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Exploring the Pacific Northwest by RV

Helpful Tips on Traveling the Pacific Coast from California's Redwoods Through Washington's Olympic Peninsula
Article Date: August, 2008



North Cascades

One popular way for us to get to the Pacific Northwest from Wisconsin is via I-90 for the most part, then swing north to drive the through the North Cascades. This gets you away from the interstate driving and lets you get into the back roads to see the scenery and less hectic life in this area. Our trip through the North Cascades begins with the Grand Coulee Dam, winds through the scenic Okanogan National Forest, passes through the North Cascades National Park complex, and brings us to the Pacific Coast at Anacortes.

The run from Spokane to Anacortes is around 350 miles. That's doable in a day trip but won't give you time to see anything so that leg of the trip should be split into two days. We found that Spokane doesn't have any decent RV parks so we stay just across the border in Post Falls, Idaho at the Coeur d' Alene RV Resort, which is an excellent RV park and only 20 miles from Spokane. We'll leave Post Falls, stop to see the Grand Coulee Dam along the way, and spend the night at Riverbend RV Park, which is located between Twisp and Winthrop. It's an excellent park situated alongside the Methow River that has full hookups and a nice quiet setting. It's an easy drive into Winthrop to check out the shops and restaurants in town. There are a number of Jeep trails in the area so if you want to spend more time here this is a great place to stay and set up a base camp. It's located right on Washington 20, which is the scenic drive that takes you from the Methow Valley all the way across the Cascades and down into Anacortes until it ends at the ferry terminal.

Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam

Our westward journey from Post Falls has leave exit I-90 at exit # 277 in Spokane, where we head west on US-2. We stay on US-2 until Wilbur, where Washington 174 takes us to Grand Coulee and the Grand Coulee Dam. There are parking areas just before the dam where you can park the RV if the lot isn't too crowded) and take the tour of the dam. If not you can always park on the street in town, which we usually do while restocking at the Safeway Store. You could unhook the toad and drive to the visitors center at the dam if you couldn't get into the parking lot. In the evening a laser light show is presented on the dam. When it's time to leave you'll need to cross the river upstream of the dam via very narrow bridge. You'll then travel on Washington 155 to Omak, where you will pick up Washington 20 for the rest of the trip.

North Cascades

Washington Pass

After continuing on and spending the night at Riverbend RV Park, near Winthrop, you are ready to begin the trip over the North Cascades National Park. Just prior to entering the park boundaries you will encounter Washington Pass and Rainy Pass. This is not a troublesome climb for a motorhome and the pass tops out at 5,477' so it's nothing to be avoided by an RVer.

Washington Pass Snowmelt

As you climb Washington Pass you'll have many opportunities to get out and enjoy the scenery. In June the snowmelt streams off the sides of the mountain and numerous small waterfalls are prevalent.

Washington Pass Hiking Trails

As you descend Washington Pass you'll see many streams alongside the road. In some areas there will be hiking trails where you can park the RV and take a brief walk through the forest.

Small Waterfall Near Washington Pass

These stream will provide you with an endless array of scenic opportunities. Many waterfalls are present as the runoff cascades down to the streams below.

Ross Lake

As Washington 20 continues bisecting North Cascades National Park you will arrive at Ross Lake. A large RV friendly parking lot is found at an overlook. Ross Lake derives it color from the mineral that washes into it from the nearby mountains. The drive from Ross Lake westward drops in altitude as it passes Diablo Lake and follows the Skagit River. When you descend to Marblemount the Buffalo Run Restaurant is always a good place to eat. There's room to park the motorhome on the side of the road by the restaurant and the outside dining is a nice setting.

Moving On

Stream in the Cascades

Continuing on, Washington 20 will travel through the Skagit Valley until it reaches I-5 at Burlington. There's a bit of traffic there but once you get to I-5 you can either head south on I-5 or continue on Washington 20 and cross the bridge to Fidalgo Island and stay at Anacortes.


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