Enjoy one of the most stunningly scenic roads in the lower 48. If you get too hot, there are great waterfalls along the road for cooling off on the ride up. Still got energy? There's an option for another 8 miles and 1,500' of climbing to continue to Rainy Pass.

The North Cascades Highway is one of the most beautiful roads in the country. A popular, but long bike ride is to ride from Marblemount on the West side of the Cascades to Mazama on the east side. But for those who aren't up for an epic ride, there is an out and back option from Mazama on east side in the Methow Valley at 2,000' to Washington Pass at the crest of the North Cascades Highway at almost 5,500' in 19 miles each way.

Start your ride off right with coffee and breakfast at the Mazama Store right in the heart of Mazama (park at the corral a couple of hundred feet from the store). Take the 1/2 mile road from Mazama towards Washington State Highway 20, aka the North Cascades Highway. Turn right, and start pedaling. You'll get an easy 2 miles before the climbing begins. Then settle in for a constant, if not steep climb.

Definitely plan some time to stop and take some photos, because your jaw will drop when you get up a little higher. The views really get good once you get past the turnoff for Cutthroat Lake. Gawk at jagged Silver Star Peak at almost 9,000' (5,000' above the highway), and the classic Liberty Bell and Early Winters Spires at Washington Pass.

It's a long climb but once you get to Washington Pass, your work is done. Take a few minutes to check out the short side trip to the Washington Pass overlook. After that, it's literally, all downhill back to Mazama. The descent can get chilly after all that uphill so bring a windbreaker.

Still feeling strong at Washington Pass and want more? Continue another 4 miles west towards Rainy Pass. Drop 1,000' towards Bridge Creek then a short 400' climb to Rainy Pass at 4,800'. Turn around and climb back up to Washington Pass. The Rainy Pass option will add 8 miles and approximately 1,500' of climbing.

Bonus early season are numerous roadside waterfalls. The ride up from Mazama to Washington Pass is exposed to the strong summer sun. Bring lots of water to stay hydrated.

The North Cascades Highway is closed in Winter and usually opens up in early May and closes around Thanksgiving. Snow can linger late into summer at higher elevations. Winds can sometimes blow east to west or west to east, depending on the difference in the weather on sides of the Cascades. An early start will reduce winds as they often pick up as the day wears on.

Pack List

  • Lots of water or a water treatment system
  • Plenty of food to fuel your ride up
  • Full finger gloves
  • Jacket (often the weather is totally different from the Valley to the Pass)
  • Spare tubes
  • Pump (a flat can happen anytime)
  • Small camera or smartphone for photos
Show More
RT Distance 38 Miles
Elevation Gain 3500 Feet
Activities Cycling, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating:  Rate this Adventure

Have you done this adventure? Leave a review!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Hike to the Tawlks Foster Suspension Bridge

47 Saves

Mult-Pitch Climbing in the Methow Valley

38 Saves

Hike to the Goat Peak Lookout

216 Saves