Road tripping the North Cascades is enjoyable and easy, with plenty of bathrooms and roadside views along the way! On our way to Central Washington State, my mom and I were able to take our time and enjoy every minute in the mountains. That’s why I highly recommend this as a family road trip. Here’s a chronological overview of our drive.
Take your time
In fact, our road trip itinerary was so forgiving that we never got behind on schedule–and I slept in late every day.
Sleeping in I recommend on the day you leave, actually. The route to the North Cascades Highway, SR 20, could be packed with traffic.
After leaving my house in Kent by about 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, we headed north. Our battling the traffic on I-405 N was rewarded by the peaceful winding roads through the North Cascades. Room to breathe!
Remember to let cars pass you if more than four line up behind you. Taking your time is the point of a scenic road trip, after all!
The views were already lovely, if not stupendous. One of the first places we stopped is apparently called “Rockport,” according to my phone GPS. Just south of Newhalem, it was just a stop by a mountain river that had an outhouse.
Our next stop was somewhere between there and Newhalem, at the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center. Here you will find an entire exhibit about the wildlife and climate in the area, plus a gift shop, and of course a very nice bathroom. In the exhibit, I found a giant stuffed slug, which I decided was way more adorable than real slugs.
Blue water. The number one reason to explore the North Cascades is for the amazing views. And the number one view is any of the glacial lakes.
Look up Washington State on Pinterest now, and I’ll bet you that at least one photo of a deep aqua-blue lake will be included in the results. In fact, Diablo Lake itself may pop up, famously pristine and fed by melting glaciers.
Be sure to stop at Ross Lake National Recreation Area. And don’t forget your camera. Even young children will gape at the colors!
Ross Lake National Recreation Area is the perfect example of a convenient road trip stopping point. The overlook a view of a beautiful lake and a bathroom, what more could you ask for?
Seclusion, perhaps. Yes, the viewpoints are overrun with travelers, but who’s to complain when convenience is what you need?
Speaking of seclusion, let’s talk about Rainy Lake. This was my favorite stop on our trip. Why? Less people, that’s why. There were quite a few people heading in the opposite direction when we first started our hike to the lake, but if you start late enough in the day, you’ll mostly be left alone.
The trail to Rainy Lake is so short and so paved that it’s just a walk, really. The area, however, is so beautiful! I love the deep colors of the water and hills topped with snowy peaks in the distance, combined with the rush of the waterfall across the lake.
Oh, and there’s a bathroom here, as well.
Fun final destination
Our final rest stop had a clear view of Liberty Bell Mountain, a distinctive peak with a unique shape. Further up the freeway, we stopped at Washington Pass Overlook for a close-up view of the mountain and a clear view of the valley below. An adorable newlywed couple from Texas took this photo for us.
We finally arrived in Winthrop by 7 PM, just in time for dinner. Winthrop, by the way, is definitely entertaining for adults and great for kids–it’s a real old west town!
What’s your favorite Washington State family road trip? Does the North Cascades Highway get your vote? How about the lower Grand Coulee area? Let me know in the comments below!