Photo: Beautiful Lake Chelan.
Washington’s 440-mile Cascade Loop Scenic Highway begins and ends along Puget Sound. It travels by marinas, museums, Snohomish River Falley, Stevens Pass Greenway, the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, Columbia River and Whidbey Island.
You should allow at least five days to complete the loop, which starts with the urban port city of Everett. While in Everett, walk the marina boardwalk for great Puget Sound views, take the kids to the Imagine Children’s Museum or visit the numerous aviation attractions in the Paine Field Aviation District.
Next on the loop, take the Stevens Pass Greenway for dense forest hiking trails and whitewater rafting on the Skykomish River. Along the way, stop at Sultan’s Osprey Park for a picnic and views of spawning salmon on the river.
The Bavarian Village of Leavenworth is next on the loop with opportunities to explore the many restaurants, beer gardens and culinary boutiques in town. The nearby Icicle River Valley features majestic views, hiking trails and world class rock climbing.
After leaving the next town of Cashmere, which features the Aplets & Cotlets Candy Factory and the Cashmere Pioneer Museum, you’ll enter the Wenatchee/Columbia River Valley dotted with wineries and tasting rooms. Visit Wenatchee, the Apple Capital of the World, for local fruit stands, the waterfront Pybus Public Market and amazing river and valley views at Ohme Gardens.
The Lake Chelan Valley is renowned for its boutique wineries and tasting rooms. For a special treat, board the Lady of the Lake excursion boat for a cruise to Stehekin, a tiny wilderness village where you can rent bikes and tour Rainbow Falls.
The tour loops north to Methow Valley and North Cascades National Park where you find the artsy town of Twisp and the western-themed town of Winthrop on the Methow River. Follow Highway 20 along the Methow River towards the North Cascades National Park. You will want to stop off at Washington Pass Overlook for views of Liberty Bell spires as well as Ross and Diablo Lakes Overlooks for views of alpine peaks. On the western side of the range, visit the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport, the winter home of the largest bald eagle population in the lower 48 states.
The final leg of the loop includes the rich agricultural lands in the Skagit Valley, the bustling port town of Anacortes and the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way where you can walk on Deception Pass bridge and sample boutiques and seafood in the local communities.