It wasn’t in the cards for us to take a big trip this summer. We had family come in from out of town, our son had a few soccer tournaments lined up, plus we’re madly saving for our next Disneyland trip in 2016. But our philosophy? We should still be able to take some small trips and discover our own state!
Last weekend, my son’s tournament took us up to Burlington, so we used that as a nudge to take the North Cascade Highway loop for a scenic way home. I thought I’d share some of the beautiful places we stumbled upon. Perhaps it will inspire you to get out there and see a part of your home state you’ve not visited before!
One of the joys of road trips? Being able to take frequent stops when you see something interesting! We spotted the Cascadian Organic Farms and pulled over! Check out the way they’ve interplanted squash, corn, and sunflowers to benefit one another! You won’t find rows and rows of any one veggie here. If you stop, they have a farmstand where you can buy healthy snacks (as well as ice cream!). Plus, there’s a dog-friendly area where you’re able to take your pup out for a stretch.
I don’t know about your family, but we like stopping to take photos by National Park signs and such. In case you’re wondering, yes, the North Cascades does have a Junior Ranger program that’s free for kids to participate in! Stop at the Visitor Center for details. The other thing we noticed about this National Park is that there is NO fee to enter or park! Score.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, there are some short, family-friendly trails you can hike that lead you over rivers and to waterfalls. You can feel the spray of the water, which is particularly refreshing if you happen to be there on a hot day as we are! Everything is lush and moss covered thanks to all that moist air.
Up the road a bit further, you’ll find a turn off for the Environmental Learning Center (I believe it’s past the second dam, Diablo Dam). Anyhow, there’s even a small ferry you can take. While we didn’t do this, we drove down and found some more spectacular views!
There’s even a small beach area where you can go and wade! We were thinking the water would be frigid, but it was actually quite pleasant. There were only a handful of other waders (and a couple wakeboarders as well).
Just outside the Cascades is the small town of Winthrop, Washington. It’s a Western-themed town! The kids had fallen asleep in the car, so when we stopped and they woke up I told them we’d arrived in Wyoming. (They didn’t buy it, but it was fun nonetheless!) I’d never been here before, and it’s definitely charming. Lots of little shops and places to eat.
From Winthrop, we headed down to Wenatchee, where we’d booked a hotel. It was a mostly eerie drive because it was SO smokey due to all the forest fires our state is having right now. The drive was made more interesting by the fact that my daughter was getting motion sick and threatening to puke in the car (she didn’t, thankfully).
The next morning, we discovered this super cool public market in Wenatchee before heading out of town. They had lots of local foods – wines, cheese, produce – plus cool little bistros and coffee shops inside. I definitely recommend popping in if you’re ever in Wenatchee!
Here are a few tips for planning on awesome weekend near home:
- Pull out a map (I know it’s been awhile, but surely – you have one!). Find a place in your home state that you’ve never been, and our curious about.
- Research hotel options. Some of the smaller towns may have limited hotel options and/or may not have a lot of vacancies this time of year. We like to keep our options open and search hotel options at a number of towns before making a decision. (For instance, we’re more apt to drive an extra 30 miles to stay at a larger town that has more affordable hotel options.)
- Pack food and water. We have an ice chest we love to fill with ice and bottled water. We had stocked up on healthy snacks at Costco like trail mix and dried fruit for our weekend.
- Be emergency prepared! During our weekend, we actually encountered a family who’s car had overheated and they were out of cell phone range! (We offered to call AAA for them once we were in range to help them contact a tow truck.) Be prepared, particularly if you’re going to be driving long stretches where there’s no services.
- Stop often and bring your camera! Take advantage of the fact that you’re traveling by car. Stop at those visitor centers, take an impromptu hike, take lots of photos.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my family’s weekend. I’d love to hear about any awesome places you’ve recently discovered in Washington or tips you’d have for planning a small weekend getaway. Leave a comment below!
PS for more information about our specific route, check out the Washington State Route 20.