Small Towns in Washington: North Cascades Region

The small towns of Washington’s northwest corner, known as the North Cascades region, are popular for their vibrant festivals, historic architecture and inspiring seaside scenery. 

Read the other articles in our series about Washington small towns, organized by region (in no particular order): Metro Seattle, The Islands, Peninsulas & Coast, The Gorge, The Volcanoes, North Central, Wine Country, Northeast and Southeast.

Just 5 miles south of the U.S.–Canada border, this decorous Dutch-influenced town is known for its churches, windmill and many festivals. The Northwest Washington Fair (complete with farm animal exhibitions and a Demolition Derby) is held here each August. Other good bets: the Raspberry Festival, held the third weekend in July and September’s Mount Baker Vintage Trailer Rally.

These two tiny hamlets tucked among the pastures and potato fields of the Skagit Valley have become a haven for foodies. Best bets include Tweets, renowned for its farm-to-table lunches, the mostly organic (and some would say orgasmic) artisan bakery Breadfarm and organic farmstead cheese makers Samish Bay Cheese.

This painterly community has long been a haven for artists thanks to its incredible light and beautiful setting. More than 10 art galleries, two museums and the annual Arts Alive! festival can be found here, along with plenty of inspiring scenery and wildlife, including seals, otters and wintering trumpeter swans.

Originally founded as a logging camp, this town is now known for its outlet malls, eagle-watching float trips and annual Berry Dairy Days, which celebrate the regions luscious agricultural gifts each June with a parade, carnival, salmon barbecue and yes, the world’s largest shortcake.

Just 22.5-miles east of Sedro-Woolley on Highway 20, this tiny town is packed with surreal surprises. First, there are the looming cement silos, a haunting monument to an industrial past. Then there’s the hilltop high school, which has a road running through it — literally. And, for thrills, there’s the Concrete Ghost Walk, a combination tour-oral history-creepfest held every weekend in October.

A historic Seattle City Light company town surrounded by natural and man-made wonders, Newhalem has long been a tourist attraction. Lakes, waterfalls and scenic overlooks abound, but it's the Gorge Diablo and Ross dams and their accompanying powerhouses that will truly electrify (in all senses of the word). A limited number of tours to these art deco wonders are available each year through Seattle City Light. Sign up early.

History and shopping come together in this harbor city’s Fairhaven district, with boasts quaint boutiques, cobblestone streets and a slew of historic buildings and markets highlighting some of the city’s more colorful exploits (think opium densand counterfeiters’ hideouts). Village Books, a three-story wonder just off the Village Green, is a must-see. Ditto for nearby Chuckanut Drive.

Learn more about Washington's towns and regions >>

- Diane Mapes