Cascade Loop Road Trip: our ultimate itinerary (with map)
Located in Washington State, the stunning Cascade Loop is a once-in-a-lifetime road trip through the beautiful natural world and small towns of Washington. Discover everything from alpine wonderlands to serene lakes, gorgeous forests to expansive valleys, and adorable small towns to popular ski villages along this popular road trip route.
The Cascade Loop extends for 440 miles in Washington state and takes the traveler about four to five days to drive including overnight stops. You will visit the best sights of Washington, including national and state parks, mountain ranges and more.
Recently designated a National Scenic Byway in 2021, the Cascade Loop is fully open during the months of June-October but can be experienced in segments any time of the year. Keep scrolling to discover a truly stunning road trip experience!
Where is the Cascade Loop?
The Cascade Loop is located in Washington State, in the Northwestern corner of the United States; it forms a larger loop through much of the state, with stops in towns and cities like Everett, Snohomish, Leavenworth, Wenatchee, Chelan, Winthrop, Anacortes and Coupeville.
The loop itself is located about twenty-five minutes from Seattle, the largest city in Washington, and includes stops through several parks, namely the North Cascades National Park, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Follow the Cascade Loop to go from the Salish Sea and the Don Juan Islands all the way to deep within the mountainous region on the eastern side of Washington State.
Where does the Cascade Loop begin and end?
The Cascade Loop is (not surprisingly!) a circular route, which means that you can start from anywhere along the route and still get to experience the bounty that it has to offer in its entirety.
That being said, there are a couple of typical starting points, namely Mukilteo and Everett, both about a thirty minutes' drive from the city of Seattle. If starting here, the endpoint will typically be either Langley or Clinton, before the Ferry to Mukilteo.
How long is the Cascade Loop, and how long will it take to drive its entire length?
|The Cascade Loop||440 miles||7 hours 30 minutes|
|Driving from Seattle||470 miles||8 hours|
The Cascade Loop is about 440 miles in length and will take upwards hours to drive. The driving time required will vary, especially as part of the loop is closed during the off-season. Realistically, we recommend planning for about four to five days to get the full Cascade Loop experience.
If you're coming from Seattle, the total mileage will be something closer to 470 miles, as Seattle is thirty miles from the start of the loop. Make sure to add another thirty minutes to your itinerary if you plan on coming back to Seattle after completing the Cascade Loop.
Best way to drive on the Cascade Loop
Due to the nature of this route, there's really only one way to drive the Cascade Loop, though we should add that you can always just drive part of the loop and save the rest for another trip.
We've added an itinerary that includes the drive from Seattle to the start of the loop, as many road-trippers will typically stop in the city for a car rental before continuing onto the Cascade Loop.
Driving the entire length of the Cascade Loop
The Cascade Loop is known as the best road trip in Washington, featuring dozens of cities and towns along its route and offering travelers a rare opportunity to discover the state's stunning nature in-depth.
The whole route encompasses several national parks and forests, including a visit to North Cascade National Park, and takes traveler from the waters of Puget Sound to the mountains. The Loop is broken up into 9 regions, further detailed on the map above.
While you could certainly explore a segment of the route without driving the entire thing, part of the appeal of this road trip is the diversity offered across the Cascade Loop, from wineries and small-town restaurants to gorgeous valleys nearby which you'll find serene lakes or massive mountains.
The route for this loop is relatively straightforward: starting at Everett, you'll travel along US-2, following road signs for the Cascade Loop. You'll eventually merge onto US-97, and then WA-153 and WA-20, before finally getting to WA-525 which takes you back to the starting point!
Driving on the Cascade Loop from Seattle
To get to the Cascade Loop from the beautiful city of Seattle, you'll have to exit the city via Interstate 5. This highway will take you all the way past Lake Washington and straight to the Everett, where you can get onto Highway 2.
Once you've gotten onto the Cascade Loop, you follow the same route that we've highlighted and expounded upon above!
Best places to stay along the Cascade Loop
While you could certainly do the Cascade Loop in one long drive, our recommendation is to take your time with this gorgeous road trip. After all, you don't want to be rushing from town to town or natural wonder to natural wonder without having the opportunity to enjoy each attraction.
That's why we suggest stopping for at least one overnight stay in one of the many adorable towns along the Cascade Loop. Keep scrolling to discover our favourite stopover spots!
A nature escape in Winthrop
Located about halfway along the Cascade Loop, Winthrop is a popular stopping point for travelers taking this route, offering tons of attractions in its small area, including some gorgeous nature spots.
One of the reasons Winthrop is such a popular stopping point for Cascade Loop travelers is its proximity to the North Cascades National Park, probably the biggest attraction in the loop—after all, that's where it gets its name—and conveniently located just west of Winthrop.
This small town really has the ultimate cozy vibe, oozing with charm throughout its adorable downtown center. If you're thinking about stopping in this town, we definitely suggest stopping in Downtown Winthrop, which is filled to the brim with adorable restaurants and unique shops.
Winthrop is known for its proximity to the Methow Valley, which houses the continent's largest network of cross-country ski trails. The town also boasts the Sa Theekh Wa Bridge and Trail!
As usual, we've got you covered for accommodations with our recommendation of the Sun Mountain Lodge, one of the most luxurious lodges along the Cascade Loop.
