Get ready for a very special two-week adventure amid the snow-capped summits and wide-open spaces of Washington State’s North Cascades. This brand-new tour takes in Mount Rainer National Park, Mount St. Helens, Lake Chelan, and North Cascades National Park, with plenty of challenging climbs and thrilling descents.
Our ride will take us along the northern portions of Adventure Cycling’s Sierra Cascades route, which roughly parallels the Pacific Crest hiking trail. This scenery-packed tour includes volcanoes, alpine landscapes, rivers, waterfalls, agricultural land, the third deepest lake in the U.S., and two nights in Paradise.
Throw your gear in the van and enjoy this ride through the scented forests of the North Cascades free and unloaded.
|Start Date:||Jul 12, 2014||End Date:||Jul 26, 2014|
|Start Location:||Portland, OR||End Location:||Bellingham, WA|
|Total Days:||15||Riding Days:||13|
|Average Daily Mileage:||52.6||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||13||Airport:||Portland International Airport|
|Tour Leader:||Heather Andersen, Greg Edwards||Meals:||Shared cooking|
|Physical Difficulty:||Intermediate+||Level of Support:||Van Supported|
Portland. We’ll meet up with our new cycling buddies for dinner and an orientation meeting in Portland, a city owning a well-deserved reputation as one of the best cycling communities in the U.S. In fact, you might want to consider arriving a day or two early in order to explore the city’s bevy of bike paths, breweries, and bookstores.
Portland to Cascade Locks, 50 miles. After a hearty breakfast, we’ll follow bike routes out of Portland to the Sandy River and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. A gradual climb to the tiny community of Corbett leads to the spectacular gorge viewpoints of Portland Women's Forum State Park and Vista House at Crown Point — an historic comfort station that since 1918 has thrilled travelers of every stripe. Descending through thick coniferous forest toward the Columbia River, we'll pass numerous waterfalls, including the magnificent Multnomah Falls. The newly completed Historic Columbia River State Trail will take us to Cascade Locks, by way of the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery, which is well worth a visit.
Cascade Locks to Swift Creek Reservoir, 44 miles. Today we’ll begin by cycling across the Columbia River on the striking, 1,127-foot-long Bridge of the Gods. Arriving in Washington State, we’ll follow predominantly lightly traveled, tree-lined roads that offer plenty of places to pause and soak up the scenery. You’ll want to stop at McClellan viewpoint, for example, to take in a spectacular view of distant Mount St. Helens. Less than a mile from tonight’s off-the-grid camp, you’ll also want to check out the Pine Creek Information Station, with its interpretive displays and video about the 1980 eruption of the volcano.
Swift Creek Reservoir to Randle, 47 miles. Once again we’ll ride on low-traffic roads, this time on byways winding through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, one of our country’s oldest national forests and named after the first chief of the Forest Service. More views of Mount St. Helens are ours to enjoy today, when we’ll also catch our first glimpse of glacier-clad Mount Rainier.
Randle to Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, 49 miles. You’ll want to keep your camera close at hand today as we climb toward Mount Rainier on a swath of roadway reminiscent of Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. The day’s ride includes more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain — but it’s effort well spent, as you enjoy views that will make you realize that you really are on the road to Paradise. Tonight’s lodging is at the historic Paradise Inn, where we’ll take a break from our camping-and-cooking routine to bask in the luxury of indoor lodging and restaurant dining.
Layover Day, Mount Rainier National Park. Hiking, horseback riding, and more are just out the door, so you can spend the day exploring the trails radiating out from Paradise. Or, you can see even more of the park by jumping aboard a free shuttle bus. Rather take it easy and smell the roses? Our visit to Mount Rainier happens at the traditional height of wildflower season, so you needn’t wander far to wade into meadow full of them. Photo ops galore!
Mount Rainier to Windy Point, 65 miles. Take your time freefalling out of Mount Rainier National Park. But, in the Cascades, what comes down must eventually go back up: It’s soon time for another long climb, this one ascending White Pass. The uphill effort is rewarded with a downhill to Rimrock Lake, then a flat ride alongside the lake. We’ll establish camp at a Forest Service campground along the Tieton River, a tributary of the Naches.
