Post Summary: This blog will walk you through the best things to do along Washington’s Greatest & Best Roadtrip, The North Cascades Loop. This was our first time driving the loop but we packed our time full of hiking, stunning views, and fun fall-themed activities we love and we hope you’ll love them as well!
We are so delighted to be finally sharing this information with you, the Cascade Loop was one of the greatest road trips we have taken on this adventure around the country with the Van. The famous Washington Roadtrip is a 440-mile loop taking you through the North Cascade National Park and lower Cascades. We were told the most scenic way to drive the loop was by starting in Oak Harbor, going North-East towards the North Cascades National Park, South towards Wenatchee, and North-West back towards Oak Harbor. This is the way we ended up driving and had a fabulous time! We made the loop in Late September and the weather was perfect for hiking and all the camping amenities were still primarily open for the most part, details down below.
Table of Contents
Recommended Wild Camping and Campsites:
West side: Free No Amenities camping in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, these spots were EPIC, challenging at times to get to. BUT we will remember them for the rest of our lives. Remember when wild camping in a national forest to always check out the rules when entering, they do change with the seasons, and you always want to pay attention to fire warnings/bans in any remote area you will be visiting.
East side: It took us a while to find a spot we liked for the night, we had intended to have an early morning in the park photographing. But ultimately ended up wild camping off of Rt 20 and Granite Creek
– Alpine View RV Park $34 (Tent site – no electric or water hook-up) Shower’s available in the rest area!
– P6 – Free RV Parking in Leavenworth: 1 free night, felt very safe, there were a lot of other RVs and vans here! This spot was also a very short walk to the downtown area, our one-night stay definitely enticed us to stay a bit longer in the RV park above and wild-camping afterward.
– Street Parking (Stealth camping) we found a great spot for the night, and great day parking, behind the 76 / bank on Sherbourne St.
-Technically no camping, however, we did experience a major breakdown in Cashmere and got away with stealth camping for over a week.
–Chelan County Expo Center– we had originally intended to stay here to utilize the shower facilities but the water had already been turned off by early October, we ended up free-camping nearby but had we needed to, we would have stayed here. The facilities felt clean, secure, and overall safe.
Ashford/the end of the loop:
-We wild camped at the Sahara Creek DNR Horse Camp, which has potable water and allows 7 free days of camping with the Washington Discover Pass. We felt the amenities were really clean and cared for, it was a bit rainy and therefore muddy when we were there but we would definitely stay again!
Yummy Food and Drink Spots
– Danish Factory – This place was recommended to us by a couple of different people on Instagram when we mentioned we were going to Leavenworth and it did not disappoint! In fact, it was so great we actually went twice! It is located in the mainsheet area, with a cute little bright red-painted door. We ended up trying the blueberry and cream cheese danish, cherry and custard danish, cherry strudel, and a classic apple strudel. When we went the first morning the place was completely empty, we enjoyed our morning coffees with our pastry and dined inside. It was super calm and lovely! On our last day in town, we came a bit later around 11 am and it was a bit more crowded, but the food was so good we understood why there was a line. We would DEFINITELY RECOMMEND a stop at this place, our favorites were the cherry and custard and blueberry and cream cheese danishes! If you stop in let us know what you tried!
(731 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
– Gingerbread Factory – such a cute place! We bought our morning coffee along with a chocolate German gingerbread cookie and GIANT $5 cinnamon bun! (This was such a deal, to be honest, it can be hard to really fill Dalton up, especially at breakfast time and this did just the trick!) They also sold a GIANT scone for the same price, had we stayed another day we probably would have gone back to try it! We also grabbed a couple of cute gingerbread people cookies for later, because they were just so darn cute! They had lots of really cute pastry options!
(829 Front St., Leavenworth, WA, 98826)
– München Haus– This place was so cute! All of the seating is outdoors, picnic bench style. Make sure to plan for good weather as there is no overhead cover! We stopped in for lunch, and we were enticed by a large case of different kinds of homemade mustard while walking by, they had everything from garlic to dill but also some fun flavors like champagne! (which was delightful by the way!) The sausages were DELICIOUS and we loved being able to COVER our sausages in our very own sauerkraut and mustard concoction just the way we liked it!
(709 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
– Sausage Garden- A great dog-friendly spot to grab a beer, sausage, or pretzel with your pup! There is no indoor seating, but all of the seating did have a cover over head in case of rain which was great because it was a bit drizzly while we were there! Dalton had a bratwurst and LOVED IT and I enjoyed a delicious strawberry cider and mid-afternoon pretzel with Rory tucked beneath my feet. It was everything we had hoped it would be!
(636 Front St #G, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
– Icicle Brewing – We stopped in here on our 1st night in Leavenworth, they have a restaurant and a beer garden right next to each other which can be a bit confusing! There was no wait at the beer garden which offered a couple of snacks and sandwiches so we sat right down, and the outdoor seating was all dog friendly. We enjoyed a couple of pretzels with cheese, yummy dark chocolatey beers, and a local musician with Rory cozily snuggled beneath our feet!
(935 Front St, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
– Heidle Burger Drive-In: We saw this place while driving around town and thought it looked so darn cute! We stopped in for an easy dinner and it was great, they have outdoor seating that is covered from the sun during the day and had heaters for nighttime cold temps! We asked about Rory and they told us to feel free to have her join us in the seating area, which is always a big plus for us. A super cute spot with yummy reasonably priced burgers! Dalton had the classic and I had the Teriyaki Burger, both were delicious!
