North Cascades Highway/USBR10 Opens Friday, April 3

The car-free view up the North Cascades Highway. Josh Cohen photo.

The car-free view up the North Cascades Highway. Josh Cohen photo.

Some years people on bicycles get an amazing experience: riding on the North Cascades Highway (USBR10) after snow has been cleared and before it’s opened to motorists in a kind of impromptu Open Streets event, often on a weekend. We’ve told you to watch for announcements so you can plan a quick getaway for exclusive access.

Tomorrow morning, April 3, is your only chance.

Washington State Dept. of Transportation has announced the highway opens tomorrow, April 3. If you want to ride ahead of vehicles you need to take Friday off (we won’t tell your boss) and beat the cars.

Some people show up at first light on Opening Day, hop the gate and take off to enjoy the highway before WSDOT opens it to motor vehicles. If you go: Watch out for sweepers, de-icing trucks and other equipment as WSDOT makes one last check of the highway before opening the gates at 10 a.m.

The road-clearing efforted started Monday, March 16. According to WSDOT staff, highway-clearing crews have typically worked Monday through Thursday, leaving cleared sections of the highway for recreational users on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  In years past, large amounts of snow and deep avalanches across the highway have required five to six weeks to clear, meaning four to six weekends for cyclists. 

The past winter saw low snowfall totals, which made the highway easier to clear. WSDOT will accomplish it in just 19 days, including only two weekends, this year.

Westside riders were further handicapped because in December 2014 WSDOT had to close the west end of the highway, east of the Diablo Gate, to recreational use due to a rock slide and unstable hillside between mileposts 142 and 143. Work to secure that area took all winter and was just completed Tuesday, March 31. (See photos of that work on Flickr.)

People on bikes are allowed on the road year-round; if anyone turned road closure into an amazing fatbiking experience we’d love to have a blog post about that.

It’s unfortunate for riders that opportunities to use the highway as WSDOT cleared it were limited. But opening it quickly enables everyone to use the highway and lets you start planning your journeys along USBR 10.

Other Car-Free Experiences Await

This isn’t your last chance at special access on a challenging climb, though. While some roads into Mount Rainier National Park are also slated to open April 3, others remain closed. Keep your eye on the Mount Rainier road status page. In particular watch for Sunrise Road to open around June if you want a ride like this one: Car-Free Mount Rainier: Now’s the Time!

Thanks to Tom Pearce, WSDOT Communications, for telling us what’s happening with SR20.


Check out our USBR 10 page, where you’ll find a map, information on the official designation as part of the US Bicycle Route System, and links to these and other posts:

Car-Free Bicycling

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