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

North Cascades Photography – Introduction

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 a shot of the Milky Way to Where to see Mountain Goats? 

Introduction

My fascination with the North Cascades started with a map.

In 1976 one of my friends read the Nat Geo article about a through hiker on the PCT. Several of us had recently finished a month long Outward Bound program in the Sawtooths, backpacking and rock climbing and we were excited for a new adventure.

I still have the map, from 1976

A few glances at the images and I was sending away for maps. When they finally arrived in the mail I poured over them, tracing the PCT and looking at the terrain.

Pacific Crest Trail, Pasayten Wilderness

It was the first time I’d heard of places like the Pasayten Wilderness and Crater Lake. At that time there was little to read about the trail, most of the planning for a thru hike was up to you.

When you study a map, planning mileage, elevation gain and water sources you try to envision the place. There were more then 20 maps for Washington and Oregon I sorted through, tracing the PCT and making plans. The place I was most captivated with, the most excited about visiting was the North Cascades. I wanted to see the Picket Range and hike over Whatcom Pass.

Mt Adams and Pacific Crest Trail, Goat Rocks Wilderness

First of all, it was clearly the most rugged section. There were other sections with higher summits, like Mt Rainier and Mt Adams.

But these giant peaks were surrounded by much smaller mountains. The North Cascades boasted the greatest density of topographical map lines. I imagined wave after wave of serrated ridges; steep U-shaped valleys, cloaked in green and mantled with glaciers. The names of the places fueled my imagination: Mount Terror and Mount Fury, Desolation Peak, Diablo Lake and Forbidden Peak were just a few. I couldn’t wait to get there. The only problem was that it wasn’t the easiest place to get to!

Sunset at Sahale Camp, North Cascades National Park

In the end we decided to hike the PCT through Oregon.  We hitchhiked from eastern Pennsylvania to Cascade Locks, Oregon, along the Columbia River and started our journey south.

My travels led me to many places, decades passed. But the allure and wonder of this place I’d never seen stuck with me.

 

 

 

Sahale Camp

It was 30 years before I made it back to see the places I’d dreamed of: Copper Ridge and the Chilliwack River, Mt Challenger and the Pickets…

I feel privileged to be able to see such things and humbled trying to capture some part of it in an image.

Now I live along the North Cascades Highway. Living on the doorstep of the mountains makes it easy to visit often. I truly feel at home.

Each week North Cascades Photography will visit some place in the North Cascades and share info on the best trails, camp sites, day hikes, long hikes, drive-in vistas, locations for Night Sky imaging and of course lots and lots of images.

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

Next: The North Cascades Highway

Welcome to the North Cascades

 

 

Diablo Lake Overlook, North Cascades National Park

The Diablo Lake Overlook is located on Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) at mile marker 132 and is a part of the Cascade Loop .

From the intersection of Highway 20 and Interstate 5, its about 90 minutes drive to get there. The overlook is just east of Colonial Creek Campground. Open to traffic year round, its a wonderful place for sunsets.

Diablo Overlook Panorama

Night sky imaging is also wonderful at the overlook, the lake below and Colonial Peak above make for some stunning shots.

Diablo Overlook

Night 4

Cascade Loop

Stars at the Diablo Overlook, North Cascades National Park

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.

Cascade Loop Photo Trip

Cascade Loop Photo Trip

I drove the Cascade Loop this weekend. It’s about 400 miles through wonderful valleys and over two mountain passes.

The plan was to make it to Index for sunrise. As I drove south the skies were mixed, mostly cloudy, it didn’t look good.

Somehow I made it right on time, drove up the Index Road, crossed the bridge, parked, set up and started shooting. The light up the North Fork was perfect, still some fall colors…and then the clouds lit up.

Gunn Peak, newly dusted with snow, scrapped the sky. Purples erupted.

Leavenworth was the next stop, a night at the Sleeping Lady Resort. Three trips to the outdoor hot tub, two trips downtown for Oktoberfest and two fantastic meals at the Sleeping Lady…yes, I could make a habit of this!

I opted for the long way back, north up Highway 97 to the North Cascades Highway, and then west.

The drive along the Columbia River is relaxing, long sweeping stretches through the sun and shade. The brown dotted with the green of a small settlement.

Things start to get interesting as I drive through Twisp, Winthrop and Mazama. The drive up is exhilarating, the colors, the fresh air…

My last stop is Washington Pass. The highest point along the road at 5,400 feet. I always get excited driving up to any pass… snow is along the road and I am wondering about the trail…

I arrive at 1pm, cars are parked all along the highway. I find a spot left open from an early morning hiker and start the jaunt to the lake.

Most of the people are heading back now, but I would say there were about 60 late afternoon hikers headed up the trail along with me.

The sky is blue, the snow white, the larch orange and the trees green, it doesn’t get much better than this. The images look over photoshopped just out of the camera!

What a perfect weekend. Time to start planning my next Cascade Loop Photo Trip!

Information about Andy Porter North Cascades and Night Sky Photo Tours is available here.

If you’d like to purchase canvas prints they are available in many sizes, frames, etc. Here is the link. 

Click on a gallery to see images and place orders.

 

 

Diablo Overlook Winter Night Sky

On Monday, Jan. 2, 2017 I made my way to the Diablo Overlook on the North Cascades Highway.

The plan was to see about a few sunset pics and then wait for the stars.

Here are the results!

diablo-winter-panoranaThis is 4 images, photo merged into a panorama.

And a few more. The 2017 dates for the North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours are set. Here is the link to find out more, and if you’re interested, register for this years tours.

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.