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Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea! The Cascade Loop Starts Here.

​There are few places where a thrill-seeking traveler can journey in one day, from foggy islands up through lush farmland and river valleys, before ascending snowy peaks.

Some people think Washington State is only rain and conifers. They’re partly right. Actually, the Evergreen state is a buffet of microclimates, microcultures, and more: home to waterfalls, taco trucks, mill town taverns, forest road turnoffs, and roadside chapels.

The Cascade Loop, a National Scenic Byway, bundles these experiences into an unforgettable road trip, a linear Choose-Your-Own-Adventure!

For the shutterbug, the Loop is a 440-mile series of photo-ops. For the gourmand, it’s a variety of terroirs and farm foods to please the palate. Nature lovers will likely spot eagles, deer, or wild antelope. Coffee fanatics won’t be disappointed.

The Cascade Loop is a self-contained road trip that starts and ends in Seattle NorthCountry. When you go (and you must go), here’s what you can’t miss in our neck of the woods and waterways.

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Washington State Ferries are iconic. Locals ride them for fun for a glimpse of floating islands in the Salish Sea. Stop at Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing walk-up counter for crispy cod and a bread bowl of steaming chowder.


If you have time in your itinerary for a detour, Everett is worth a side jaunt.  This old mill city is filled with world-class tattoo parlors, murals, organic eats… and, honestly, some weird things you’ll just have to discover for yourself. The Funko flagship store draws pop-culture fans by the droves downtown.

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Pull off Highway 2 into old Monroe to search out one of the taco trucks that line Main Street — your stomach will thank you.

Get a coffee refuel and a selfie with a larger-than-life Bigfoot statute at Espresso Chalet, just off the road outside of historic Index. If you’re traveling at night, pull off and kill the engine for stargazing.

The lack of light pollution in the upper Skykomish River Valley will reveal constellations you’ve likely never seen before.

And so, at Stevens Pass, you reach the terminus of our segment of the Cascade Loop. But the National Scenic Byway rolls on, bringing you out to orchards and deserts, and back through the North Cascades National Park to the islands of the Salish Sea once more.

Keep your eyes peeled. Hydrate. Pack extra snacks. Take detours. Get extra fries. And have fun out there — all of this is available in one fantastic trajectory. 

Illustrations for this article are by Jeremie Lamart. Follow his outdoor adventures and visual artworks @injuringeternity.

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