise of North Cascades. The beautiful little town has an amazing history and occupy a place of pride in Nation’s geography.

5 Places to Visit in Concrete, WA

Concrete is a neighbouring town of Newhalem. The beautiful small town is just 20 minutes drive from Newhalem. Like Newhalem, Concrete has  many tourist attractions. In this post we are going to explore 5 awesome places to visit i Concrete, Washington.

Ready? Come, explore with me!

Sauk Mountain Trail

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 Going on hiking across the trail is pretty strenuous, but worth doing. The slope of the trail is steep, rocky, narrow and slippery. The trail is 7 miles long and takes around 3-4 hours to climb. Many tourist climb this trail as warm-up before heading to North Cascades. The scenery around is stunning. Your soul will be pleased when confronted with divine beauty of Mt. Baker, Sauk River and Skagit river as you climb. There are also many varieties of wildflowers and wildlife. At the summit you will have a 360 degree view.

Lake Tyee

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Lake Tyee is a 55 acre private Lake located in foothill of North Cascade Range, four miles north to Concrete town. The astounding lake has been converted to a resort. There is artificial sandy beach at the shores of the lake. The well maintained place is serene and peaceful. There are lot of activities go all the time in the resort. The proper also houses a basketball court, a put put golf, baseball and tennis field. The place is a great weekend escape.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

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The place needs no introduction. This forest is one of the most visited forests in the country. The region is a great place with many camping and hiking facilities available for the visitors. You will find a plenty of glacial covered peaks, old forests, and stunning mountain meadows. The place is around 25 miles away from Concrete – the nearest town.

Howard Miller Steelhead Park

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The beautiful park is located between The Skagit River and North Cascades. This place is an ideal place if you are looking a peaceful escape and away from hustle bustle of city life. There are some easy and beautiful trails along the river for visitors to explore. There are lot of fishing activities. The place is very clean and well-maintained and has ample space for parking.

Concrete Heritage Museum

The historic Concrete Heritage Museum entertains visitors with stories of the rich history of the town, artefacts and items of yesteryear.  The museum is previously called Camp Seven Museums. The place is a must visit if you wanna learn histories and geography of the region.

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Finally, don’t forget to visit the historic Concrete High School, where a young Leonardo Di Caprio shoot “The Boy’s Life”. The main building of the  high school was built as an overpass to provide a rain-protected bus loading zone. Drive down under and enjoy the thrill.

An Excursion to Newhalem Visitor Centre

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newhalem visitor centre

On my third day in the North Cascades National Park, I decided to visitt the Newhalem Visitor Center and the nearby areas. The visitor center comprises of a architectural building full of many beautiful, interactive exhibits and a group of trails. It is situated across the Skagit River from the North Cascades Highway 20 near milepost 120 and the town of Newhalem.

When my friends and I reached the visitor center, we were greeted by a friendly interpretive ranger called Paul..He explained us the difference between a black bear and grizzly bear skull. Paul knows everything about the region and surrounding areas. He said he loves outdoor activities and looking to make a career in te field once he graduates from university. .He helped us brainstorm ideas for connecting urban youth to the great outdoors. His recommendations included providing food and transportation. In nutshell we had a great discussion.

After a chat, we started our own to explore the interior of the visitor center. The natural light streaming into the hall through the large skylight at the centre of the building showcased the stunning photographs and paintings that hung on every wall. We then went into a room full of colourful, unique exhibits. There was a cool, super-size slug in the centre of the room.  We wanted a ride but were disappointed to learn that the slug is not functional. We had a plan to ride on it and take a quick tour around the park but the hope dashed.

Classic photographs in the hall showcased lumberjacks posing with huge trees. Some photographs also demonstrating the history of timber in the region. We were informed that the park is now 93% designated wilderness, that  means that logging is not allowed an more. Three hydroelectric in and around Nehalem  cater approximately 15% of the power for Seattle city.

In a corner of the exhibit room there was a fabulous section that demonstrated the impact of natural disasters like forest fires. The audio visual presentation is top class. A lightning bolt strikes in the sky and then a screen showed a growing wildfire. The visuals quickly moved the succession of events that follow a wildfire, including the first-growth trees and the animals that live best in the area. The special effects used in the exhibit are really exciting and it was wonderful to see visitors get engrossed by the visuals. It is noteworthy that a wild fire broke out in the mountain near Newhalem and it took days to douse the flame.

We took help of another expert to visit two special places we had in mind. The first was the Gorge Overlook at the bottom of Gorge dam, where we experience an excellent view of a waterfall. The second place was of Diablo Lake. From the railing, the picturesque Diablo Lake, flanked by several snow-clad peaks, glistened in the sun. The water of the lake has an unusual color because of silt washing out from under glaciers. The wind was strong but we were engrossed in the thrill and took it in our stride.

