With most of the Seattle hikes already snowed in, I drove along the North Cascades Highway, also known as State Route 20, which traversed through northern Washington along the Skagit River. We saw incredible sceneries along the way as the road navigated past vibrantly blue glacier lakes and split through snow-covered mountains. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve done and felt like the epitome of the PNW landscape.
We left Seattle early in the morning and it took about 2 hours to merge onto the North Cascades Highway at the town of Rockport. The road then snaked along the Skagit River with bridge crossings over several lakes and dams.
Our first stop was Newhalem, a small neighborhood with an info center and general store, to see the suspension bridge to the Trail of the Cedars. The bridge spanned a segment of the Skagit River with extremely strong water flow and it was beautiful seeing the river against the golden rays of the sun hitting the mountainside.
The road continued past Gorge Lake and Diablo Lake until we reached a bridge right before Colonial Creek Campground. We pulled over and scurried through loose pebbles to the lake. The water reflected the blue sky with green trees flanking either side and snow-capped mountains in the distance. The stillness and quietness made me feel calm and content with such a beautiful scenery in front of me.
Just a short drive across the bridge led us to Diablo Lake Vista Point with breathtaking views of the glacier lake. The water was a rich blue-green hue with a few islands isolated in the middle and surrounded by trees extending from the shoreline into the hills. To our left was a mountain ridge mostly covered in snow towering over the lake. This was one of the best views with layers of glacier lake, dense forests and snowy peaks.
The next stop was Washington Pass Observation Site just 30 minutes from Diablo Lake. The road diverged from the river and cut through steep mountain passes as snow began to line the roadside and trees. While it didn’t snow, the temperature did drop to 19 degrees. Our plan was to drive up to the lookout point but the road was closed and snowed in, so we ventured on a half-mile impromptu hike in well-trotted snowy paths. We passed by a couple of other people and even some cross-country skiers!
The lookout point was perched on a cliff and had sweeping views of the snowy mountains, the jagged ridges and the road zigzagging through the pass. It felt like we were frozen in time (ha, no pun intended) with no one around us and everything so still. I really liked the layer of snow covering the mountains, especially the snowy tips on the pine trees, because it’s not common to easily access such a dramatic view like this.
I thought the entire drive along the North Cascades Highway was beautiful, but Diablo Lake and Washington Pass were my two favorites. They each had very different views despite being so close to each other, and both were epic in their own ways. It’s still crazy to me that the Cascades are just a few hours away from Seattle.