Washington maintains a large system of some of the most beautiful roadways in America, winding through a nearly inconceivable variety of terrain. The following is a small sampling of the Scenic Byways that the visitor with a bit of time would be well advised to slow down and investigate on their trip through the breathtaking scenery of the State of Washington.
The 58-mile SR 542 Mt. Baker Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the country. While you’re climbing an active volcano you’ll enjoy spectacular scenery ranging from dense rain forests to the rugged peaks of the North Cascades.
Chinook Pass SR 410 is dominated by majestic Mt. Rainier at every turn of its 87-mile length. Chinook Pass marks a dramatic change in the landscape, dividing the dense cedar and fir forests on the west side of Cascades from the massive basalt cliffs of the Columbia Plateau.
For 61 miles The Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway SR 112 traverses the rugged coastline of the northwest corner of Washington State. Lined by jagged cliffs and the magnificent cedar forests of Olympic National Park, the highway offers the traveler peek-a-boo views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Canada’s Vancouver Island.
Stretching along the Columbia River this 100-mile byway SR 14 travels back through time to seventeen million years ago with a series of massive basalt flows that covered much of the northwest. Etched by water, weather and time, the dramatic rock cliffs are attributed to these ancient flows. In 1805-06 the Gorge became the gateway and near undoing of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s search for the Pacific Ocean.
18 mile Canyon Road SR 821 is an efficient alternate to Interstate 82 between Yakima and Ellensburg and one of the most scenic roads you will ever drive, regardless of the time of year. The hills rise steeply and reflect on the serene surface of the river. The trees are sparse and the basalt creates unlikely shapes against the uninterrupted blue of the desert sky. There’s great fishing, rafting and hiking, with flowers and wildlife all around.
Whidbey Island SR 525 and SR 20 pass for 48 miles through the prettiest seaside towns looking across the water to mountains ignited by the afternoon sun. Charming shops, deluxe accommodations, century-old farms, lighthouses, big trees, tender mussels and military history are discovered here just an hour from downtown Seattle.
The Spirit Lake Memorial Highway SR 504 runs for 52 otherworldly miles through the beautiful but apocalyptic scenery dominated by a hollowed-out Mount St. Helens. Four visitor centers with panoramic views along the route help paint a detailed picture of the scale and fury of the debris-avalanche that roared down the Toutle River Valley on May 18, 1980 and the subsequent return of life to the blast zone.
Get out of your car to eat fresh oysters, peer into tide pools on a secluded beach or hike to a mountain summit all right off the tree-lined road twisting past coastal island and mountain views on 21 mile Chuckanut Drive SR 11.
From winding coastline and rainforests to long stretches of beaches and mountain peaks, you’ll find almost everything along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Stretching nearly the North-South length of Washington State along US 101, this 350 mile byway includes a drive through one of the country’s most geographically diverse and spectacular National Parks and a seaside journey through Washington’s nautical historic past.
White Pass Scenic Byway SR 12 is the gateway to much of the South Cascades recreational area. The 119-mile route threads its way through the forests of Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Adams, Goat Rocks Wilderness and Mt. Rainier National Park before reaching the crest of the Cascades and descending into the vivid basalt landscape east of the mountains. These recreational areas along with Oakcreek Wildlife Refuge, Cowlitz River, Skate Creek, Rimrock Lake and the Tieton River offer visitors unlimited choices to camp, fish, hunt, hike, ski and observe the wildlife of the byway.
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Selkirk Loop National Scenic Byway WASHINGTON
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