From sunsets on saltwater to classic fall foliage, Bellingham and Whatcom county are home to two iconic highway routes, both of which are officially designated as scenic drives.
Hugging the shoreline just south of Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive is Washington State’s original scenic byway. Shown on maps as WA State Highway 11, the route begins at I-5 exit 231 in Burlington and continues 20 miles north to Bellingham.
This is a favorite and historic entry into Whatcom County. Completed in 1896, Chuckanut Drive was the first land access to the Bellingham Bay community of Fairhaven.
At milepost 14, Chuckanut Drive passes Larrabee State Park, the first designated State Park in Washington. With access to the beach, tidepools, and trails. Encompassing 2,000+ acres, Larrabee is a favorite among locals and tourists. Chuckanut Drive ends in the Historic Fairhaven District, known for its Victorian-era red-brick architecture, quaint shops and delcious restaurants.
Mount Baker Highway is State route 542, stretching from East Bellingham toward snow-capped Mt. Baker.
Within the first five miles, Bellingham’s urban feel gives way to rolling farmland and alpine vistas. The highway was built gradually in the late 1800s as an access road for the lucrative logging industry and its rich history is well documented. Between mileposts 10 and 34, the road passes through the close-knit communities of Nugent’s Corner, Deming, Kendall, Maple Falls and Glacier.
At Glacier, the road passes into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and is a designated National Forest Scenic Byway. Towering evergreens and leaf maples line the route, with skirts of the Nooksack River peaking out at several points.
In the summer months, the highway ends at milepost 58 in a parking lot, which gives visitors access to Artist Point and it’s spectacular views of Mt. Baker’s 10,781-foot peak. In the winter months, the road ends at milepost 55, which is the Mount Baker Ski Area – holder of the world record for snowfall in a single season and birth place of snowboarding.
The Mt. Baker Highway winds its way up to Artist Point, where you can take in amazing views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan.
The Cascade Loop Byway is a 440-mile love letter to Washington praising her natural beauty and charisma. The route contains three of the state’s designated scenic byways—the Stevens Pass Greenway, North Cascades Highway and the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way.
As the North Cascades Scenic Byway loops between massive peaks and along lakes colored turquoise by glacial silt, you’ll see why these mountains are called “the American Alps.” Many argue that the North Cascades Highway is the most scenic in Washington State.