North Cascades Hwy Opening Wednesday, Ahead Of Schedule
State Route 20 North Cascades Highway is scheduled to open for seasonal travel at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says crews are still making repairs and clearing debris while the Forest Service is conducting controlled burns in the final day of closure.
The agency is asking drivers to be prepared for limited services on the roadway, with few rest stops and little cell phone coverage.
The 44-mile stretch of SR 20 that closes annually during the winter months is opening two days ahead of a previous goal of Friday before Mother's Day.
The highway that connects the Skagit and Methow valleys shuts down between the Ross Dam Trailhead to Early Winters because to heavy snow and persistent avalanche risks.
The earliest opening in its 51-year history was March 10 in 2005, and its latest was June 14 in 1974. During the drought of the winter of 1976-77, the highway did not close for the season.
WSDOT is acknowledging that many people have made it a tradition to drive the North Cascades Highway on opening day.
The agency is advising anyone who has never made the trip early in the season to take note that when the route first opens, most National Parks and Forest Service facilities are closed to the public until later in the spring.
There also may still be narrow roadway shoulders with snowpack, few pull outs or turn arounds, and limited services.
The passes have been known to get snow and freezing rain late into spring, so drivers are advised to be prepared for potential winter driving conditions and to confirm their destination is open and available to the public.
WSDOT is also advising drivers that although the Northwest Avalanche Center has wrapped up avalanche forecasts for the season, spring and early summer avalanche risk remain.
Early season hikers are reminded to never park on the road, even if a favorite trailhead is not plowed out yet.
The North Cascades Highway is a major gateway for the tourist destinations of Winthrop and Mazama east of the Cascades, and is also an important route for freight such as lumber.