North Cascades Photography – Washington Pass

Washington Pass

North Cascades Photography – Washington Pass

Washington Pass is one of the most scenic spots along the entire Cascade Loop Scenic Highway.

Washington Pass is the highest point along the North Cascades Highway, at an elevation of 5477 ft./1669 m. Liberty Bell Mountain towers over the thin ribbon of pavement. Heading east, the highway plunges down to Mazama and Winthrop. The upper slopes are filed with Larch, which turn bright orange in October. Its a very scenic place!

There is a trail nearby, the Blue Lake Trail. The trailhead is on the south side of the highway. It leads around the Liberty Bell Group to Blue Lake. Fantastic views of Early Winter Spires and larch in the fall, but that’s for another post! .

There is so much snow each winter and the avalanche shoots so steep here that the highway closes for winter, usually in November, and opens again in April or May.

Today, April 18th, 2019 the North Cascades Highway opened for the season, one of the earliest openings I recall. There is still a bit of snow there, along the road, and the trailheads are still snowed in, they wont be open until May or June, earliest. But the road is open!

The Washington Pass Overlook, is one of those places I most always stop when I drive along the North Cascades Highway.

Washington Pass Overlook

Most overlooks are a one time deal, once you’ve seen it, no need to go back!

Not the case here.

The Washington Pass Overlook is in the Okanagon National Forest, and maintained out of the office in Winthrop. The Overlook is well marked, and the parking area is about 1/4 mile off the highway. There is ample parking, several rest rooms and some lights. There is a 200 yard paved path to the overlook, and lots of railings preventing a plunge.

NOTE: Even though the North Cascades Highway is opened, the Washington Pass Overlook may not open until May or June. The 1/4 mile road from the Highway to the Overlook parking is gated at the highway. You can park at the highway (there are usually many spots near the gate) and you can walk to the Overlook.

Here are a few pics from the Overlook.

The best time to get a shot of Liberty Bell is sunrise. The early light illuminates the sheer rock faces wonderfully… Its a long drive, from Sedro-Woolley to Washington Pass is a 2 hour drive! But worth it!

Washington Pass Overlook is also a fantastic spot for Night Sky Imaging. Its deep in the mountains, as there is low light pollution, the Lookout faces south, and you have Liberty Bell as a foreground, but also the hairpin turn of the North Cascades Highway below…

Here are a few images from my many night time visits! This is one of the locations for the Drive-In Night Sky North Cascades Photo Tours.

Here are a few more images of Liberty Bell from Washington Pass.

North Cascades Photography – North Cascades Highway

Welcome to North Cascades Photography

Each week we will visit some place in the North Cascades. The best camp sites; day hikes and overnight trips; lookout towers, the best locations for sunrises, sunsets and night sky imaging. Whether you’re into a week long trip, or the best place for a drive-in view, I will cover  the best times to go and How To Tips ranging from How to set exposure for the Milky Way to Where to see Mountain Goats? 

North Cascades Highway

The North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) follows the Skagit River from the Puget Sound deep into the mountains, reaching its highest point at Washington Pass, 100 miles east of I-5, before it drops down to the Methow Valley.

In winter (usually at the end of November) the highway is closed due to heavy snow. The highway is gated on the west side at milepost 134, east of Diablo, and on the east side at milepost 171, 14 miles west of Mazama. Reopening in the spring is usually accomplished by early May.

In Sedro-Woolley the National Park Service and Forest Service share an office, right along the highway. You can stop in for maps and parking passes. They can also give you all sorts of great advice about where to go, current conditions, and all that.

As you head east towards the mountains you’ll pass through Marblemount. If you are planning to camp over night on the North Cascades National Park, you’ll need a permit, and this is the place to get it, the Marblemount Wilderness Information Center. This is also the last town to resupply anything for about 70 miles, so fill up!

The Diablo Lake Overlook (milepost 132) is a wonderful vista point to stop when driving. There are rest rooms and lots of parking. The view is amazing: late afternoon is the best light.

This is also a wonderful location for capturing images of the night sky.

