mountain range in Canada and the United States

The North Cascades is a region of Washington.

Cascade Pass
Not to be confused with North Cascades National Park, a national park within this region.

Regions edit

Map of North Cascades

The North Cascades can be divided into two distinct subregions due to the Cascade Mountains which run north to south across the middle of the region - Northwest Cascades and North Central Cascades

Cities edit

  • 1 Anacortes - gateway to the San Juan Islands
  • 2 Edison - a small artsy town, near Burlington
  • 3 Ellensburg - county seat of Kittias County and home to Central Washington University
  • 4 La Conner - home of the Tulip Festival
  • 5 Leavenworth - Bavarian themed town in the mountains.
  • 6 Mount Vernon - county seat of Skagit County surrounded by tulip fields.
  • 7 Bellingham - last US city before Canada on I-5, and county seat of Whatcom County and home to Western Washington University
  • 8 Wenatchee - county seat of Chelan County

Other destinations edit

Mount Shuksan

Understand edit

The Cascades are a mountain range that stretches some 700 miles (1100 km) from British Columbia through central Washington into Oregon. By causing moist Pacific air to drop rain and dry out as it blows into the continent, the Cascades divide Washington state into a wet west and an arid east. The Cascades are tall -- several are above 10,000' (3000m) high, including Mount Baker in this region. Because their valleys are low and the mountains quite steep, many mountains in the Cascades are visually quite striking.

To the west from the Cascades to the coast are lowlands. Interstate 5 (I-5) runs north from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia. In Snohomish county, cities like Everett and Snohomish are in the outer reaches of Seattle's influence. The Skagit Valley is fertile farmland, overflowing with tulips in the spring. Just off I-5, Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juan Islands. Further north, Bellingham is the last US city before the Canadian border.

The North Cascades region is made up of Chelan, Kittitas, Okanogan, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. The term "North Cascades" sometimes means the mountain chain as far south as Mount Rainier. The Cascades continue south in the Southwest Washington region, then into Oregon and northern California.

Get in edit

By car edit

From British Columbia edit

Interstate 5 and the Peace Arch crossing is the main land port-of-entry to this region of Washington from Canada. However this is only one of five land crossing points between the Lower Mainland region of BC and the Northwest Cascades region of Washington. See the Get in — by car section of Northwest Cascades region article for details.

By boat edit

See also: Alaska Marine Highway
  Note: The Sidney-Anacortes ferry service has been suspended and will not resume until at least 2030.
(Information last updated 01 Mar 2023)
  • 1 Alaska Marine Highway System (Alaska State Ferry), Bellingham Cruise & Ferry Terminal at 355 Harris Ave (Next building north of the tracks from Fairhaven.), +1 800 642-0066. Weekly sailings between Fairhaven and Alaska for passengers and vehicles.
  • Washington State Ferries, +1 206 464-6400, toll-free: +1-800-843-3779. The Washington State Ferry system offers once or twice daily sailings from Sidney, BC to the San Juan Islands with continuing service to Anacortes. For security and immigration processing when traveling between the US and Canada, a 60-minute advance arrival is strongly suggested for vehicle traffic. Walk-on passengers must arrive 30 minutes in advance. Service to Sidney has been suspended since the Covid-19 pandemic and the operator has announced that service to Sidney is suspended until at least 2030 due to the lack of available ferries and crew.

By train edit

See also: Rail travel in the United States
  • Amtrak, +1 215-856-7924, toll-free: +1-800-872-7245. Operates the intercity trains around the United States.     Routes stopping in the region:
    • The Empire Builder starts in Seattle, goes to Edmonds and Everett then heads east towards Spokane through Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Ephrata. In Spokane the train is joined with the other branch coming up from Portland for the eastbound trip (split if going westbound) to Chicago.
    • Amtrak Cascades is a regional train service that goes north from Seattle to Vancouver 2x daily through Edmonds, Everett, Stanwood, Mt Vernon and Bellingham.

