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The drop-dead gorgeous North Cascades.

Au revoir, Seattle

The day’s ride was under 200 miles, but what sights to experience. I was really looking forward to riding with Zach for a few days, on his home turf. We were also a day closer to meeting up with Bryan and Ed, who were flying into the Rockies from the Twin Cities.

Before Zach and I left the house, I found the extra wax markers that the girls had used to sign Fiona before I left. Jamie, Row and Megan signed both of our bikes, then we made our way to Washington State Route 9.

The amazing area around Diablo Lake.  WA State Route 20, North Cascades National Park, WA.

Washington State Route 20 & North Cascades National Park

When I gathered input for the trip’s route, I heard from a number of friends and riders that Washington State Route 20 – also known as the North Cascades Scenic Byway – was arguably the finest road in the continental 48.

Zach and I rode into Marblemount, where we immediately noticed a unique landmark – a caboose built in 1994, parked on permanent track, with a monster smoker pumping out fantastic smells. The caboose houses Que Car BBQ. We had awesome brisket sandwich combos, sitting outside and talking to a fellow father/son rider team on an R1200GS Adventure. Marblemount’s marketing tag line is, “Gateway to the American Alps”. The “American Alps” reference is to the stretch of North Cascades National Park one travels through via WA-20.

Zach and Terry at Washington Pass Overlook.  WA State Route 20, North Cascades National Park, WA.

We left Marblemount and immediately encountered steep mountain terrain. The highway weaves through the river valley, revealing breathtaking views. We passed pure mountain lakes – including Diablo Lake and Ross Lake – with amazing turquoise-coloured water. The colour is due to glacial flows that contain tiny rock particles.

Continuing east, the snow line began to become more pronounced. This area of WA-20 is closed from November through April due to snowfall, and in particular, the avalanches that occur because of the extremely significant pitches of the mountain slopes. We made our way to Washington Pass and took a number of interesting pictures.


The road and scenery around Washington Pass is spectacular, especially when one rounds the corner under Liberty Bell Mountain. Make sure you check out 7:35 mark of the HD video below to witness the same.

We began our descent into the Methow Valley, which is home to the charming town of Winthrop. I’ll be honest – it feels a bit contrived, but Winthrop’s unique efforts to rebrand the face and experience of the town toward an “old American West” motif do work. Zach and I checked in at the Hotel Rio Vista, then walked into town for dinner and beers on the river bank of Old Schoolhouse Brewery. It was a great end to a top-notch day of riding.

The Day : Weather

Partly CloudySnowMostly Cloudy Location State High (F) Low (F) Precipitation (in) Max Wind (mph)
Kirkland WA 62° 50° 0.00 5
Sedro Woolley WA 59° 44° 0.00 7
Newhalem WA 60° 46° 0.00 13
Rainy Pass WA 44° 35° 0.01 13
Winthrop WA 56° 46° 0.00 16

The Day : Images

The Day : Video

The Day : GPS

Total Time 7:07:53
Moving Time 4:05:26
Distance 197.5 miles
Avg Speed 27.7 mph
Moving Speed 48.3 mph
Elevation Max 5,454 ft
Elevation Min 7 ft
Elevation Gain 13,545 ft
Elevation Loss 12,286 ft


© 2013, Terry D. MacVey. All rights reserved.