Effective April 3, National Parks along North Cascades Highway will close to all park visitors until further notice. State Route 20 will remain open to just west of the town of Newhalem (milepost 120). The closure point on the east side will remain at milepost 177 (Early Winters Campground).
All owners/operators of facilities where primary access is gained through NPS lands are permitted access through closed areas as necessary to maintain and/or occupy their facilities.
On March 26, Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar suspended most maintenance work due to COVID-19 safety concerns, and implemented an “Essential Maintenance” approach to further comply with the state’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to safeguard public health. Under these guidelines, we have paused most maintenance across the state, including work to reopen the North Cascades Highway. Similar work pauses are occurring on Cayuse and Chinook Passes.
This highway remains a valuable route for the movement of goods as an alternative evacuation route in the case of natural disaster. A date to return to normal maintenance work has not yet been determined.
Clearing work started Monday, March 23 at Early Winters Campground on the east side, and on Monday, March 30 clearing work will start near Diablo on the west side. This work takes about six weeks. Progress updates will be shared here, on social media, and through email.
The west side closure point is milepost 120 (Newhalem). The east side closure point is milepost 177 (Early Winters Campground).
State Route 20 is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington and is commonly referred to as the North Cascades Highway. This scenic byway offers travelers a wide array of beautiful vistas and is part of the Cascade Loop, a 400-mile driving tour through the Cascades.
We close the North Cascades when weather, snow conditions and avalanche danger threaten the safety of drivers and our maintenance crews. Avalanches typically close the highway between late November and mid December.
Reopening in the spring is usually accomplished by early May.
Hikers, skiers, snowmobilers and other recreationalists can access the closed portion of highway during the winter season. Users should park in designated parking areas to allow plow drivers the space they need to clear snow around the closed stretch’s access gates.
WSDOT closes this stretch of highway due to avalanche risk, so anyone using this area should check forecasts and be aware of quickly changing conditions in the mountains. Travelers can also check conditions with North Cascades National Park before trips to this area.
The North Cascades Highway closure zone has 27 avalanche chutes, some stretching more than 2,000 feet above the highway. By way of comparison, avalanche chutes along Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes are all well under 1,000 feet high.