By Natalie Johnson
The Cascade Loop Scenic Byway — a 440-mile round trip stretching as far west as Oak Harbor and as far east as Pateros — was officially named a National Scenic Byway in January by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The byway was the only road in Washington or in the Pacific Northwest to make the list this year, along with 33 new National Scenic Byways across the country.
Existing designated National Scenic byways in Washington include the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway, the Mountains to Sound Greenway on Interstate 90, the Stevens Pass Greenway, the Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway and the White Pass Scenic Byway. The Cascade Loop Association was formed in 1978 to promote tourism along the route.
Locally, the byway winds through Chelan, north to Pateros and through the Methow Valley on Highway 20 before crossing the North Cascades highway back to the west side of the state.
“To be recognized at the federal level you really have to put in a lot of work for a long time,” said Annette Pitts, executive director of the Cascade Loop Association and Foundation. “It caused us to get a lot of really good work done.”
The effort to get on the federal list started in 2011 with a corridor management plan, which included meeting with the public to get feedback on their work.
Dan Kuperberg, owner of the Chewuch Inn in Winthrop and Cascade loop board member, said meeting with the public and getting their feedback was just as valuable as any recognition gained from the national designation.
“Everyone who is involved or affected by that designation needed to have a seat at the table and have shared their opinions,” he said. “That, from a personal perspective, was the best thing I’ve been involved in for a long time.”
Next came branding efforts, including new signage, and retooling the association’s website.
Online, the nonprofit Cascade Loop Association acts as a travel guide, collecting information about cities and tourist destinations along the road.
The Cascade Loop Association and Foundation works with local businesses, chambers of commerce and government organizations to promote stops along the highway. Recently, Pitts said she traveled to the Methow Valley to take photos and promote the area.
“The Methow Valley actually is home to some of our closest tourism partnerships,” Pitts said.
In addition to recognition and visibility, Pitts said the listing could help the association financially.
“It’s no secret the hospitality and tourism industry has really taken a beating through COVID,” she said.
However, Kuperberg said the highway has been in a unique situation among other tourism efforts during the pandemic. The Cascade Loop has proven to be popular not just with Washington residents, but also with tourists both nationally and internationally.
For more information, go to https://www.cascadeloop.com.