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You gotta take this scenic Cascade Loop weekend road trip!

Only have a few days to make the most out of a great weather window? The Cascade Loop is filled with scenic stops all along the way!

By: PNW Happy Hikers + Save to a List

Spring officially passed the baton to Summer back on June 21st, and for me, that signaled the beginning of road trip season!

This year feels a little different, with lingering community health concerns and skyrocketing gas prices. I'm finding creative ways to add value to the road trips I have planned.

The weather looked great on that first official weekend of Summer, so I threw together my first road trip of the season to Winthrop, WA, for some camping and kayaking. Kampgrounds of America has listings across the state, making it so easy to pull over for a night on our way to our final destination at Patterson Lake!

In previous years, I may have just powered through the 3+ hour drive to the campground to get there as quickly as possible. This time around, I wanted the drive to be as memorable as the destination, so I planned for a longer drive time. It was the perfect way to observe the changing seasons and conditions as I traveled through the passes while enjoying my time on the road.

A through-the-trees view of an alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains and whispy clouds.
Diablo Lake. Photo by Erica Abel.

First stop: Diablo Lake Vista Point

Diablo Lake Vista Point is a pull-off with a large parking area and restroom along Highway 20. The view of Diablo Lake and the surrounding peaks is iconic, and I always try to stop here to and from hikes or other adventures in the area.

The highway is very scenic from this point on - and once it opens in the spring, I really enjoy watching the snow levels recede up to the peaks, and the bushy green leaves fill out the previously bare branches of the big leafy maple trees that line the highway. 

When summer hits, the flowers bloom, and the waterfalls still flow. With fall comes the bright red and orange leaves that light up the hillsides in the most dramatic and spectacular way. In winter, this section of highway is closed. It's always worth the drive when the road is open!

Tall, skinny mountain peaks covered in snow.
Liberty Bell Mountain. Photo by Erica Abel.

Next stop: Washington Pass Overlook

This popular pull-off along Highway 20 has a large parking area and is a short walk to the viewpoint where you can look down into the valley or up at the majestic Liberty Bell Mountain. The elevation is much higher here, so although it is plowed, there can still be significant snow on the ground during the summer.

Once I made it to my campsite in Winthrop - I set up camp and enjoyed a lovely sunset before turning in for the night.

A bakery case full of cupcakes, bars, muffins, and pies. Each item is labeled with ingredients.
Cinnamon Twisp Bakery. Photo by Erica Abel.

On Saturday, I was up with the birds to watch the sunrise and prepare for my kayaking adventure. I stopped by Cinnamon Twisp Bakery in Twisp, WA, for a scone on my way to the lake. (The bakery may or may not have been on the direct route to the lake - But it was worth the stop).

Next stop: Patterson Lake

The Department of Fish & Wildlife manages the lake and surrounding region, so you must have a WA State Discover Pass to park in the lot. There is a gravel boat launch here, and people use the area for kayaking, SUPing, and floating in rafts or tubes.

The lake is also a popular destination for fishing! You could expect to catch kokanee salmon and yellow perch here. Largemouth and smallmouth bass inhabit the lake and are best caught in the early morning or late evening. The lake has become a popular spot to ice fish. 

I didn't fish. I was there to kayak and soak up the sun while taking in the beautiful views. Plus, there's lots of wildlife around the lake! I saw turtles, eagles, lots of geese with fluffy little goslings trailing behind, and deer. Leavenworth / Pine Village KOA Holiday makes it easy to stay a few nights and do all the water activities year-round!

When it was time to head home on Sunday - I chose a route that brought me through a different pass so I could add one last stop along the way.

A river surrounded by pine trees with mountains in the background. The sky is baby blue with puffy clouds.
Image courtesy of KOA.

Next stop: Leavenworth, WA

Leavenworth was the perfect midpoint on the drive home to stretch my legs and find a bite to eat. I settled on Colchuck's for lunch before heading down to the Waterfront Park! There was a notice that a bear had been in the area recently, but I was not lucky enough to catch a glimpse. 

The sunshine was nice, and walking the trail was the perfect break I needed before the last leg of my drive home. If I wanted to spend another night, I could have stopped at a Leavenworth KOA to enjoy RV, cabin, or tent sites along the Wenatchee River.

It was the perfect weekend in the PNW for a road trip, and I could really get used to the frequent stops along the way.

Check out more KOAs for camping, cabins, and RV sites in Washington!

Feature image is by the author.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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