Mountain drives washington oskjnq

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  North Cascades Highway:  75 miles

A classic for a reason: Nowhere else do the peaks get as dramatic or the lakes as electric blue. Speaking of electric, the hydro­electric dams of ­Newhalem don’t really disrupt the landscape; stop to poke around the historic structures near Diablo Lake and watch the nighttime light show on Ladder Creek Falls.

►  Colville Tour:  93 miles

Eastern Washington is more than desert and Cougars, especially in fall when the western larch over Sherman Pass turn vibrant yellow (similar to the famed trees of Leavenworth’s Enchantments—but they don't require the 18-mile hike or permits). Keep going west through old-timey Republic before the landscape shifts to high meadows and cow country. Near Tonasket, on the Okanogan River, the hillsides are bare and dry shapes. Enjoy the empty roads but keep a weather eye for cyclists.

►  Mountain Loop Scenic Byway:  81 miles

Because the road doesn’t completely cross the Cascades, it’s not clogged with cross-state traffic. A small highway climbs from Granite Falls, past Mount Pilchuck, the Big Four Ice Caves, and countless campsites, even a trail to the ghost town of Monte Cristo. The road turns to gravel when it swings north along the Sauk River, but most cars can handle the terrain. The busier, paved return west on Highway 530 passes the timber town of Darrington and the site of the devastating 2014 Oso mudslide.

►  Mount Rainier Loop:  198 miles

First sideswipe the eastern flank of Mount Rainier National Park and catch first-class peak views from Naches Pass, then swing through the bald hills of Naches before heading back west through White Pass and the lonely Goat Rocks Wilderness. Look out for Morton’s Paul Bunyan–size wooden logger.  

►  Olympic Highway:  264 miles

A complete circle of the Olympic Peninsula means a taste of every ecosystem—mountains, ocean, sound, rain forest, and aging Twilight paraphernalia. Divert uphill to Hurricane Ridge out of Port Angeles and whiten your knuckles on the terrifying dirt Obstruction Point Road; Crescent Lake also boasts views of hillsides unshorn by logging. Note that, mountain detours aside, you’ll never leave the omnipresent Highway 101, despite traveling north, west, south, east, and south again. 

►  Cascade Birding Loop:  386 miles

The National Audubon Society says that 225 of the state’s 346 recorded bird species can be viewed on this section of the Washington State Birding Trail. That means everything from hairy woodpeckers to golden eagles; an online map suggests marshes, creeks, and picnic areas best for whipping out the binoculars.

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