North cascades highway opening 2020

North cascades highway opening 2020 DEFAULT
north cascades highway, open,

The SR 20 North Cascades Highway will reopen after its winter hibernation at 1 pm today, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The gates east of Newhalem and west of Mazama will open, allowing travel between the Skagit and Methow valleys.

The 37-mile long pass closes every year in late November or early December based on snow conditions. Dozens of avalanche paths cross the highway, making it too dangerous to keep the highway open through the winter. In 2020, the North Cascades closed on Nov. 13. Our maintenance and avalanche control crews assess snow levels and avalanche conditions in early spring to determine a date to begin reopening work.

This year’s snow levels were slightly higher than average and the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes held a substantial amount of snow. This year crews began work on April 5th, 2021. Last year the pass opened on May 12th, 2020.

Ring the bells and honk the horns, the SR 20 North Cascades Highway will reopen after its winter hibernation at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 5! Our crews are finishing final repairs and avalanche control work before we open the gates east of Newhalem and west of Mazama.

It took them a little over four weeks to clear the highway, which closes every winter due to avalanche danger and heavy snowfall. We know traditionally people like to gather at the closure gates to be among the first to drive one of our most scenic highways. If you plan to be among them, please follow safety guidelines including wearing a mask when among people outside your immediate family and avoiding gathering in large groups.

We want everyone to enjoy the gates opening safely. And we extend a HUGE thanks to our crews who put in so much work to open up this important connection between the Skagit and Methow valleys.

State Route 20, linking eastern and western Washington state, traverses Washington Pass and Rainy Pass over the Cascades peaks connecting the Skagit Valley with the Methow Valley. It 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.

north cascades highway

Fire activity closures

Last Update: 11:05 a.m., Sept. 27, 2021: Open

Currently SR 20 North Cascades is open with no restrictions.  Always check the WSDOT travel alerts page for the most current travel information.

Seasonal closures 

The North Cascades Highway reopened for season at 1 p.m on Wednesday,  May 5.  Many Forest Service and Park Services facilities remain closed, so travelers should plan for minimal services across the passes.  Those interested in backcountry recreation are still strongly advised to consult the Northwest Avalanche Center for current avalanche conditions. 

Clearing work started at Early Winters gate on Monday, April 5.  Follow the story of the 2021 clearing work on Flickr.

The North Cascades Highway closed for the season on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 due to heavy snowfall and risk of avalanche. 

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.

Why we close the highway in winter
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.

Winter recreation on SR 20

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.

Avalanche areas

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.

View a detailed avalanche area map on Flickr

Web cameras

Current weather conditions
For recreation purposes and while the highway is closed, or in the summer/fall when the pass reports are suspended, you can find weather information with these links:


Lauren Loebsack, Communications  509-860-0000 (mobile)
North Central Region-Wenatchee

Sign up for spring reopening email updates for the North Cascades Highway

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North Cascades Highway opens this week

Just in time for the Winthrop’49er Days celebration, the North Cascades Scenic Highway will open for vehicle traffic at 1 p.m. on Wednesday (May 5).

On this side of Washington Pass, the opening will occur at the Silver Star Gate on Highway 20 west of Mazama. Be prepared for a line of vehicles at the gate.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reported that after four weeks of work, the east side (Methow Valley) and west side crews clearing the highway met in the middle last week.

“After wrapping up the clearing work last week, we completed an avalanche control effort Monday and have a few final repairs to the roadway to make today,” WSDOT said in a press release on Tuesday (May 4).

“We know there are some of you that plan to be present when our maintenance crew reopens the gates,” WSDOT said. “We ask that if you do, please do so safely by maintaining a safe physical distance and wearing masks if you’re in a group outside of your vehicle.”

Many U.S. Forest Service and National Parks Services facilities that are accessible from the highway are still closed. If you are considering a trip into the backcountry, WSDOT advises that you check avalanche conditions.

In 2020, the pass opened for traffic on May 12.


My Favorite Places - North Cascades Highway

Skagit Valley

State Route 20

(North Cascades Highway)


Current:Open. For updates, visit Washington State Department of Transportation.
General: Snow and avalanche hazards usually close the highway sometime in late November / early December; the road will usually re-open sometime in April or early May. Elevation at high point, Washington Pass: 5,477 feet

Cascade River Road


Current: The Cascade River Road is closed to vehicle traffic at milepost 20, three miles before the Cascade Pass Trailhead. Foot traffic is allowed beyond the closure.
General: Road is paved to approximately. mile 10, then gravel with some potholes and washboards, but generally drivable for low clearance vehicles. Not suitable for large RVs due to steep and narrow sections and some sharp switchbacks. Please drive slowly as the road is narrow.

Mile 106 off SR 20, in Marblemount. Elevation at road's end: 3660 feet.

Thornton Lake Road


General: Road is very rough and steep in places, with deep washboards on switchbacks. High clearance vehicles are recommended. Road is not plowed or maintained in the winter season.

Mile117 off SR 20, west of Newhalem. Elevation at road's end: 2600 feet.

Sibley Creek /

Hidden Lake Road


Not maintained in winter, expect snow before the trailhead. Road is significantly rutted, the first steep section of the road is impassible unless you have a high clearance, 4WD vehicle.

General: This ~5 mile long Forest Service Road (USFS #1540) can be rutted and rough, drive slowly. Narrow with switchbacks and very few pull-offs. Parking lot is small and turn-around can be difficult. High clearance vehicles recommended.

Hozomeen Road


Current: Closed at US Border
General: The road gate at the U.S. border on is usually closed on October 31 for the winter season. This road also provides access to Silver Lake and Skagit Valley Provincial Parks in British Columbia. Road can be rough and rocky, flat tires are not uncommon, carry a full sized spare. In spring, low lying sections of this road are vulnerable to flooding during peak snow melt.

Silver-Skagit Road from Hope, BC to Hozomeen, north end of Ross Lake

Elevation at Hozomeen: 1609 feet

Stehekin Valley

Stehekin Valley Road


The road extends 13 miles from Stehekin Landing to two miles above High Bridge, just before Car Wash Falls. Not maintained in winter above mile 9, at Stehekin Valley Ranch.

Hikers and stock can access areas above Car Wash Falls via the Old Wagon Trail (Pacific Crest Trail) and Upper Stehekin Valley Trail. Bikes are not allowed above Car Wash Falls.

Stehekin Shuttle


Visit the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin website for a current schedule. This privately run shuttle service operates between the Stehekin Landing and High Bridge, normally from late May to mid October (3 round trips daily from mid-June to early October). If you are planning to walk, bike, or ride this route, it is 11 miles from Stehekin Landing to High Bridge.


Highway north opening 2020 cascades


Time Lapse Driving The North Cascades Highway On Opening Day 2021 (Where Did Mike Go?)


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