By bus edit

By public transit edit

By plane edit

The following are airports in or nearest to the North Cascades region of Washington state for commercial passenger flights:

  • 3 Bellingham International Airport (BLI IATA)has scheduled flights to Seattle, Las Vegas, andHonolulu, through Alaska Airlines. Allegiant Air has service to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palm Springs (seasonal), Phoenix, and San Diego. San Juan Airlines has commuter flights to the island towns of Eastsound, Friday Harbor, Lopez, and Roche Harbor, plus Vancouver, Canada. If traveling with Allegiant Airlines this is the only airport closest to Seattle and Vancouver they offer service to.
  • 4 Paine Field (PAE IATA), also known as Snohomish County Airport), Everett (about 8.5 miles south of Everett). It is still the location for Boeing's 747 and 777 manufacturing and test flights. As of 2019 a small passenger terminal opened to the public for commercial traffic. It is served by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines but other airlines may follow suit in time as the terminal and demand expands. The terminal, ranked one of the best regional airports in the world, has a rather cozy design with fireplaces and nice chairs and sofas, and waiter service from the restaurants available throughout the terminal (all two gates of it).    
  • 5 Pangborn Memorial Airport (EAT IATA). The closest airport to Wenatchee (15 minutes away) and Leavenworth. Most of the airport is for general aviation except the thrice daily commercial flights from Seattle/Tacoma with Alaska Airlines.    
  • 6 Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA IATA) and 7 Vancouver International Airport (YVR IATA), are the next nearest airports with more flights arriving from all parts of the U.S., Canada and other parts of the world.

Get around edit

By car edit

By bus edit

By boat edit

By train edit

By plane edit

Anacortes airport (OTS IATA)

See edit

Mount Triumph north of Newhalem

Itineraries edit

The North Cascade Loop is a very scenic drive that loops around this area through pristine mountains, grand rivers, crystalline lakes and scenic islands. If you can't do the loop, at least go as far as Mazama (eastbound) or the visitor center near Newhalem (westbound) on State Hwy 20. Note the most spectacular parts of the drive are not where the highway is sandwiched between the two halves of the national park, but further east in the Okanogan National Forest. The highest point is Washington Pass at 5,477 feet. As the park has virtually no roads, non-hikers should stay on the main highway unless clearly marked signs are visible (such as the visitor center which is about a mile to the south).

Do edit

Hiking, fishing, white water rafting, skiing, snowshoeing, boating

Eat edit

Applets and Cotlets

Drink edit

Coffee edit

Coffee is hugely popular all across the Pacific Northwest including North Cascades. Look for small road side espresso stands even in small towns.

Beer edit

Like the rest of Washington State, microbreweries and beer in general is hugely popular, and the area has many to offer for beer enthusiasts. Some brews can only be found in local stores or bars (some notable brewers don't even bottle their product). Ask your servers for local beer recommendations and search out regional microbrews in stores.

Wine edit

Although the North Cascades is not known as wine country, many Washington State wines are still and plentiful in restaurants and stores.

Stay safe edit

Fuel edit

After you pass Marblemount on the North Cascades Highway (going eastbound), there is no gas for 70 miles until Mazama. There is also no cell phone coverage (no matter which carrier) from Ross Lake to Mazama. If you need assistance, you'll have to flag down someone with a two-way radio, or obtain a lift.

Avalanches edit

In the Cascade Mountains (which divide the state into halves) there can be significant snow accumulations during the late fall and winter months. This poses a danger for avalanches whenever these areas experience warm up periods, regardless of how brief they may be. Washington Pass is at an elevation of 5477 ft. (1669 m), and can have snowfall on any day of the year. and mountain passes are sometimes closed for avalanche control and may effect travel plans. Check the Washington State Department of Transportation website [1] for information regarding Avalanche control.

If going into the mountains during winter and early spring months, refer to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center website [2] for information regarding the current avalanche dangers throughout the Cascade region of the state.

Go next edit

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