Regional News

SR 20 North Cascades Highway is open for 2018

Press Release

May 11, 2018

With the creak of metal and a push from longtime opening day attendees, the gates on the seasonal stretch of State Route 20’s North Cascade Highway have swung open for the season.

This highway opening provides:

  • People who drive another route between eastern and western Washington.
  • People who cycle the opportunity to ride more miles of US Bike Route 10.
  • Outdoor adventurers more hiking and camping options.

The clearing process

Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews and avalanche technicians finished the clearing process this week by triggering avalanches to bring down lingering snow in chutes above the road, repairing and replacing guardrail removed, pavement repair and clearing ditch debris giving somewhere for the water from melting snow to go.

The clearing process started on Monday, March 26 and took seven weeks. Crews even worked an extra day last week to open in time for Winthrop’s ‘49er Days. Pictures from the 2018 clearing process can be viewed online.

Be prepared for mountain conditions

While crews have cleared snow from the highway, signs of winter remain along the road – more than 10 feet in areas. Most parking lots and trailheads are National Park not areas WSDOT clears so those planning hiking, camping or snow activity outings should prepare for limited parking until snow melts and do not stop or park in the travel lanes.

Crews removed snow from avalanche chutes this week but people driving and cycling should obey highway signs and avoid stopping below these snow slide areas, such as under Liberty Bell Mountain, east of Washington Pass. There are limited facilities between Diablo and Mazama so travelers should have a stocked emergency kit along for the trip.

Highway History

The North Cascades Highway officially opened in September 1972. The 37-mile route through the Cascade Range travels through Whatcom, Skagit, Chelan and Okanogan counties connecting communities in western Washington’s Skagit River Valley with the Methow Valley in eastern Washington.

How long will this stretch of highway be open?

WSDOT crews will keep the North Cascades Highway open as long as it is safe to do so. The gates will close at mileposts 134 and 171 when snow starts filling up avalanche chutes, making it unsafe for travelers and crews to be on the road. That usually happens around Thanksgiving.

Plan ahead for SR 20 construction

There are highway construction projects happening in 2018 on SR 20 that cyclists and drivers should know about before starting trips.

Travelers can check current construction and blocking incident closures on our state travel alerts page, by downloading the WSDOT app to your smartphone or by using our 511 hands free phone system.



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