(12708 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
–Sure To Rise Bakery: long story short… we broke down in Cashmere for well over a week with a plethora of engine issues that Dalton was fixing in the parking lot of an apartment complex of a woman who stopped to see if we were okay. BUT… this place has super yummy doughnuts and pastries, they typically sell out of Doughnuts early in the morning so I suggest this place as a stop before a hike. They also sell heavily discounted, day-old pastries and other baked goodies from behind the counter. We loved these, they were great treats while working on the engine!
(115 Cottage Ave, Cashmere, WA 98815)
– Pybus Public Market: we saw this place on the map and thought it was perfect to stop in for lunch! There were a couple of different restaurants and food vendors inside. We ended up picking up some locally made pumpkin bagels, grabbing the daily special, a Bahn mi, from Cafe Columbia, and an afternoon gelato treat at ICE. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours and support local small businesses’ in town!
(3 N Worthen St, Wenatchee, WA 98801)
– 59er Diner: This was the cutest little 50’s themed diner right off the highway! Everything was checkerboard pattered, turquoise, or bright pink! The walls were decorated with the cutest memorabilia and there was even a vintage jukebox! They served up classic diner food and there was a magic 8 ball on every table to ask life’s important questions while you wait for your food. Dalton had a breakfast burrito and I ordered a French Dip, HOWEVER, we really came in for the milkshakes though! They had lots of fun infographics on the walls showing how many they’ve made over the years. Everyone recommended that we try the Blackberry Milkshake and it did not disappoint! Delicious!
(15361 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
Parks and Recreation
– Lake Chelan State Park – requires Washington Discover Pass for access/parking/hiking/swimming, this was not noted on AllTrails but is good to have if you plan on being in the Washington area. Great little two-mile loop trail and a swimming area to hang out in afterward! We had a great time ringing in the end of summer! Rory was allowed in some areas of the park, like the hiking trails, there was a great little loop trail to hit right before the water.
– Apple Capitol Recreation Loop Trail & Park – this was a GREAT place to take Rory on a LONG walk after she had to wait in the car while we were apple picking. The entire loop is 22 miles but it is paved and felt like a lovely way to get to see the city, we still found lots of grassy spots that Rory enjoyed playing in.
-Riverside Park: a small park by the river with ample space to play fetch or go on a walk. The park has a really great skatepark and a flow of friendly folk who were always curious about the van.
Libraries/Wifi Remote Work or Schools Spots:
-Sedro-Woolley Public Library: Fantastic public library, with lots of options to sit and work inside, the librarians were very helpful if we needed anything. They also have two picnic-style tables outside of the entrance that has wifi access so you can work with your pet next to you.
(110 W State St, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284)
-Leavenworth Public Library: We popped in and out of here a couple of times while in town to get work and school done with some wifi in a quiet productive feeling atmosphere. The parking seemed very limited when we visited, but the librarians had no issue with our parking all day as we alternated between who went inside to work and who stayed inside the van with the pup.
(700 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826)
-Arlington Library (Son-Isle Libraries): This was a great workplace at the south-eastern end of our loop, we had a couple things we had needed to do and this was the perfect place to get some wifi and quiet work done. The neighboorhood the library was in was very cute, we had a great time taking turns taking Rory on walks around the area while the other worked inside.
(135 N Washington Ave, Arlington, WA 98223)
Pet Stuff (Dog Friendly Hiking):
-Hiking in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, right outside of Diablo, WA – Here we did some hiking with Rory, above Ross Lake which had an incredible turquoise appearance. Lots of fun and had lots of elevation to wear us all out before we continued driving, this time around we did not end up hiking in the National Parks as much as we would have liked to because they are not typically dog-friendly.
-Hiking In Lake Chelan State Park – Above (see parks & recreation section)
-Hiking Lookout Mountain (outside of the town of Twisp)- A nice 3.4-mile hike up to a beautiful fire tower in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, we went right as the colors were about to change, the crisp air made for a lovely hike with Rory. We were so excited she could venture up to our 1st firepower with us.
Fun Stuff (Cheap Recreations):
-Wildwood Chapel: this was one of the first little roadside attractions we stopped in upon on the Cascade Loop, it’s a teeny tiny chapel to match our teeny tiny home on wheels. There are a couple of very small pews in this little building tucked away in the trees.
(58400-58698 Clark Cabin Rd, Rockport, WA 98283)
– Rock Climbing nearby downtown Leavenworth: lots of cool spots for bouldering and sport climbing.
– The Autumn Leaf Festival in Downtown Leavenworth takes place one of the last weekends of September, this event has a big fun parade that everyone gathers from around town around for. There is a lot of live music and fun activities to pop in and view.
– Oktoberfest in Downtown Leavenworth takes place during the weekends of October, and personally, I can’t imagine a better place to celebrate in the US!
– Apple/Peach Picking @ Stutzman Ranch: this is a U-pick orchard so you pick what you want and then pay at the end, they provide the apple pickers and cardboard boxes in case you forgot to bring a basket. We also picked up some of their local honey at the fruit stand they operate in the parking lot (they close for the season in late September so make sure to check them out online.
– Greater Leavenworth Museum & the Nutcracker Museum in Downtown Leavenworth can be a blast as well, both are located on main street, but they do ask for a donation based $5 admission from adults.
–Fire Tower Hike in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest listed above 🙂