The North Cascades has many delights and Gorge Creek Falls is one of them. The falls is very near to Newhalem, just two miles off from the highway road on east. The visit is a total package, consisting of hiking a small trail, a dam, a river (Skagit), two waterfalls to be seen, two overlooks, and finally, believe or not, an aqua-blue lake. This is the reason the place is one of the most visited places in North Cascades National Park Complex. [Read more…]
Rockport is a small town in Washington that host a fine State Park and a popular County Park. You can go to Rockport by heading east on State Route 20 from I5 at Burlington, or reach there via Arlington and Darrington on State Route 530. There is a tavern and gas store in the town.
Marblemount is another small town and several miles drive from Rockport. Good facilities for tourists like gas, groceries, lodging, post office and restaurants available in this small town. From here starts the scenic 87 miles drive in wilderness along the North Cascades Highway. The famous Skagit River Resort lies halfway between Rockport and Marblemount. After you cross the Skagit River bridge, you can take the Cascade River Road that head east into the National park. This 22 miles primitive drive is laden with visual delight. You will have amazing views of mountains, blue glaciers and waterfalls.
There are two small beautiful towns of Newhalem and Diablo, along the State Route 20. Many trails, dams hydroelectric projects located around the towns and hiking can be done from these places. However, there is no facilities except a grocery store in Newhalem.
Marblemount and Rockport are on the last river plain in the Upper Skagit River Valley as you undertake a drive on the North Cascades Highway. The highway takes the route of Indians, pioneer wagons and pack trains as it passes through the valley along the up river course on the way to the North Cascades mountains. The Skagit River flows into Puget Sound about 60 miles west of Marblemount.
Theses days the area is bustling with small business entrepreneurs. Local artists and crafts are making full use of area’s natural resources to design their unique products. Potteries, big wood carvings, green products, hand-designed crafts, and wood crafts can be purchased here. The climate is moderate, with summer highs in the 90’s and the winter lows varies from 10′ to 30′.
It is important to note that though the highway across the North Cascades Passes closes in winter, the towns of Marblemount and Rockport remain accessible year-round for tourists coming from the Puget Sound region.
Alpine hiking in the Sauk Mountain trail is very popular spot. To reach here turn north on the access road that meet Highway 20 just west of Rockport State Park, and continue your drive up the root of the mountain till you reach the parking area. It provides an amazing view of the Skagit River Valley below. You can go for hang-gliding here. Sauk Mountain trail starts from this place and switchbacks up the south face of Sauk and near the top the trail crosses around an eastern outcropping, and continues up to the place of the former fire tower.
If you want to stay in the area for a day or two you have Skagit River Resort in the vicinity. The resort has all facilities including small parking and eatery. Marble mount is just 2.5 miles from here.
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.
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.
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.