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Washington State Route 20: Map


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North Cascades Highway
State Route 20, also known alternately as the North-Cross Highway, SR 20 or the North Cascades Highway, is a State Highway (Route) in the State of Washingtonmarker. It travels from an intersection with U.S. Route 101 at Discovery Bay near Port Townsendmarker to Newportmarker at a junction with U.S. Route 2 about 400 feet (122 m) from the Idahomarker state line. Although U.S. Route 12 has a larger east–west extent, SR 20 is the longest highway in Washington at , only 5.3 miles (8.6 km) longer than US 12. The highway has been called "The Most Beautiful Mountain Highway in the State of Washington."


What is known today as the North Cascades Highway was originally the corridor used by local Native American tribes as a trading route from Washingtonmarker's Eastern Plateau country to the Pacific Coast for more than 8,000 years. After the California Gold Rush of 1849, white settlers started to arrive in the North Cascades looking for gold as well as fur-bearing animals. This far north, the settlers needed a clear route through some of the most rugged terrain in Washington Territory.
Rugged, remote peaks of the North Cascades, just east of Washington Pass
It wasn't until 1895, however, that the first state funding to explore a possible route through the Cascade Range was appropriated.

After one year of surveying possible routes in the Upper Skagit River region, the State Road Commission concluded in 1896 that the Skagitmarker gorge was not a practical route. Instead, the commission settled upon the Cascade Passmarker route, several miles south of the Skagitmarker gorge. The Cascade Passmarker route begin to be roughed out in 1897 and shortly afterward, state highway maps showed the road as either State Highway 1 or the Cascade Wagon Road. In the following years, floods on the Cascade River took out most of the work completed on the road and led Washingtonmarker's first State Highway Commissioner to report in 1905 that almost all the money appropriated to that time for the road had been wasted. After these unsuccessful attempts to build a northern cross-mountain highway, the state designated that a highway be built along the Methow River from Paterosmarker to Hart's Pass, high above Eastern Washington's Methow Valley. This road was completed in 1909.

By 1936, both of Seattle City Light projects, Gorge Dammarker and Diablo Dammarker had been completed and were attracting visitors and families to the area. In 1940, the first stage of the completion of Ross Dammarker was reached. Because this influx of population and interest in the area once again demonstrated the need for a northern route over the high Cascades, highway promoters began to try and persuade other boosters to finally abandon the idea of the ill-fated Cascade Passmarker route and instead look to agreeing on a route across Rainymarker and Washington Passmarker. In 1953, the North Cascades Highway Association was formed with politicians, lobbyists, and business owners from both sides of the North Cascades taking part. As these boosters pushed Olympiamarker harder to move forward on the highway plan, more and more requests for huge sales of old-growth timber from along the highway corridor came in. These increasing timber requests were used to support the need for a highway.

Finally, in 1958, the State of Washingtonmarker appropriated funds to build a highway from the Seattle City Light company town of Diablo to Thunder Arm, a southern arm of Diablo Lakemarker. Funds were also allotted to improve access roads on both sides of the North Cascades and construction on this section of the highway began in 1959. Over the next nine years, construction of the road would continue along with the signing of the North Cascades National Parkmarker bill by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. With this bill, the hope of using the highway as access for high-dollar timber sales was quashed. Nonetheless, businessmen and residents on both sides of the North Cascades were hopeful and supportive of the tourist dollars that would be seen with the opening of the "North-Cross Highway".
North Cascades Highway just west of Rainy Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail
Moreoever, the Methow Valley town of Winthrop, Washingtonmarker was in the process of transforming itself from a sleepy cow-town into a tourist town with a western-style theme, complete with false-front buildings and boardwalk sidewalks. Finally, in mid-1972, the more-than-a-century-old idea of connecting western Washingtonmarker with eastern Washingtonmarker by a northern highway route had come to fruition.

Amidst fanfare, music provided by the Concrete High School Bandmarker, and ribbon cutting, Highway 20 was officially connected from western to eastern Washington via Washington Pass on September 2, 1972. Then-governor Daniel J. Evans, a host of state dignitaries, and then-President Richard M. Nixon's brother Donald were in attendance for the opening and vehicle procession over the Cascade Mountains.

Route description

Liberty Bell Mountain from 5477 ft. elevation Washington Pass on North Cascades Highway
SR 20 begins in Discovery Bay, Washingtonmarker at U.S. Route 101 and goes north to Port Townsendmarker. It is connected via a ferry into Island Countymarker. From Island County, the route continues into Skagit Countymarker, crosses the Cascade Mountains by means of Washington Passmarker into Eastern Washington, and terminates in Newport, Washingtonmarker near the Idaho border.

Annual closure

SR 20 is one of only three State Routes in Washington that have portions closed in the winter (the others being State Route 410 and State Route 123). Washington Passmarker annually receives several feet of snow throughout the winter, and is prone to avalanches leaving over of snow on the road.

, the median first open date was April 20. The median final closure date was November 26. During the drought of the winter of 1976–1977, the highway was not closed.

Major intersections

County Location Mile Destinations Notes
Jefferson Countymarker 0.00
Port Townsendmarker 12.57 Port Townsend-Keystone Ferry across Admiralty Inletmarker
16.00 Mukilteo Ferry
Skagitmarker Anacortesmarker 47.45 , San Juan Ferry
54.07 Farm to Market Road, Best Road Former SR 237
54.62 No access from SR 20 west to SR 536 east
Burlingtonmarker 59.10 Vancouver, BC, Seattlemarker Interchange
Sedro-Woolleymarker 64.37 West end of SR 9 overlap
65.64 East end of SR 9 overlap
Rockportmarker 97.21
105.63 Cascade Road – Marblemountmarker Former PSH 17
Okanoganmarker 179.08 Lost River Road – Mazamamarker Former PSH 16
Twispmarker 200.93 Second Avenue Former PSH 17
229.99 Old 97 – Malottmarker, Brewstermarker Former US 97 south; proposed SR 213
Okanoganmarker 232.20 West end of US 97 Bus. overlap
232.70 East end of US 97 Bus. overlap; west end of US 97 overlap
Omakmarker 237.76
Tonasketmarker 261.34 Pentictonmarker East end of US 97 overlap
Ferrymarker Republicmarker 302.03 West end of SR 21 overlap
304.59 , Grand Forksmarker East end of SR 21 overlap
341.43 , Grand Forksmarker West end of US 395 overlap
Stevensmarker 344.18
Colvillemarker 354.33 East end of US 395 overlap
Pend Oreillemarker 389.66
420.70 , Davis Lake, Sacheen Lake
Newportmarker 436.13 Sandpointmarker, Spokanemarker


  • As the driver of then-Washington State governor Daniel J. Evans' limousine on the official opening day of the highway, serial killer Ted Bundy is officially the first man to traverse the North Cascades Highway over Washington Passmarker, down through the Methow Valley and into the town of Winthropmarker.

See also


  1. Gulick, Bill. A Traveler's History of Washington. Caxton Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8700-4371-4. p. 333
  2. WSDOT History of North Cascades Highway[1]
  3. Washington State Department of Transportation, State Highway Log, 2006
  4. Ted Bundy and the North Cascades Highway in Ann Rule's true crime novel, The Stranger Beside Me[2]

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