Washington: Chuckanut Drive
Time: 1day for a straight ride or several if you plan to enjoy some of the sights
Roads: Paved with some off-road options in the mountains
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The countryside in Washington is prime motorcycle country, if you live there lucky you, if not, it might be time for a road-trip. Long coastline, high mountain peaks, and winding country roads with off-road options are all on offer here, making this prime riding country for a wide variety of riders . For this route guide we’ll start in the scenic-rich area around Bellingham, Burlington, and the Cascade Mountain area close by. Covering some excellent riding and things to do along the way.
Image: Samish Bay Cheese
Bellingham WA to Burlington WA – 30miles
This section of the route will kick off in Bellingham and make it’s way down the incredible Chuckanut drive ending about forty-five minutes later in Burlington. It may look short, but the Chuckanut packs so much in, that you might take half the day to make that 30-miles. Depending on the season you could catch summer sunsets or vibrant fall colors. Without stopping the route could be wrapped up in under 30-minutes, and we recommend following the guide from North to South to be situated on the ocean side for the best views during the ride.
If you’re spending the night in Bellingham or looking for a few things to do before setting off for a day of adventure, Bellingham has a few notable stops that should peak your interest. A great picnic stop or place to stroll around and enjoy the tranquillity of the area, is the Whatcom Falls Park. The park is comprised of 241-acres of greenery, waterfalls, and walking trails. It’s also home to a state trout hatchery and if you’re with your children, they can go fishing in the pond. Or, if you just want to go for a refreshing dip, the Whirlpool falls have a welcome swimming hole at the base that is popular for canon-balling locals.
For some evening entertainment, an iconic stop when in Bellingham is the Mount Baker Theater. The theater has been in operation since 1927 and seats over 1500ppl! The seem to cover all aspects of the arts, and you an often catch live music, comedy, a film, and occasionally festivals here. If you’re spending the night, see what’s on the playbill.
There is some excellent food stops along this road, but if you want to fill up before leaving the city, there’s one joint that should make any biker feel at home, The Filling Station. The Stations decor is yesteryears 50’s and 60’s car memorabilia and the menu is classic burger and fries styled around old school bikes and automobiles. If you’re feeling like truly getting in touch with your inner biker, you can order one of the chicken burgers in either the Triumph, Norton, Victory or Ducati.
On the way out of Bellingham one of the first opportunities to stop will be the Larrabee state park, Washington’s first state park. The park provides stunning views of Chuckanut bay. You can do some trail hikes here, there are camping options, and the whole place could deserve a day of exploration all its own. Unless you have a park pass then there’s also a fee to get in.
Image: Taylor Shellfish Farms
Back on the road and sitting sea-side just outside of Samish, is one of the best locations to truly enjoying one of the seas delights. Taylor Shellfish Farms has a prime location for enjoying their highly sought after oysters. You can pull your bike up into the lot, walk down to the restaurant and order a platter of oysters, then watch the sea roll on as you enjoy them.
Further South, and just as the road breaks free of the ocean to make its way inland, you’ll be delighted with one more foodie stop before making your way into Bow. The Samish Bay Cheese shop is your 100-mile challenge, family friendly operation, and farmers market stop all rolled into one. On site you can sample the myriad of cheeses, see the cute farm animals, or pick up a selection of cheesy delights to tuck in your saddlebags for later. The Samish Bay Cheese Shop is a classic addition to a Sunday drive around these cherished parts of Washington.
Once you officially hit the town of Bow, you’ve run the route of Chuckanut drive and you can continue on to Burlington. This abundant driving road from Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham to Burlington is only going to run you about 30-miles, and could be done as a straight shot in forty-five minutes to and hour. However, with some many great pullouts, beach stops, lookouts, and foodie locations along the way. The road could take you the better part of a day and you might barley get your engine warmed up before taking your next break.
To lengthen up the days drive or make a weekend out of it, you’ll probably want to add on a loop through the Cascade mountains. It’s close, beautiful, and will give you the option to make it out of 3rd gear before pulling over again!
Image: Wikipedia. "Mount Shuksan"
The Cascade Mountain Loop (Mt Vernon – Big Lake – Arlington – Verlot – Day Creek – Burlington) – 150miles
Once you’ve spent the better part of the day winding from one eatery to the next, passing over some of Washington’s most scenic 30-mile stretch of highway, you’ll eventually be met with a fork in the road near Burlington. Here you can swing back North towards Bellingham on the much speedier I-5, or you can continue on the adventure, making your way towards the 9, and down to Arlington. I suggested kicking it into 5th or 6th and heading towards to the mountains!
