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The North Cascades and the Cascade Loop

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The central part of Washington State is dominated by the mighty Cascade ranges, best experienced from the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway (509 662 3888, cascadeloop.com), an entrancing four-hundred-mile route through the mountains – though the full trip is only feasible during the summer, since at other times snow closes the mountain passes.

The loop begins on Hwy-20 (aka the North Cascades Highway), which runs east from I-5 at Burlington for sixty miles up the Skagit River Valley into the majestic peaks of North Cascades National Park (360 854 7200, nps.gov/noca). Ask about current road and hiking trail conditions at the visitor centre in tiny Newhalem, Hwy-20, milepost 120. Beyond the high passes of the national park, Hwy-20 runs thirty miles down the Methow Valley into the dry, rolling hills of central Washington and one-street WINTHROP, an old mining town officially founded in 1891 and now forever decked out solely in Wild West buildings thanks to a local ordinance.

The fetching resort of CHELAN, sixty miles south of Winthrop, nestles at the foot of Lake Chelan, whose spectacularly deep waters fill a glacially carved trough nestled in the mountains. At the Chelan end the vegetation and low-lying hills are arid and desert-like, and the hotels and small beaches along the lake are hot in summer, making this prime holiday territory.