It’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means it’s time for scenic fall drives!
In Washington State, I have three favorite fall drives that are perfect for a fall road trip or a romantic getaway.
And, if you need more inspiration, here why you should visit Washington State in fall.
Scenic Fall Drives in Washington State
North Cascades Highway
My top favorite is the North Cascades Highway, which is the northernmost road in the Cascade Mountains.
This road is part of the 400-mile Cascade Loop Highway, which goes past a ton of small towns and scenic vistas. There are also a lot of great hikes along the way.
If you are coming from Seattle or Vancouver, once you get to Burlington, WA head east on Highway 20.
Two interesting points of interest before you get to the mountains are the elk observation area and Wildwood Chapel in Marblemount.
Once you pass Marblemount, there are no gas stations until you get over the pass and into the Methow Valley, so fill up before you go! It’s also a good spot to buy snacks or take a bathroom break.
Once you reach Newhalem, the ascent into the mountains begins! I recommend getting out in Newhalem to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, buy some fudge at the store, walk across the suspension bridge and snap a photo of the Gorge Powerhouse, or enjoy one of the short trails nearby.
From Newhalem, it continues up into the mountains, past deep blue lakes, and rocky mountain passes. There will be plenty of pullouts along the way to take in fall foliage along the mountainsides.
Be sure to stop at the Lake Diablo Lookout, and at Washington Pass, the highest point on the highway at 5,477 feet.
From Burlington, the drive is around 3 hours, and that doesn’t take into account any stops.
If you want to make a weekend escape out of the drive, I suggest staying in Twisp or the Old West town of Winthrop.
Tips for the North Cascade Highway in Fall
- Once you pass Marblemount there are no gas stations, so fill up before you go.
- Some portions of the highway close in the late fall or early winter due to snow. Before you go, check here to see if the road is still open.
Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway
I drove this 22-mile stretch of road for the first time last fall and it quickly became one of my favorite fall drives in Washington State!
The name describes it perfectly for the road meanders through the canyon next to the Yakima River and along the way you’ll see golden hills, trees near the river changing color, cactus, sagebrush, and basalt cliffs.
You can catch the road from Interstate 82 after Ellensburg or Selah. There are no services en route so be sure to fill up with gas before you go.
In the fall, you won’t see much else, except for some campers and hikers and wildlife.
During the warmer months, you’ll see rafters, inner tubers, and fly fisherman. There are pullouts along the road and hikes, and if you hit the trails, be rattlesnake aware.
Tips for Driving the Yakima Byway in Fall
- Fill up with gas before you embark on the byway.
- Along the road, there will be pullouts and places to take in the view or go for a hike.
- Eastern Washington is rattlesnake country, so be snake aware.
Highway 101 Between Raymond and Long Beach
My last favorite stretch doesn’t have a specific name, but it’s part of Highway 101 (the Pacific Coast Highway) between Raymond and Long Beach, WA.
The 40-mile stretch of road goes along the edge of Willapa Bay and passes through several nature preserves – Bone River, Niawiakum, and Willapa.
The drive is around one hour and the times I’ve driven it; it has been a little rainy with lots of birds and fog along the bay.
Tips for Driving Highway 101 in Fall
- I’m prone to motion sickness and have experienced it on this road. If you are sensitive you might want to take Dramamine before you hit the road.
- There are plenty of lovely Washington beaches to stop at along this stretch of road!