Saturday, September 18, 2010

Highway 20, Mazama, Washington


Backroad Destination-Highway 20, Mazama, Washington

There are few great mountain highways in the United States.  The ones that stand out for me is the Going to the Sun Highway, Beartooth Highway, Tioga Pass Road, and Highway 20 which cuts through the North Cascades Region of Washington State.

We previously covered the lower portions of the highway here: Highway 20, Twisp, Washington.  Other near by areas were also covered:  30-Mile Memorial and Chewuch River.

The North Cascades Highway from Mazama west is a great drive and offers many short wonderful hikes.

Near the top of the pass  is Rainy Lakes trail.  This is a paved handicapped accessible trail that goes to a pretty high mountain lake.   There are benches for resting and paved trail does meet grade requirements for wheelchairs.   The trailhead requires a parking pass or a five dollar fee.  However, your Access or Senior pass left on the dash also works. 


Rainy Lake is a typical high mountain lake.  It shows why people get addicted to wandering the mountains of the west.   The waterfall at the end of the lake and crystal clear water, while in the spring the snow hangs in the cirque basin.  There is also a  longer trail to Lake Ann from the same trailhead that goes through some very pretty larch trees that turn golden in the fall.

There is ample parking and a loop making it easy for trailers to park and use the facility.


Don't miss this short walk!

Little farther down is the Washington Pass Overlook.  That is the location that the top picture of this blog was taken.  Sorry, the light was not perfect, but it does show why this is also a must stop location.

Now politicians like to take credit for all their "good" deeds.  So here are all the plaques with names and dates showing the politicians involved in building the North Cascades Highway.

The Forest Service tried to do its best to hide the markers.  Four markers in a small space.  Hopefully, in the future the native vegetation will completely cover the markers.

Washington Pass Overlook is also the site of an award winning design for a rest area.  Those people that are responsible for maintaining white elephant buildings would like to have the award recinded and the architects license revoked.

This "state of the art" building housed two toilet systems that did not work.  The building had solar panels on the roof with the "batteries and inverter" for the solar system stored in the basement.  The snowfall here is measured in feet and all that snow fell off the roof in front of the basement door!!  Leaving the door incased in ice while the remainder of the site was free of snow!  And as a taxpayer, you don't want to know what those supports cost you to repair.  But a few of the guilty names can be found on those markers the Forest Service tried to hide!

Down below Washington Pass is the Cutthroat Lake trail.  This is a fairly short, typical Forest Service trail to Cutthroat Lake.  This lake is not as pretty as Rainy Lake, but it is a nice hike easy hike.  Fido will enjoy the hike.  On most Forest Service trails dogs are allowed off-leash, but must be under voice control while hiking the trail.  Horse users do use this trail, so know how your dog will react when you encounter horse riders on the trail.  Rodeo's on the trail system are no fun for all concerned.


The short road to the trailhead is single lane with inter-visible turnouts.  There is a loop turnaround at the trailhead.  You must have a parking pass just like the Rainy Lake trailhead.  Those passes are good for the day so you can do several hikes in one day.  Hint: if you do not have an Access or Senior pass you can keep extra passes in your glove box and date them as you use them.

Now Mazama is the last stop for gas prior to going over the pass.  However, there are other reasons to stop in Mazama.  The country store has ice cream, wine with Lost River being the local winery with good reds, and all the other important stuff like lunch.  They are sort-of-kinda like a country store from the 19th and 21st century.  Thankfully, they must have missed the 20th century.  Here is their web site:  The Mazama Country Store.

Camping.  There are Forest Service campground at Lone Fir, Kilpchuck, and Early Winters.  Like all Forest Service campgrounds spurs are fairly short, but you should be able to find something that will "fit".  There are dispersed campsites on the road to Hart's Pass.  We will cover them in our next posting. 

Early Winters is a very small campground next to Highway 20, but it is on the Methow Valley Summer Trails so you can bicycle back to the Mazama Country Store for the second helping of ice cream.  For more information on activities in the Methow Valley, try this link: Summer Trails Magazine

Highway 20 is closed by snow in the fall and opens usually in late April or early May.  So plan your trip with that in mind.

2 comments:

Dugg said...

When I saw that second pic---before I noticed the bench---I thought, boy, that Highway 20 sure is narrow!

Vladimir Steblina said...

For a mountain highway it is pretty wide with good shoulders and passing areas.

It was built in the early 1970's as a scenic highway so tends to have more "park like" elements to it.

Nice road well worth driving over.