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,

Next Week: Tips on Night Sky Photography

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!

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