Snow plow crews on the North Cascades Highway completed the six-week-long job of clearing snow from the highway this week, as the state Department of Transportation made its annual spring announcement that traffic is now open on State Route 20.
The high elevation route across northern Washington also is part of the Northern Tier Bicycle Route from Anacortes to Bar Harbor, Maine, as well as the future U.S. Bicycle Route 10 from Anacortes to the Idaho border.
The state highway department and Washington Bikes is waiting to get the final word on the USBR 10 approval from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at its meeting in Louisville May 28-30.
There’s no doubt why the road is closed every fall for the winter between milepost 134, east of Diablo, and milepost 171, west of Mazama. Snow plow crews had to clear up to 35 feet of snow in some places, along with sand, rocks and fallen trees.
As road crews clear different sections of the road, a few cyclists every year enter the gates and ride snow-free segments of the road without having to worry about traffic. Josh Cohen, the blogger at The Bicycle Story, writes about his trip up there this spring at “Car Free in the North Cascades: Washington’s mountainside ciclovia.”
Winter isn’t the only time the road is closed. A series of avalanches blocked several sections of the highway last summer, and state crews had to blast rock that swept onto the road.