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john1981uk 07-15-13 05:19 PM

Question - North Cascades Highway (20)
Hello everyone,

I have a couple of questions to ask if someone could be kind enough to answer. I have searched but haven't found any answers. Myself and two friends are going to ride the Northern Tier next year (Seattle to New York), starting June 2nd.

So, I was wondering what the weather is like then? Are the roads closed to bikes during June? I have read in a post they re-opened on the 16th of June this year?

What is the highway like for riding? I have seen some shoulders to cycle along, but are these the usual cycle routes used alongside cars and trucks?

And what are the usual resting places along the Highway, everything seems a million miles away from each other on Google maps!

Thank you for any response! :)


busygizmo 07-16-13 09:15 AM

This year the road opened April 16. A couple of years ago there was a lot of snow and slides and it opened May 25.

This site has info and opeing dates

Weather around here in June can be variable, they call it the June swoon. Usually summer doesn't set in until the second week of July. This year has been great so far, last year it was cool and cloudy late into July. The approach and west side of the passes is one of the wetter areas in the state so I would plan for rain until you cross the second pass. The first pass is called Rainy Pass.

I've never ridden the west side. We drive over to the east side every year and do the ride from Winthrop up to the passes and back. It is one of the more spectacular rides I've done. That said a lot of people do and the road mostly has good shoulders but it is a narrow mountain road in places with lots of curves. Not sure where you will start but there is a lot of traffic anywhere near I-90 and will be for a while until you get closer to the park. If you can swing it I would strongly recommend riding the passes themselves on a weekday since there is less traffic, weekends get tons of RV's, motorcycles in packs and such. Also there are a couple of narrow dark tunnels just out of Newhalem and that stretch is really curvy for a few miles.

As far as rests there are small towns along the way although there is a long gap between lodging other than camping in places. I see a fair number of riders with packs everytime we are over there, not sure how far they typically go per day and where they stay.

Good luck. I hope you get good weather, this is a great ride and the views are pretty cool.

zig.zag 07-16-13 09:15 AM

I'm not familiar with hwy 20 west of the Cascades, but between Omak (near the center of the state) and Newport (on the Idaho border) the road surfaces are good for riding with at least a couple feet of shoulder. June weather is hit and miss. It can be rainy, but it can also be beautiful. There are good sized communities with hotels and campgrounds within about 30 miles of each other along with quickie mart gas stations in between. Good stopping places on the east side of the state are Omak, Republic (or nearby Curlew Lake State Park), Colville and Newport.

j-law 07-16-13 09:34 PM

Seems like a long distance between towns with services. I would bring lots of water or a water filter to filter creek water.

There is plenty of camping along the Highway.

adventurepdx 07-17-13 12:42 AM

I did North Cascades/SR 20 from Anacortes to Colville two years ago. Overall, a great ride. There are some longish stretches without services (most notably the section through the Cascades/North Cascades National Park from Newhalem to Mazama) but nothing too unreasonable as long as you are prepared. There was a pretty decent shoulder for the climb from the west side up to Rainy/Washington Pass. Other places not much of a shoulder but there isn't a heck of a lot of traffic on the road once you get east of the Cascades. One thing to note: You'll be getting a pass a day for four days (well, technically five, but Rainy and Washington are so close to each other), and unless you are a pretty strong rider/touring very light, I wouldn't recommend pushing past 60 miles a day (one pass) on that section. And if you haven't already gotten it, Adventure Cycling's Northern Tier map for this section of route will point out where all the camping and services would be.

john1981uk 07-17-13 01:57 PM

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the replies, I will most certainly put all this information in to the planning!

Thank you very much!

Seattle Forrest 07-17-13 03:40 PM

This thread needs pictures.

The North Cascades Highway is spectacular. Weather is hit and miss in June, but you have a good chance of warm sunshine. And there should still be a lot of snow on the peaks, possibly on the side of the road, too.

It's a highway, not a freeway. Also, it's a fast but not especially well traveled road.

You should be self-sufficient. Bring a water purifier. You can drink untreated creek water in the alpine, but not at the side of the road.

This was Washington Pass on May 5 of this year.

This was early July of last year.

The road typically has good shoulders, here are some from early spring of last year.

This is "the other side," Winthrop, although you'll have more passes to do after this.


Originally Posted by busygizmo (Post 15856404)
The approach and west side of the passes is one of the wetter areas in the state so I would plan for rain until you cross the second pass. The first pass is called Rainy Pass.

FYI, from a climate and plant life perspective, the Pickett Range is the division between east and west. So near Marblemount or Newhalem.

Jasper Storm 07-18-13 06:30 AM

I use the stretch from Colonial Creek campground to the store in Mazama as a 100mi/9200' training ride several times each year.

Cars are accustomed to seeing cyclists, and are pretty respectful. The only grief I ever got was a couple years back when a couple of mullet-heads in an old pickup honked and flipped me off, for no reason. I feel very safe on this road (of course, I've never experienced riding through the tunnel at Newhalem on a fully loaded bike.)

john1981uk 07-19-13 05:20 AM

Thanks very much for the replies!

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