Windy Point to Ellensburg, 63 miles. Today’s ride begins with more miles alongside the Tieton, which precedes a series of quiet back roads roller-coastering through fruit orchards, vineyards, and spreads of sagebrush. You’ll definitely know you’ve reached the drier, east slope of the Cascades as you ride through the arid Yakima Canyon into Ellensburg, Washington’s premier cow town and home to an attractive historic downtown district.
Ellensburg to Blu-Shastin RV Park, 44 miles. Today we’ll leave the flatter land around Ellensburg and head back into the mountains, riding up and over Blewett Pass along forested roads through an area rich in gold-mining lore. We’ll sleep tonight surrounded by forests of pine and fir at the peaceful Blu-Shastin RV Park, with the crags of Mt. Stuart standing sentinel above us.
Blu-Shastin to Lake Chelan, 57 miles. More orchards and vineyards line our route today, as we trace secondary roads to the small but lively town of Cashmere. Just beyond Cashmere, you can make the optional stop at the Rocky Reach Dam Visitor Center to learn about dam operation and electricity generation, or to see how a fish ladder works. You may even have the opportunity to “look a salmon in the eye.” We’ll then climb away from the Columbia River and descend to Lake Chelan State Park, nestled on the forested southern shore of narrow, 55-mile-long Lake Chelan, the largest natural lake in Washington State.
Lake Chelan to Winthrop, 70 miles. In the morning, prior to rejoining the mighty Columbia, we’ll ride alongside Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in the U.S. Appropriately, the lake’s name derives from the Salish Indian Tsi-Laan, a phrase meaning “deep water.” Later, we’ll pass Wells Dam and follow the Methow (“MET-how”) River the rest of the way into Winthrop — but only after stopping for a fresh-fruit milkshake at the Rest Awhile Country Market near Pateros!
Layover Day, Winthrop. Take a step back in time today in the Old West charm of Winthrop. With great hiking, golfing, galleries, shopping, live music, hot-air-ballooning, and the oldest legal saloon in Washington, there’s something here for everyone. You could even swap skinny tires for fat and pavement for dirt, by renting a mountain bike and hitting the heralded trail system of the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association.
Winthrop to Newhalem, 76 miles. It seems the most spectacular days of riding always entail the most climbing. Well, that’s what it takes to get into the mountains, and today is another one of those special days. It’s a spectacular spin through North Cascades National Park, with more than 5,000 feet of climbing. We’ll surmount Washington Pass with wide-angle views of glacier-capped mountains then continue to the Washington Pass Viewpoint for what is perhaps the ultimate vista on this entire scenery-packed route. Heading down from the pass, we’ll zip past turquoise-blue Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Gorge Lake; many more glacier-studded peaks; and countless mountainside waterfalls.
Newhalem to Sedro-Woolley, 49 miles. Our rolling descent continues as we follow quiet roads along the Skagit River to Sedro-Woolley in Skagit County, famous for its tulip, iris, and daffodil bulbs. In fact, more than eighty different crops are farmed in the fertile soils and mild climate here, including a proliferation of berry varieties and colorful potatoes. Sedro-Woolley is one of those towns whose name derivation begs explanation. However, there are so many variations on how the name came to be, that no one seems to know which one is true — so we won’t pass along any of them. But feel free to research the topic and come to your own conclusion!
Sedro-Woolley to Bellingham, 70 miles. Our last day will dish up gentle hills and even some rare-on-this-ride flat terrain. We’ll pedal past more agricultural land, including blueberry fields, to the Canadian border and the northern terminus of the Sierra Cascades route, then push on into the city of Bellingham. This area was originally the home of coastal Salish people of the Lummi and other tribes. After visiting here in 1792, Captain George Vancouver named the bay for Sir William Bellingham, an accountant for the British Royal Navy. On our arrival, we can high-five the Salish, Vancouver, Bellingham, and anyone else we think appropriate — but mostly we’ll toast an adventure well planned and enjoyed, before bidding fond farewells and heading home.
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"This experience more than met my expectations."
"Meeting new friends and being able to share the whole journey with them made y tour. The staff was outstanding with service and places we camped at were totally great."
2012 Tour Participant
"There are so many aspects of an Adventure Cycling tour that are a pleasure in different ways that it's hard to pick just one. Achieving a physical challenge, a journey through beautiful landscapes, sharing it with great people, the complete escape from my usual way of life are all part of the package ... I guess it's a dose of full, sensory living."
2012 Tour Participant
"This was a great trip and I enjoyed it."
2008 Tour Participant