 

5 Things to Do in North Cascades

The North Cascades is full with varied tourist attractions like dams, trails, lakes, waterfalls, powerhouses, wildlife, peaks, beautiful sceneries, opportunities for sporting activities and adventure. Here are 5 top things to do when you are in North Cascades.

Take a Road Trip

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Road trip especially from USA side offers stunning sceneries. On the ways you will be greeted with changing landscapes and terrains. Sometimes smooth stream of water from waterfalls cross over to the other side of roads.

The ideal place to start your road trip is Marblemount on highway 20 towards east. Be sure to stop at Newhalem and Diablo. Visit the Newhalem Visitor center, which has some great exhibitions. You can go for a quick walk to explore plenty of trails nearby. Diablo is another great place to stop by. Drive slowly over Diablo Dam Bridge and you will enjoy it. You can also pull up at Diablo Lake Overlook and can immerse yourself in the experience of viewing the stunning Diablo lake. At Diablo there is exhibits in the honor then senator M. Jackson, who helped to create the park.

Continue your journey towards east until Washington Pass Overlook. You would feel mesmerized with the stunning views surrounding you. The view of Majestic Bell Mountain is too stunning to be believed. The Washington Pass Overlook is highest point on Highway 20.

Go for Hiking

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There are many great trails in North Cascades for hiking. Unfortunately due to heavy snowing many of these trails remain closed in most part of the years. It is thus important to enquiry status of trail before you head for hiking. You can get the info from nearby visitor centers.

Newhalem is the most popular stops for hiking. Ruby Creek Trail, which is 18 miles east to Newhalem, is a popular destination. The other trails are the 1.5 km long Canyon Creek Trail and Diablo Lake trail. Once you weill hike the Diablo Lake Trail you will get a sweeping view of Diablo lake, Colonial and Pyramid peaks. These are some easiest trials for hiking especially with family and kids.

If you are adventurous type then Sourdought Mounntain Trail (10.4 miles) is good for you. The journey is strenuous but worth a try. You will be rewarded with a sweeping view of valleys and peaks including the majestic Mount Baker.

Inspect Flora/Fauna

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North Cascades region is full with diverse species of Flora and Fauna. There are over 75 mammal species including pikas, douglas squirrel, gray wolves, marmots, grizzly bears, river otters, cougars, mountain goats, bobcats, a dozen of species of bats and the famous Columbia black-tailed deer.

There are over 200 bird species in the area. Keep looking into sky and trees and you will sure to spot bald eagle, spotted owls, swallows, warblers and hummingbirds. The Skagit river banks are home to rare Pacific salmons besides Chinook, coho, pink, sockeye and chum.

The peculiar weather, topography, geology and hydrology of the region is responsible for large number of plant species found the in the National Park. There are around 1500 vascular plant species. Among others the plant species include white bark pine, California hazelnut, alpine willow, western yew, douglas fir, red aider, big leaf maple western red cedar etc. The National Park is a great spot for nature lover.

Take Photos

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During summer waters of rivers and lakes in North Cascades appear emerald or turquoise. Color of water in the region usually is green. The peculiar color is due to soil composition of the region, which is high on glacial flour concentration. Summer is great time to capture the essence of the place in photos.

Go on Excursions

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There are some excellent spots in Cascades to go for excursion. Leavenworth complete with wineries, spas, shopping and museums is a great attraction.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which covers an area of some 1.7 million acre is an ideal place to go for activities like picnic, boating, driving, winter sports and camping. The National Forest has ample facilities for above activities. If you go on a guided excursion then you should contact The North Cascades Institute at Rockport. This non-profit institute offer guided excursion free of charge.

Going to North Cascades Area is really exciting because major parts of the year the place remain closed due to heavy snowing. The ideal time to visit is summer. So, plan your trip accordingly. There are also facilities for differently abled tourists.

A Novice Traveller’s Guide to Ross Lake

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Ross Lake is one of the best lakes and places to visit North Cascades Region. Its crystal pink water is a legendary of sort. Every tourist, who visited the lake liked it and carried an unforgettable memory. Unfortunately the beautiful lake cannot be accessed on road.

The lake is accessible through road from Canadian side only. If you are approaching through North Cascades Highway you have two options to reach the place: stop at Ross Dam Trail, take a hike and reach the place from where truck leaves to Ross dam or stop at Diablo dam, paddle to other site and then take truck to Ross lake. The second option is the best and most popular as tourist get a view of the breathtaking Diablo dam.

There are plenty of campgrounds nearby Ross Lake and also the popular floating Ross Lake resort. To stay in Campground you got to obtain Backcountry permit at Wilderness Information Center or National Park Service, both at Marblemount.