Now that your mind is made up to continue the fun, you can head due South on the I-5 and turn East just before Mt Vernon on the 538. This road will eventually turn onto the 9 and take you towards Big Lake. Just before the lake itself you could either stick to the 9 or make a right onto the W-Big Lake Boulevard road. The 9 takes you down the East side of the lake and the Boulevard road will take you down the West side. Both have options to pull off and get right down to the lake, just watch for signs or little pull outs. If you brought your fishing rod along, your trip might not make it past the lake
On this section of the drive you’ll be in the region of Whitehorse Mountain, located just on the western side of the North Cascade Mountains, passing near the Sauk River Valley, and close to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. If you’re into details you can keep an eye out for the Three Fingers Mountain at 6850ft, the Whitehorse Mountain about the same height, Mount Dickerman at 5723ft, and Mount Forgotten at 6005ft.
After the lake, stick to the 9 as it winds its way past the hills, around Lake McMurry and down to Arlington. Just before Arlington turn East onto the 530 and follow it out of town across the river until you see the Arlington Heights Road. Turn here and it will turn into Jordan road and down towards Granite Falls. Just before Granite Falls, turn onto Quarry road and it’s a quick shot over to the Mountain Loop Highway that will follow all the way up into Darrington. It sounds like a lot to watch for, but with Google maps on your side, it’s pretty easy.
Your first stop for leg stretching and general information is going to be in Verlot, at the Verlot Public Service Center. Here you can get all kinds of information about camping, hiking trails, fire roads, and stops in the area. Deepening on what kind of bike you ride, they might suggest some roads you can get a little dusty on. As well, just a bit further on is the Mt. Pilchuck viewpoint and there is also the start of the Lake 22 Trail Head. If you’re making this route part of a camping trip then you might be interested in this 5-6 hour hike through some of natures most beautiful landscapes starting from this trail head.
There is lots to see and do along the loop here, but if your into Ghost towns, then just up the road past Silverton is the Monte Cristo Trail head. Here you can park you bike, grab your backpack and hike 4.2-miles each way into ghostly Monte Cristo. The area used to be big with gold prospectors back in the shovel and pick days. Once the gold dried up, so did the town. Now you can explore it on foot and wonder what is must have been like to live up here in the winters awaiting gold season.
The next sizable town on this loop is going to be Darrington. It’s a good beer break from the road if you’re looking for a micro brew or two. In Darrington look for the Hawks Nest restaurant or Burger Bar, for casual eateries. If your really looking for that small town feel, or just want to pick up a few pastries for you rear box, check out The Hometown Bakery Café.
From Darrington if you’re looking for the fast route back to Arlington, take the 530 West, otherwise head out on the State Road 530 North East towards Rockport. Coming up on Rockport you can turn left just before the town and into the Bald Eagle Natural Area. It’s a dirt road down towards the water, so keep that in mind if your driving a big cruiser. Right in town there is also the Bald Eagle Interpretive Center where there are staff on hand to give you some bald eagle information and inform you about the area. Your big cruiser can get to the interpretive center, no problem. Depending on the time of year you might just get treated to a number of bald eagles. After this you can cut through Rockport and onto the 20/ North Cascades Highway towards the town of Concrete.
Concrete itself isn’t exactly bustling with a long list of fun things to do. However they did uncover a few historical details to keep the tiny town in the history books. First off is the Henry Thompson bridge. It was built in 1916 – 1918 and at the time was the longest single-span cement bridge in the world. Funny enough, the town of Concrete also has another concrete achievement. The Lower Baker Dam just 1-mile from town was completed in 1925, two years after this they built it up to 293-feet and it too, at the time, was the highest hydroelectric dam in the world. I wonder how the town got its name?
Ohh, and of you’re rolling through Concrete in October and concrete facts aren’t enough to solidify your interests, you might want to take in the “Ghost Walk”. It’s held every Saturday in October, and they specify there is “No kids, no pets, no babies, and no exceptions” for the walk. So it’s either to scary for babies, or too ghostly for pets. Either way, check it out, it’s likely entertaining.
Once you get your fill of facts in Concrete you can head West out of town on either the 20 or take the side road by turning on Concrete Sauk Valley Road and following it to Skagit Highway back to Burlington. Once you hit Burlington you’ll be back to busy interstate options and can head home or set the sun to your back and drive on!