A more leisurely alternative to bustling Interstate 90, Washington’s Highway 2 runs 325 miles across the state, from the port city of Everett to tiny Newport on the Idaho border. Laid out in the 1920s, the route then continues across the country to Michigan. The Washington section of Highway 2 offers something for everyone, from interactive family-friendly fun to breathtaking waterfall hikes to berry farms. 

This mostly two-lane road offers a window through the state’s wonderfully diverse landscape: coniferous forests and snowcapped peaks of the Cascade Range, the sweeping high desert of the Grand Coulee and the Columbia River Plateau, the vibrant city of Spokane, and finally the southern edge of the Selkirk Mountains and Pend Oreille River Valley. This Washington Highway 2 road trip is best undertaken over the course of two or three days. 

For simplicity, this guide divides the highway into two primary sections: west and east. 

West Highway 2: Everett to Leavenworth

Distance: 100 miles

The westernmost section of Washington’s Highway 2 spans a verdant, mountainous region from the Salish Sea through the Cascade Mountains. Most of this portion of the route, from just east of Monroe to Peshastin, is the Stevens Pass Greenway, a designated national scenic byway. This same stretch is also part of the longer Cascade Loop, which continues north up to Winthrop and North Cascades National Park, and across to Bellingham. 

Travel Tip: Services are limited between Skykomish and Leavenworth, and snowy and icy conditions are possible from autumn through spring. Be sure to top off your gas tank and check the weather forecast and Stevens Pass road conditions before setting out. 


Highway 2 starts at the junction with Interstate 5 in this industrious port city about 30 minutes north of Seattle. Downtown is home to the Schack Art Center and Imagine Children’s Museum, and it’s also close to a pair of the state’s iconic aviation-focused attractions. At Boeing Future of Flight you can tour the massive factory in which Boeing 777 jets are built, while the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum contains an impressive collection of vintage military aircraft and other vehicles amassed by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Before hitting the road, stop by Narrative Coffee for a scratch biscuit sandwich and an iced mocha. 


Less than 10 miles east of Everett, Highway 2 curves around the north side of Snohomish, a historic town that hugs the northern bank of the river for which it’s named. The self-proclaimed “antiques capital of the Northwest,” Snohomish is a treasure-hunting mecca, home to more than 150 stores. Another 10 miles southeast in Monroe, the downhome Hwy 2 Fusion Diner doles out stick-to-your-ribs fare like cinnamon roll French toast and huevos con chorizo. 

Gold Bar to Stevens Pass

Beyond Monroe, Highway 2 becomes the Stevens Pass Greenway and climbs into the foothills of the Cascades, paralleling the pristine Skykomish River and through a series of towns popular for hiking, fly fishing, and white-water rafting. Outfitters like Alpine Adventures and Wildwater River Guides offer thrilling float and paddle trips. 

Wallace Falls State Park near Gold Bar, WA.
Wallace Falls State Park by Anthony Nguyen / Wirestock

Tiny Gold Bar, named for its origin as a gold-prospecting camp, features one of the region’s most beautiful hikes, the moderate 5.6-mile round-trip trek along the Woody Trail to multi-tiered Wallace Falls. Grab a meal at Zeke’s Drive-in and continue a few miles for a picnic by the river at the Big Eddy section of Forks of the Sky State Park

As the road jogs to the southeast through Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Bridal Veil Falls and Heybrook Lookout Point are easily accessed hikes near the community of Index. For a delicious feast of farm-to-table cuisine, stop by the casually sophisticated North Fork Kitchen at The Bush House Inn.

Continuing east, Skykomish’s Great Northern & Cascade Railway is a favorite stop with families and fans of historic trains—rides on small-scale vintage steam locomotives are offered on weekends May–October. Other highlights nearby include the Iron Goat hike, a peaceful ramble along an abandoned section of railroad, as well as Deception Falls.

For the next 8 miles, the road twists and turns to Stevens Pass, which sits at an elevation of 4,061 feet and is prone to snow even in late spring and early fall. Here you’ll encounter one of the state’s most celebrated skiing and snowboarding resorts, which during the warmer months offers scenic chairlift rides, alpine hiking, and disc golf.


Famed for its colorful Bavarian-style buildings and cozy alpine vibe, Leavenworth lies on the eastern flank of the Cascades and makes for a great overnight while driving Washington’s Highway 2. There’s plenty to keep you entertained here for a few days, and the town’s wealth of accommodations make it an idea place to spend a night or two. 

Whimsical gift shops, acclaimed winery and a brewery tasting rooms, and colorful restaurants—several of them specializing in classic German cuisine—line Leavenworth’s walkable downtown lanes. Check out the Nutcracker Museum, with its 9,000 antique nutcrackers, and head to München Haus for a bratwurst and a pint of Icicle Brewing Alpenhaze IPA. Leavenworth is also hub for outdoor recreation, home to popular hikes like the Icicle Ridge Trail and all-ages activities, including Leavenworth Ziplines and Leavenworth Adventure Park, where you can ride the state’s first alpine coaster.

