A Cavalcade through Cascadia
Feeling a bit cooped up? Come out of your shell with one of these day trips from Sedro Woolley. Every region has its gems. But the area around Sedro-Woolley is a veritable treasure trove of riches.
Nestled between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Puget Sound, Skagit Valley boasts some of the most diverse terrain in the country. It has tidelands adjacent to rocky outcroppings. Lofty vistas overlook plush valleys. Geese. Orcas. And Bears…oh my! And food? Don't even get us started.
To get you motivated to see what Skagit has to offer, we came up with a few day trips. These aren't just routes and destinations plucked from a map or guidebook; these are the trips we take when we have some precious free time on our hands.
One note of caution: Verify with these attractions that they're still operating. We published this in the height of lockdowns intended to protect the population from the novel coronavirus outbreak of 2019/2020.
Often called the Big Sur of the Northwest, Chuckanut Drive has more breathtaking stuff per mile than any other place we can think of. And the attractions on either end are worth it for the trip by themselves.
Locals may be tempted to take Cook Road to Chuckanut Drive but that would miss a big part of the experience. Instead, we jump on the 20 westbound and take it to Bayview-Edison Road (turn right/north).
Bayview-Edison meanders northward through Bay View and the thumbprint-sized state park that bears the town's name. It tees at Samish Island road; make a right and continue east, then north, then east again until the road ends at Farm to Market. Turn left/north and head into Edison.
Edison is chock full of awesome places to eat. The bars remain favorite among bikers but we recommend grabbing some bread at Breadfarm—an artisan bakery that will knock your socks off—and going next door to Slough Food—a wonderfully curated European-style delicatessen—to stock up on cheeses and cured meats.
If doing for yourself isn't your bag and it's nice out, consider Slough Food's open-air dining on the slough behind it. Or hit Tweets Cafe, a very earthy and artistic café a few doors south or Mariposa, a down-home Mexican grille that belongs to the same couple.
Head east out of Edison to Chuckanut Drive and turn north. Farmland makes way for forest, which makes an incredible spectacle with the Puget Sound just visible through the trees.
Chuckanut is more than a connector road; it's its own destination. If you've driven it before you've certainly noticed the abundance of cars parked alongside the road at the trailhead for Oyster Dome, a zigzag climb through a second-growth forest. Authorities would prefer you to access Oyster Dome by the official trailhead, but it's quite a drive away.
Look for the driveway in the heavy switchback just north of Oyster Dome. It goes to Taylor Shellfish Farms, a sustainable farm that's harvested on the tideland since the late 19th century. It's an operational farm and you can buy its bounty and eat it right there on the spot around one of the tables provided. In times past we freely brought our own drinks and Bread Farm bounty but since Taylor upped its game to include food, we keep it on the down low abide by the rules.
Almost immediately north of Taylor is an incredible viewpoint. A few trails branch out from it but it's not a hiking destination. If nothing else, it's a great place to sit and eat the bounty you scored in Bow.
The Drive hugs the craggy rock face up the rest of the coast. If you're up for a hike to a mountainside lake, take Cleator Road halfway up to a small trailhead that leads to Fragrance Lake. It's a double-track trail so very flat and stable but it is a bit of a hoof.
Fairhaven and Bellingham offer too many experiences to list but we'll suggest a few. The SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention is curiously delightful even if you never thought you'd like such things. Temple Bar has an incredible rotating menu and cocktails you've probably never heard of. Schweinhaus offers a neat Oktoberfest-style outdoor dining experience. And if you have a hankering for poutine, hit Rock & Rye. If you can't find anything to like at Chocolate Necessities and Gelato, check for a pulse.
The Cascade Loop may be Washington's ultimate road trip. But only a nutjob would try it in a day—it goes to Chelan and requires a ferry trip to Whidbey Island. And to rush such a trip would totally miss the point.
But did you know there's a smaller, lighter loop that also goes through Woolley? The 530 Loop as we call it is just the right length for a quick getaway.
It departs for lesser-populated areas, so we recommend starting with a hearty breakfast. And we recommend the Bloody Mary at the Train Wreck in Burlington. In fact, we recommend splitting it with someone; it's massive, truly a meal in itself.
Jump on Interstate 5 southbound and exit eastbound at Highway 534 (exit 221). It tees at Highway 9; go right (south) toward Arlington.
If you're traveling between late June and mid-September and like sweets, swing by Bryant Blueberry Farm and Nursery. It's a you-pick plot that offers aronia berries (chokeberries), blackberries, boysenberries, currants, loganberries, raspberries, and, of course, blueberries.
Arlington is one of Snohomish County's best-kept secrets. Its main drag (Olympic) has an old-town charm with a combination of antique shops and cafés. And one is all but unique anymore: a bowling alley that time forgot.
