Fall foliage with red maple and yellow cottonwood trees among evergreen trees with a mountain and sunrise glow in the background.

Fall colors, cozy cabins! Book your North/Central Cascades road trip now.

Need a reason to take a fall road trip? We’ll give you six:

  1. The tourists are gone.
  2. The kids are back in school.
  3. The fall colors are mind-blowing.
  4. The snow (probably) hasn’t dumped yet.
  5. Campsite and cabin reservations open nine months out, so you can book your dream fall adventure as early as January!
  6. We’ve got a special itinerary for you. Read on…

Our favorite fall road trip loop winds through the North and Central Cascades. It is doable clockwise or counterclockwise, starting from most points on the itinerary.

This blog post has you starting in Sedro-Wooley, driving east on State Route 20 (North Cascades Highway), then South on U.S. Highway 97/2 and west on U.S. Highway 2, ending in Everett:

Two wood cabins in a sun-dappled glen of trees
Rasar State Park's cabins feature hand-hewn iron work and are charming and secluded.

Day 1 ~ 100 miles: Sedro-Wooley to Rasar State Park

  • This stretch of Hwy 20 winds along rivers and through small towns beneath the westernmost North Cascade mountains. Your first night’s destination is Rasar State Park. You could do it in half a day, but why not take the whole day off and see Rockport State Park a bit farther east? Set in a rare stand of old-growth, Rockport has an ADA trail to an ancient cedar, a steep trail to an overlook and everything in between.
  • Your cabin at Rasar sits in a sun-dappled glen. It features hand-hewn wood and ironwork, a porch, Adirondack chairs and an outdoor grill.
  • The Rasar trails meander through deciduous forest and open fields, to the blue Skagit River. You may even see an eagle or an owl.  
A middle-aged male and female sit on chairs on the deck of a wood cabin in the sun.
Two western Washingtonians enjoy some late September sun on the deck of their cabin at Pearrygin Lake State Park.

Day 2 ~ 115 miles: Rasar to Pearrygin Lake State Park

  • After breakfast, head east on SR20. The fall colors get even more spectacular, and the town of Concrete has caffeine options to fuel sightseeing further east at Diablo Lake or among the towering peaks of Rainy Pass.
  • Several hikes out of Rainy Pass will get you up close and personal with golden larches, if that’s your goal.
  • Your pad tonight is a lakeside cabin at Pearrygin Lake State Park in the Methow Valley. Chill on your deck and fire up the grill, take an evening hike or bike ride, or drive into Western-themed Winthrop for dinner. Either way, you’ll fall asleep with a full stomach and heart.
A lake with tan hills in the background and swim area cordoned off in the foreground.
Lake Chelan State Park has great fishing and picnic areas on deep, blue Lake Chelan.

Day 3 ~100 miles: Pearrygin Lake to Lincoln Rock State Park

  • You might want to wake up early at Pearrygin. Morning fishing here cannot be beat. Or…, oh heck, sleep as long as you like.
  • Stop in Twisp for vegan/gluten free or carbalicious pastries at the local bakery.
  • After a brief section driving SR 153, US97 and SR150, you’ll find deep, blue Lake Chelan. Lake Chelan State Park has stupendous fishing and views.
  • You could stay here all day, detour to see the fall foliage at Alta Lake State Park, or move south taking US97 Alternate Route to Daroga State Park, on the Columbia River. Both parks have peaceful lakes for a quick paddle.
  • Tonight’s stop is Lincoln Rock State Park, where cabins sit on or above Entiat Lake.
  • If you’re an avid cyclist and you’re traveling with a friend or partner, you might arrange to ride the Rocky Reach Trail the next morning and have your companion pick you up in Wenatchee. Or relax and sleep in.
A rainbow reflected in a waterfall and pool with green mosses on either side.
Wallace Falls reflects rainbows on a sunny fall day.

Day 4 ~ 150 miles: Lincoln Rock to Wallace Falls State Park or home

  • Heading south on US97, grab breakfast in Wenatchee, with choices for every taste and diet, or stop in Bavarian-themed Leavenworth for out-of-this-world baked goods.
  • Make for Lake Wenatchee State Park to see the deciduous maples in all their fall glory (usually by mid-October). To ease your reentry into daily life, have a picnic by the lake, or hike up to Nason Ridge for North Cascades views.

If you can swing another night out: 

Book a wooded cabin at Wallace Falls State Park. The day-use park will be all yours after dark. Explore the three-tiered Wallace Falls and Skykomish River the next morning before shifting gears from vacation to whatever awaits you at home – which we sincerely hope are all good things, though life doesn’t get much better than this road trip.

Of course, we can’t overstate this: Cabins book early – up to nine months out – so why wait? Set your dates now and reserve for this fall!

If you want to make it a more strenuous day-hiking vacation, we have a few suggestions for nearby hikes between state park destinations:

A u-shaped glacial carved valley with fall colors in the foreground.
A 45-minute drive North of Lake Wenatchee, this longer but moderate hike to Spider Meadow has great color in September. The drive itself offers fiery colors in October as the maple leaves turn.
A valley with golden larch trees and snowy mountain in the background
You can hike a few miles north (pictured above) or south on the PCT from Rainy Pass off Hwy 20 and see larches within a few miles.
A view of a mountainside with golden larch trees and evergreen trees.
An hour’s drive from Alta Lake, a moderate/strenuous hike (or motorbike ride – yup, it’s a mixed-use trail) toward Eagle Lake yields larch views within a few miles.

Main header photo: An October drive along Icicle Creek Road between Leavenworth and Lake Wenatchee yields splendid fall color as the maples and cottonwoods turn. 

Originally published January 18, 2024

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