Ross Lake is a large lake with 37 kms of length and 2.5 km of width. It is situation at the elevation of 489 meter from sea level and its reach spread both into American and Canadian side. There are lots of high peaks all around the Ross Lake and most notables are Hozomeen Mountain, Desolation Peak and Jack mountain. Many rivers and creeks find their ways into the lake. Fish species like Salmon and Steelhead trout found aplenty int the lake.

Ross lake was originally named as Ruby Dam because it formed due to impoundment of Skagit River by Ross Dam.

Ross Lake is an important destination in the North Cascades region. Visitors who visit the lake are usually the ones having fetish for fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking or hiking.

A Visitor’s Guide to The North Cascades National Park Complex

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The North Cascades National Park Complex comprises of three areas: Ross Lake National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The National Park Service administers all the three areas.

Ross Lake National Recreation Area (NRA)

NRA covers the scenic North Cascades Highway, three drive-up campgrounds, the North Cascades Visitor Center, and the two company towns, three dams, powerhouses, and reservoirs, the Skagit Information Center, and the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. All of them are part of Skagit River Hydroelectric Project and managed by Seattle City Light. Seattle City Light along with National Park Service provides visitor services, education, and guided tour in the national recreation area.

North Cascades National Park (NP)

NP lies northwest and southeast of the Ross Lake National Recreational Area (NRA). It includes about 600,000 acres of area with breathtaking mountain views and 300 gorgeous glaciers. Around 95% of the lands in NP are designated for protection under Wilderness Act. Hikers can access the recreational areas, national forests parklands through 400 miles of well maintained of trails. There are very few motorable roads in the area. More than 200 backcountry camping sites available for visitors.

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

This area is located at the north end of Lake Chelan southeast of North Cascades National Park (NP).

The town of Newhalem comes under Ross Lake National Recreation area. In my previous posts I have given exhaustive information about places in and around Newhalem. Newhalem, though a company town, evidence of native settlement has been found.

The word “Newhalem” itself is a native (Upper Skagit Tribal) word, which means a place to snare goats. The native settlement goes back to 13th century. If you are curious about its history take the nearby Rock Shelter Trail and reach the Newhalem Creek. The rock shelter there is a natural formation and bears testimony to native camping in the area.

7 One of Its Kind Towns Near Newhalem

The North Cascade Region is full of small yet very beautiful towns. Most of the towns are located by the sides of Cascades Highway (Highway 20). These towns are well known for small-scale historic architecture, inspiring sceneries and colorful festivals. During the winter the North Cascades Highway remains closed due to heavy snow and thus tourists come to the places in Summer.

If you plan a road trip it is worthwhile to be informed about places/towns in Cascades region. Let me inform you about some great towns worth visiting if you are in Cascades region.

(1) La Conner

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La Conner is just an hour and half drive from Newhalem. The small town is a historic place and well knows for arts and crafts. The center of the town is listed in National Registrar of Historic Places. The town annually hosts majority of Skagit Valley Tulip Festival events. There are also plenty of wildlife including otters, wintering trumpeter swans and seals around.

(2) Lynden

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Lynden is a second largest town in the state of Washington. It’s around 2 hours drive from Newhalem towards Canada border. The town is heavily influenced by Dutch and is well known for old churches, colourful festivals and windmills. The town hosts annual Northwest Washington Fair. There are also many other events/rallies being held annually

(3) Burlington

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Burlington is a big town in the state of Washington. It was established as logging camp in 1882 but soon flourished with population. The town is famous for varied shopping malls, youth sports, and Berry Dairy days – an agriculture related annual event.

(4)Concrete

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Concrete is just 32 miles away from Newhalem. Concrete is small like Newhalem but packed will surreal wonders. There is an haunting monument which has an industrial past. There are plenty of cement silos and thus the peculiar name Concrete. The concrete Ghost Walk, which a history-creepiest guided tour, is popular among tourists.

(5) Marblemount

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Just a 20 minutes drive from Newhalem. The rugged beauty of terrains, beautiful lakes, serene streams and crashing waterfalls that exist around the town will smite you. Tourists flock into the town for boating, rafting and kayaking related activities.

(6)Rockport

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Rockport is one of its kind towns in North Cascade region. The place offers spectacular view of snow-capped mountain peaks and river valleys. There is a bird watching center. The town is also famous for artifacts made up of using locally available resources. Newhalem is just 23 miles away from the place.

(7)Bellingham

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Bellingham is both a historical place and a shopping destination in Washington state. The town has a slew of historical monuments cobblestone streets. The Fairhaven district in the town houses must of the attractions in the town. The Chuckmut Drive nearby the famous Village Books (a three storey wonder) is pleasant drive to take.