The North Cascades Highway section of State Route 20 is now closed until next spring.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has been monitoring the road and the avalanche chutes above the highway. WSDOT maintenance and avalanche technicians temporarily closed the highway on Friday, Nov. 18, due to weekend snow forecasts.
Conditions were re-evaluated Monday, and more avalanche chutes are full and not stable – especially near Liberty Bell Mountain area – causing crews to close the road for the season.
“While there hasn’t been a ton of snow on the road, it’s continued building at higher elevations in the chutes,” said Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker. “The potential avalanche risk makes reopening unsafe for our crews and drivers.”
WSDOT crews work hard to keep this road open as long as possible each season, because many travelers use this route over Thanksgiving Weekend as a faster route across the northern part of the state. Safety is always first priority, however, and guided the decision to make the closure permanent.
Last year, WSDOT closed the North Cascades Highway temporarily on Nov. 12, and then for the season on Nov. 16. The 37-mile-long winter closure zone begins 14 miles east of Newhalem at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass (4,855’) and ends 22 miles west of Winthrop at milepost 171 east of Washington Pass (5,477’). The earliest closure recorded was Nov. 2, 2005. Due to drought the highway never closed in the winter of 1976-77.