North Cascades National Park by Motorcycle

This entry is part 11 of 18 in the series American National Parks

North Cascades National Park by Motorcycle

This post is part of a series where we visit many of our beautiful national parks.

captain dan travel tipsLike so many of our national parks, North Cascades is a natural wonder. This is a great place for hikers and campers. There is very little road access in the park as the terrain is so vertical and rugged. With many peaks near 10,000 ft and deep valleys this is a very dramatic place to visit.

We were on a motorcycle trip from our home in Minnesota when we visited North Cascades. Our route on this trip was the northern tier of states with stops in several national parks. We eventually made it to the Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean before heading south along the Pacific Coast and then back home.

Due to work commitments we had to park the bikes in Spokane for a few days while still westbound. That’s the way it is sometimes when you travel by motorcycle. It is a wonderful was to see the country. You are outside in the sights and well, sometimes you get to smell the smells if you know what I mean. Sometimes mother nature is not so nice either.

SR - 20 on the east side of the pass

SR – 20 on the east side of the pass

Taking a motorcycle on a long cross country trip requires patience sometimes. Plan B and C often come into play for any number of reasons. This was our second attempt to visit North Cascades. The first time we rode out that way there were some nasty forest fires and the SR20 was closed. That pretty much shut down our plan for visiting.

On SR20 riding towards the pass from Winthrop. Great road and not that much traffic

On SR20 riding to the pass from Winthrop. Great road, beautiful weather and awesome scenery.


We overnighted in Winthrop, WA and rode west on SR20 into the park. Beautiful peaks and valleys and an amazingly clear day to ride greeted us. I had flown over this area so many times I was really looking forward to visiting from the ground level.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.05.51 PM

Cool start to the day, but it warmed up nicely.

The first place that we actually stopped and parked the bikes was at the Washington Pass Overlook. There was a large parking lot with restrooms. They also had some great places to look at the road below and the amazing peaks above. We had a great view of Liberty peak and the Early Winter peaks.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.06.20 PM

Just below the Washington pass overlook on the east side.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.31.14 PM

In the parking lot at Washington Pass Overlook.

There were many hiking trails that started here. Some went to far off peaks and others to decks for viewing the scenery.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.31.28 PM

Path to the overlook

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.31.54 PM

More of the trails on the overlook.

It was really a long way down to the road we just came up. Great views from the overlook.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.38.59 PM

SR20 from Washington Pass Overlook

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.40.07 PM

Early Winter Spires by Washington pass. The pass itself is a comfortable 5400 ft elevation.

From the pass SR20 follows a series of creeks to the northwest towards Ross Lake. There are several trails along SR20 which take hikers deep into the park. Keep in mind that SR20 and the view from it is just a small portion of the whole park.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.55.40 PM

Visitors only see a small part of the park from SR20. Photo Credit.

We met several other bikers at Ross Overlook. One group came all the way from Alabama.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 3.08.58 PM

Checking the sign at Ross Overlook.

The area around Ross Lake has lodging facilities and other services. Other than that you need to bring everything you need with you.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 3.11.03 PM

Part of Ross Lake

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 3.11.19 PM

Beautiful waters of Ross Lake.

From the overlook at Ross Lake SR20 follows the Skagit River until exiting the park. The Skagit valley is spectacular and a worthy destination on it’s own.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 3.10.39 PM

Small bridge and side road leading to the Ross Lake Lodge.

The one regret we always have is that while it is fun to see these national parks by motorcycle, it is not very practical for long visits. We have had a bad experience in Yellowstone where one of the bikes was tampered with while parked. The resulting damage was extensive and costly. It is hard to secure your valuables on a motorcycle and going for a long hike is asking for trouble.

Captain Dan’s tips:

Always check on the condition of CR20. It is closed in the winter and like we found out it was closed during a big fire. It is the only road through the park and it is long way around.

There are limited services along most of the highway so bring what you may need if you are not staying at a lodge in the park.

This is a beautiful area of the country that deserves a few days to explore. Winthrop is an old west town with boardwalks and is worth a visit.

The Skagit Valley is a great place to visit too. Check the calendar for events like the tulip festival. Like Kuekenhof Gardens only they speak english.


For more information on North Cascades National Park check out the website HERE. 

Looking for lodging and services in the park, click HERE.

For lodging and services in the Skagit Valley west of the park click HERE.

For lodging and services on the east side of the park click HERE.

To visit more of our national park posts click HERE.

Series Navigation<< Yellowstone Grand Canyon Lower FallsMt Rainier National Park by Motorcycle >>

Add Comment