East Highway 2: Leavenworth to Newport via Spokane

Distance: 193 miles to Spokane + 47 miles to Newport 

Continuing east on this Washington Highway 2 road trip, the landscape transforms dramatically as you emerge from Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and approach the hills and open skies of the upper Columbia River Valley. Expansive high-desert vistas continue all the way to Spokane, before the road climbs into the pines of Colville National Forest for the final leg to Newport and the Idaho border. 


Photo courtesy of Apple Annie Antique Gallery.

Just 4 miles east of Leavenworth, stop at Peshastin Pinnacles State Park and hike through the white-sandstone geological formations, some rising as high as 200 feet, that give the town its name. Soon after, you’ll come to Cashmere, which has long been celebrated for its pear and apple orchards. It’s home to engaging attractions such as Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village, Apple Annie’s Antique Center, and Anjou Bakery, where you can treat yourself to a flaky apple cream croissant or a slice of marionberry pie. 


Family at Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, WA.
Photo Courtesy of Ohme Gardens

Where Highway 2 meets US 97 Alt, detour slightly into this small, sunny city along the Columbia River. Stretch your legs with a ramble amid the stone paths, tranquil pools, and ornamental evergreens of Ohme Gardens, and stock up on local wine and gourmet gifts at Pybus Market, which also contains several excellent restaurants. About 10 miles north of Wenatchee, just above Rocky Reach Dam, Lincoln Rock State Park is a terrific spot to enjoy a picnic, view spring wildflowers, and stroll along a beach on the Columbia River. 

Optional Side Trip: Lake Chelan 

Distance: 25 miles

From the village of Orondo, which is north of Wenatchee, it’s just a 25-mile (half-hour) side adventure via US 97 and Hwy 150 to the southeastern end of Lake Chelan, a dramatic 50-mile-long fjordlike natural wonder with an impressive crop of wineries dotting the hills above both shores. 

Also See: Things to do in Wenatchee

Optional Detour: Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway 

Distance: 49 miles

From the Wenatchee, Highway 2 climbs up to an impressive sagebrush-carpeted plateau. As you enter Coulee City, admire the massive cliffs over which torrents of water flowed eons ago at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

Steamboat Rock State Park
Photo Courtesy of Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce

Here, consider detouring from Highway 2 along the more picturesque Highway 155 (part of the Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway) along the eastern shore of Banks Lake. Stop at Steamboat Rock State Park, which is named for the long, 800-foot-high basalt butte at its center. Continue to mammoth Grand Coulee Dam, one of the world’s largest concrete structures (behind-the-scenes tours are offered). Then turn southeast on Highway 172 to Wilbur, rejoining Highway 2. Without stops, this scenic bypass takes about 30 minutes longer  than following Highway 2 directly from Coulee City to Wilbur. 

Wilbur to Reardan

From Wilbur, Highway 2 stretches across a sparsely populated high prairie. You’ll encounter just a handful of small hamlets and even some virtually uninhabited ghost towns that thrived around the turn of the 20th century. Highlights include Sherman and Govan, which is home to an often-photographed Victorian schoolhouse abandoned since the 1940s.

In the small town of Davenport, Tribune Smokehouse is a great stop for tender, slow-smoked pulled pork and chicken thighs. Farther east in tiny Reardan you’ll find the Inland Northwest Rail Museum, which displays a rare antique Union Pacific turntable and other colorful railroad artifacts, and the Speed Trap Taphouse. On the northeast edge of town, Reardan Audubon Lake is great for viewing the more than 200 species of migratory birds that pass through in spring and fall.


Highway 2 in Washington enters the state’s second-largest city from the west and makes a sharp turn north across the Spokane River, by downtown’s alluring Riverfront Park. This walkable neighborhood is rife with notable indie shops, bars, restaurants, and winery tasting rooms. For a full rundown of what to see and do in this dynamic city, check out this Spokane city guide

Green Bluff and Mead

Just north of Spokane slightly off Highway 2 you can explore Green Bluff’s and Mead’s U-Pick fruit growers and craft breweries. If you have some extra time, detour farther up Highway 206, which climbs for about 20 miles up into breathtaking Mount Spokane State Park


Your Washington Highway 2 road trip ends at the Idaho border in the fríendly river town of Newport, where you can learn about regional history at the Pend Oreille Country Museum and enjoy a tasty repast at Double Barrel Craft Kitchen and Taphouse. Here Highway 2 connects with the southern end of the International Selkirk Loop. By turning northwest up Highway 20, you can follow the portion of this loop that passes through northeastern Washington up through Metaline Falls to the Canadian border and then down into Idaho. 

About the Author

Freelance editor and writer Andrew Collins is based in Mexico City but returns frequently to the Pacific Northwest, where he is the editor of both the official Washington State Visitors’ Guide and the Visit Seattle Official Visitors’ Guide. He regularly updates several Washington chapters of the Fodor’s Pacific Northwest guidebook and is the author of Ultimate Road Trips US and Canada. Collins writes about travel for The Points Guy and several other publications. You can read his work at AndrewsTraveling.com.