Rocket Alley Bar and Grill has four lanes that escaped any sort of changes since their installation sometime in the middle of the last century. Bowling is by definition pretty old school and these lanes are as old school as you can get—the completely analog system means you have to manually tally your own score on paper with this interesting thing called a pencil. The ball return shuttles balls exposed for all to see, something that's pretty marvelous in an age where everything has been hidden from view. Oh yeah, you can get the standard tavern fare and beverages to make the experience complete.
If history is your deal, duck into the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum on the south end of town. It's chockablock with the area's artifacts and literature, including a trove of photos showing Arlington in its logging prime. If you're feeling a little peckish, head a little farther south to Nutty's Junkyard Grill. It's a semi-open-air burger joint fashioned as an old garage. It's all kitsch but the place is serious about its fare. I'd call its burgers the best in the county, certainly at the price. I'd call the fresh milkshakes exceptional if I could have dairy but everyone who I take there says they slay. But I can vouch for the fries. You need them in your life.
Make your way up to Burke Avenue/Highway 530 and head east. If you're up for a real treat, visit The Outback Kangaroo Farm. From March to October, the farm's staff guide visitors through 40-minute tours of the park, which houses kangaroos, wallabies, llamas, lemurs, alpacas, and mini donkeys. Most of the animals are interactive and you'll leave wondering how to make one of the marsupials part of your life. Which we admit is potentially dangerous since the farm also sells them.
Head east another 15 minutes and arrive at the Restaurant at Rhodes River Ranch. It overlooks the ranch's massive arena. Dine as riders and trainers work with beautiful (and beautifully kept) horses. The fish and chips are epic.
From there, head east on 530 through Darrington. But instead of taking it all the way to Rockport, jump on Christian Camp Road about six miles north of Darrington. It turns into Concrete Sauk Valley Road at the Sauk River Christian Camp. It rambles through plush rainforest along the Sauk River all the way up to Concrete. Grab a snack at 5B's Bakery and Eatery if you're feeling peckish.
Take one of two ways back to Sedro. Cross back over Highway 20 and make a right (west) on South Skagit Highway. It roughly parallels 20 but at a more relaxed pace with more rural scenery. It ends at Highway 9. If you're not down for taking the slow road all the way back but still want something scenic, give Burpee Hill Road a shot. It shoots off North Superior Ave (the street with the silos) westward then points north to Baker Lake Road. Turn left (south west) there and you'll end up on the 20 just west of Concrete.
If you've lived in the shadow of Mount Baker yet never visited, count yourself among a large population of folks who never get around to visiting the attractions in their own backyards. I, for one, lived here 13 years before I went to Mount Baker.
Of the three, the Mount Baker tour is the mellowest. I'd start with one of the handmade pastries at Joy's Bakery & Café, a favorite local hangout.
Head north on Highway 9. A truly delightful experience awaits about 15 minutes north of town. Lake Whatcom Railway stands as a functional railway museum in Wickersham. Take some time to explore its noteworthy engines and rail cars, including a steam locomotive that operated in every decade of the 20th Century and a genuine Pullman car produced when Robert Todd Lincoln presided over the company. If you have a little more time, take a ride past Mirror Lake on the railway's private spur line. It's a trip to a bygone era.
Resume northbound on the 9 until Mount Baker Highway branches off to the right. The dining options are a little limited up the mountain so consider North Fork Brewing. It serves small plates to go with the high-grade beer it brews on site.
Nooksack Falls looks incredible…if you can beat the crowds. Forest Road 33 leads you right to the falls within half a mile drive off the highway, no hiking necessary. But if you're inclined to walk around, there's a small trail (less than half a mile long) that leads to some decent views. If nothing else, it's a good excuse to get out and stretch.
If you're coffee-minded, get sconed at Wake ’n Bakery. It's a little hippie-dippie bakery-café at the base of the mountain. Just beyond that is Forest Road 39, the entry point to Heliotrope Ridge Trail which is about half an hour up the road.
Heliotrope isn't a difficult hike, but it isn't exactly a leisurely stroll either. It's a 2.5-mile hike with roughly 1,400 feet elevation gain that crosses two small streams. But the view and the glacier at the top are well worth the effort. Hiking there and back takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, not including the drive up FS-39.
Artist Point the marks the end of Mount Baker Highway, and for pure, unadulterated views with no real effort, it makes a fine destination. Parking requires a National Forest and Recreation day pass, which you can buy there for only $5.
The views of Mounts Baker and Shuksan are breathtaking and there are plenty of small trails that branch out around the parking lot. But if you're inclined to explore, we recommend the Table Mountain trail. It's a very walkable trail for most ages. It's a moderate climb with plenty of switchbacks that rewards its visitors with alpine views.
Returning from Mount Baker takes the same route as getting there. It's a great opportunity to visit any of the restaurants noted on the trip up.