The hotel boasts two restaurants with gorgeous views and a full-service spa, as well as a fabulous outdoor pool, two tennis courts and an activities center offering seasonal activities like mountain biking, fly fishing and horse riding.
This hotel is ideally located about 20 minutes from Winthrop, providing guests with tons of access to nature and a good amount of privacy. It's also right by Highway 20 which takes you back onto the Cascade Loop.
Bavarian luxury in Leavenworth
For something a little different when it comes to an overnight stop, we recommend Leavenworth, an adorable, Bavarian-inspired town that is a highlight of the Cascade Loop.
Leavenworth is an adorable Alpine-style village that offers a “taste of Bavaria”, including wonderful dining experiences, several spas and unique shops. It's especially gorgeous in the winter, decked out in Christmas lights.
The town has tons on offer when it comes to attractions, including the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, the Leavenworth Town Center and the Enchantments, a pristine alpine wonderland that's only accessible via a pretty challenging hike.
You'll have lots of accommodation options in Leavenworth, though our recommendation is the stunning Bavarian Lodge. Boasting a year-round outdoor pool, complimentary hot breakfast, and Bavarian-inspired décor with village and mountain views, the Bavarian Lodge is one of the most highly rated lodges in Leavenworth.
The hotel is also in fabulous location, close to the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, Front Street Park and the picturesque town center. Best of all, it's close to the highway which takes you back onto the Cascade Loop in the morning.
Things to see on a road trip on the Cascade Loop
There are dozens and dozens of attractions along the Cascade Loop—here's a selection of some of our must-visits for your trip.
The entire length of Cascade Loop
- Everett - A popular starting point for the Cascade Loop, Everett has tons to offer including an Arboretum, a unique children's museum, and the Shack Art Centre.
- Lake Washington - Just outside of Everett, you'll find gorgeous Lake Washington, perfect for exploring via canoe or simply to enjoy from its stunning shores.
- Snohomish - If you're into antiquing, Snohomish is for you, boasting a renowned collection of antique shops and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Alpine Lakes Wilderness - The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, just outside of Leavenworth, offers several lakes as well as countless trails and walking paths perfect for an exploratory adventure.
- Leavenworth - Historic and cozy, Leavenworth is Washington State's premiere Alpine ski village, inspired by the Bavarian Villages of Europe and offering tons when it comes to spas, restaurants, and other attractions.
- Wenatchee - Referred to as the “Apple Capital of the World” due to its many orchards, the Wenatchee Valley is charming and perfect for a pit-stop or day's visit.
- Chelan - Lake Chelan and the nearby town of Chelan are both highlights along the Cascade Loop, boasting many apple orchards and a small but peaceful lake.
- Winthrop - The nearest town to the Methow Valley, Winthrop is known for its western flair and small-town vibe; it also boasts the continent's largest network of cross-country ski trails.
- Methow Valley - Methow Valley is a four-season recreational wonderland, offering tons of mountains, rivers and lakes that will keep you eager to explore this wonderful area.
- North Cascades National Park - Boasting a beautiful alpine landscape, North Cascades National Park is a highlight of the Cascade Loop, known for its stunning scenery and many hiking trails.
- Anacortes - Access the San Juan Islands via Anacortes, a popular and sunny destination for boaters and water-sport fanatics.
- Coupeville - There are tons to see in the small but mighty town of Coupeville, though you'll want to start by sampling its famous Penn Cove Mussels, which are exported to fine dining restaurants around the world.
Things to see driving from Seattle
- Boeing Future of Flight - Discover this wonderful museum, which is located just outside of Seattle and offers a look into the history and future of aviation.
- Marina Beach Park - Take in the beauty of Puget Sound from the vantage point at Marina Beach Park, which offers a serene beach as well as grounds for picnicking.
Best time to drive on the Cascade Loop
The Cascade Loop is only accessible in its entirety between the months of June and October, so while you can certainly explore and enjoy many of the attractions on this loop year-round, the only way to get the full experience is to travel during these months.
To see what kind of weather might await you on your trip, make sure to visit the dedicated website for more information.
Summer is the most popular season for exploring the Cascade Loop due to the wonderful weather this area gets during the hotter months. You'll find that tourism typically peaks during this time, but don't let that deter you; the loop is large and spread-out enough that you shouldn't feel an overwhelming tourist presence.
Summer temperatures in Washington will range between the upper 80s and mid 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Winter in Washington State can be quite snowy and wet and will typically last into the late months of spring. As parts of the loop are closed during this season, we recommend against travelling during this time and instead choosing a time during the summer or early fall to take this trip.
That being said, some of the attractions (like Leavenworth, the Bavarian village) would be absolutely stunning during this time. Winter temperatures can easily dip into the 20s and 30 degrees in Washington state.
Closures affect access to the loop throughout all of spring, though by the end of the season you'll find most of the route re-opened and ripe for exploration. Fall, on the other hand, is a truly perfect time to take the Cascade Loop, as tourism is typically lower than in the summer and the fall foliage is stunning. Many of the apple orchards along the trail will also be ready for harvest, so you can enjoy harvest activities.
There are several events happening in the small towns and cities along this route—highlights include the Lake Chelan Winterfest in January, the Village of Lights: Winter Karneval in January, the Manson Apple Blossom Festival in May, and the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival in June.