Rainy Pass at 4,833 feet (milepost 157) is where the PCT crosses the North Cascades Highway. There are trailheads on either side of the highway:

  • On the north is the trail head for the Pacific Crest Trail, headed north to Cutthroat Pass and then onto Canada.
  • To the south the parking area is to access the Maple Pass – Lake Ann Loop trail (one of my favorites), and the paved Rainy Lake trail.

Lots more on these trails later!

Washington Pass Overlook (milepost 163) is at the highest point along the highway, at 5,477 feet. There is a paved spur road to parking, restrooms and a pathway to the overlook. Liberty Bell is the massive slab towering above. Sunrise is the time for the best light on the peak.

The long curve of the highway below makes for some sweet shots at night. This is one of the best spots for capturing images of the Milky Way.

The North Cascades Highway is a part of the Cascade Loop Scenic Byway. This 440 mile loop crosses the Cascade Range twice and visits some of the most stunning scenery in the USA. Visit their web site to earn EVERYTHING you need to make your trip a huge success.

You can find out more about Classes, Prints, Photo Tours and more at my web site, AndyPorterImages.com

Next Week: Tips on Night Sky Photography

Washington Pass Overlook, North Cascades Highway

The Washington Pass Overlook, North Cascades Highway is one of those places I most always stop when I drive along the North Cascades Highway.

Most Overlooks are a one time deal, once you’ve seen it, no need to go back!

Um…. not the case here.

The Washington Pass Overlook is one of the most scenic spots along the entire Cascade Loop Scenic Highway. Crossing the North Cascades at Washington Pass and Stevens Pass, the Cascade Loop is one of the most scenic highways in the Lower 48!

The Washington Pass Overlook, North Cascades Highway is in the Okanagon National Forest, and maintained out of the office down in Winthrop. The Overlook is well marked, and the parking area is about 1/4 mile off the highway. There is ample parking, several rest rooms and some lights. There is a 200 yard paved path to the overlook, and lots of railings preventing a plunge.

Night sky imaging, where you capture images of the Milky Way, only works well where you can escape the ambient lights from what passes for our civilization. Here are a few images from my many night time visits! This is one of the locations for the Drive-In Night Sky North Cascades Photo Tours.

The North Cascades Highway closes each winter, usually in November and opens near the end of May. I am always excited for its reopening each spring and eager to visit again.

Best Fall Hikes in the North Cascades

I regularly get requests from magazines asking for images, they specify which places, season, weather, or what ever fits their plans for upcoming issues. If you have any good images of say, Crater Lake at night, then you submit, if they like, your image gets published.

Best Fall Hikes, or October Hikes was one of the categories needed.

I love fall colors, love the lack of bugs and the crisp air for hiking. Its funny, in early July just when access to the high country is about to start, to be thinking ahead to fall. But I spent two days locating and editing images…

Best Fall Hikes in the North Cascades

The North Cascades offer a unique version of fall, The Larch. The mountain larch, or Tamarack, looks like a regular evergreen in the spring or summer, but in early October the needles turn bright orange, and then fall off.

The effect is stunning. The sharp orange, interspersed with greens and browns, maybe a few white clouds in an bright blue sky…are you getting the idea? Its a color junkies dream.

All of these hikes are along (or close to) the Cascade Loop. Check their web site for lots of ideas of more adventures, as well as food/lodging.

Here are the 3 Best Fall Hikes in the North Cascades

The Enchantments

How can you not start with the Enchantments? This is one of the most magical places to hike anywhere in the world. And in early October it just explodes. If you go, plan to spend several days. You’ll not soon forget it! Yes, its a pain to get a permit, and yes, it is a brutal approach to get up and into the Core of the Enchantments with photo gear and 5 days of food, but who ever said Perfection Lake was easily attained? Book a night or two at the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth to aid your recovery!

Here are a few images from a recent October trip.

The next Best Fall Hike is another local favorite. Early October weekends will find this trail head packed to overflowing, with cars out along both sides of Highway 20.

Blue Lake and Washington Pass

Larch seem to like an elevation around 6,000 to 8,000 feet. You can see them here draped like a necklace over the neck line of Liberty Bell. Washington Pass, located on the North Cascades Highway offers spectacular views of Liberty Bell Mountain and the north side of Early Winter Spires.

