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Driving Washington’s Cascade Loop

The 440-mile Cascade Loop takes visitors through the heart of Washington state.

North Cascade Visitor Center, image
Photo caption
Stop at the North Cascades Visitor Center on Highway 20 for information about the area.

Next time you're suffering from wanderlust, consider a road trip on Washington's Cascade Loop. This stunning 440-mile route in the heart of the Evergreen State takes visitors through fertile, sun-drenched hills to the salty waters of Puget Sound.

Begin your tour in Everett, just north of Seattle, and proceed east on Highway 2. Stop in Snohomish, the self- proclaimed antique capital of the Northwest, then swing by Monroe to see the Washington Serpentarium, home to an impressive collection of rare reptiles.

In Leavenworth, a former timber town that resembles a Bavarian village, you can sip imported German suds during Oktoberfest, October 1, 2, 8, and 9. Visit Liberty Orchards' Aplets & Cotlets factory in Cashmere to see how they make those gelatinous fruit treats.

Connect with Highway 97A and you'll wind up in Wenatchee, the core of the state's apple territory. Washington Apple Country Tours provides complimentary cider and information on visiting orchards. Head north to the resort town of Chelan, which sits at the lower end of 55-mile-long, glacier-fed Lake Chelan. From there, it's a short hop to Winthrop, whose Riverside Avenue looks just as it did when Owen Wister, author of the classic Western novel The Virginian, visited this frontier town in the 1890s.

Next comes Highway 20, with its craggy peaks, alpine meadows, and numerous turnouts for soaking up the sights. After traversing Washington Pass, the 5,477-foot apex of this snaking stretch, stop at the North Cascades Visitor Center to get trail information.

The loop's final leg runs through Skagit Valley, the largest producer of tulip bulbs outside the Netherlands. Springtime is a riot of color, especially during Mount Vernon's Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April. Be sure to visit Anacortes, a bustling port city that serves as the gateway to the San Juan Islands.

WHO WILL LIKE IT Antique hounds, apple crunchers, and fall foliage fiends.

WHEN TO GO Leaves begin turning in mid-September and the apple harvest runs through early November. Information: (509) 662-3888,

Photography courtesy of Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

This article was first published in September 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.