The Blue Lake trail, located about a quarter mile from Washington Pass Overlook, is a short, moderate trail which skirts along the base and then along the back side of the monolith. Once you get to Blue Lake the views back to Early Winter Spires are impossibly beautiful.

Finally for the 3rd Best Fall Hikes in the North Cascades…This last one is a bit further afield, its a long drive over to Eastern Washington, up through Omak, north of Tonasket and on to the Pasayten Wilderness. But the trail, though long, has minimal elevation change and the payoff, at Upper Cathedral Lake will only make you want to stay longer.

Upper Cathedral Lake, Pasayten Wilderness

In some places you’ll find Larch, often interspersed with other trees. Sort of sprinkled about. But here in the Upper Cathedral Lakes basin its almost solid larch. and as you are imagining, its like someone lit the place on fire.The trail takes you up to Sunny Pass, through Horseshoe Basin and along the Boundary Trail (the Canada Border is a stones throw away). This section of the trail is also part of the much longer Pacific Northwest Trail.

 

Washington Pass and Blue Lake

Sunday was a perfect day for falls colors. Mixed sun and clouds, a bit of snow and amazing colors.

These images are from Washington Pass (in the meadow near the lookout turn out) and along the trail to Blue Lake, at the small pond just beyond the lake.

Get prints here.

Info on Photo Tours here.

Washington Pass Meadows

Washington Pass is located along the North Cascades Highway. It is the high point along the route, at more than 5,000 feet.

There is a Lookout there, a parking area and a short trail leads to the overlook.

I have been there dozens of times, and only this last week discovered the wonderful meadows nearby, when I was there for North Cascades Photo Tours.

Here are a few pics!

Editing Night Sky Images

I have been working with Photoshop for some time. My learning curve has been rather slow and often painful! Slowly I learn new techniques for manipulating light and shadows.
Images of the night sky demand more work than daytime shots. The camera I have, a Canon 6D, and the 14mm lens I use allow me to set the exposure for 30 seconds.
In the unedited images you can see the strip of the Milky Way and in the edited images it pops out and grabs you!
Here is an image I shot a few years ago with a Canon T2i, a 15mm lens at 30 sec. and 800iso. Its a bit dark!
IMG_9217
Now the newly edited version.
Tent Under Stars
This next shot is from Zion National Park. I used the Canon 6D with a 14mm lens at 15 sec.
IMG_7154
Here is the edited image.
Orion over Zion
Liberty Bell and the North Cascades Highway, Canon 6D, 14mm lens at 25 sec. Before
IMG_2878
And after.
Liberty_Bell_Milky_Way
The last shot is of Mount Rainier from Crystal Mountain. Again using the 6D and the 14mm lens at 30 sec.

If you would like to attend a Night Sky Photo Tour and learn how to capture such images, here is the link with dates and prices!
IMG_4224
And the final version.
Mount_Rainier_Milky_Way
For those of you who are already Photoshop savvy, the most useful tutorials and techniques for editing starry night shots I have found are at Dave Morrow Photography.

If you would like personalized Photoshop Lessons with me online, here is the link!

Happy Shooting and Editing!

Liberty Bell Mountain, North Cascades

Any trip over the North Cascades Highway necessitates a stop at the Washington Pass Lookout.
Liberty Bell Reflected from the Washington Pass Overlook, Highway 20, North Cascades Highway
Located at the highest point along the highway, at more than 5,400 ft elevation, Washington Pass Overlook offers stunning views of Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires.
Liberty Bell from North Cascades Highway
This section of the North Cascades Highway makes for one of the most scenic drives in Washington and is a part of the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway
Liberty Bell Panorama em
I have stopped there many times on the way to or from hikes in the Pasayten Wilderness. Each time the mountain shows a different countenance. Silver Star Mountain is also clearly in view from the Washington Pass Lookout. Silver Star Mtn em
Sunset Washington Pass

After Mount Shuksan I would have to guess that Liberty Bell is one of the most photographed mountains in the state, due to its stark beauty and easy access to the lookout area.

Several trips I have made to Washington Pass only to capture images, at sunrise, sunset and on clear starless nights!
liberty bell 1 mod emLiberty Bell Headlights againlb110em

Liberty Bell 1001am 1