Lake Cavanaugh in Skagit County, Washington is deep in the heart of the Pacific Northwest logging country. Soon after settlers heeded the words, “Go West” the market for logging products was born. The vast forest products in the Lake Cavanaugh area brought a flurry of activity around the turn of the 20th century. Logging is still a staple in this rural area of Skagit County, but it is now a popular location for vacation homes.
Lake Cavanaugh is on the northern base of Mount Washington and Frailey Mountain, along the line dividing Skagit and Snohomish counties. Haystack Mountain and many other peaks of the North Cascade foothills surround the lake to the north and east. Lake Cavanaugh Road is the only paved surface bringing the few vacation home owners to this incredibly beautiful area.
Lake Cavanaugh Road joins Washington State Highway 9 just south of the town of Big Lake. The road climbs, dips, swerves, swoops and twists its way between the hills, creeks and rivers that fed the logging boon of years ago. The scenic beauty of this terrain brings a tranquil peace to the pounding of your heart that come from enjoying the road on a motorcycle.
I’ve never counted the number of corners on this 15-mile stretch of Pacific Northwest motorcycling bliss. The leaning of the motorcycle, surrounding views and ample wildlife keeps my brain cells far to busy to track such things.
Lake Cavanaugh Road quickly transports you from the Skagit Valley farm fields to the backwoods of the Cascade foothills. As the elevation climbs from 150 feet at Hwy. 9 to roughly 1,000 feet the moss-covered trees tighten their grip on the prime pavement seemingly made for motorcycles. Eventually, the road comes to a “Y’ where North Shore Drive and South Shore Drive circumnavigate the tranquil waters of the 844-acre Lake Cavanaugh. The lake is only 80-feet deep, but the reflections of the surrounding mountains will reach much deeper into your soul than that.
If you’re on a motorcycle with limited ground clearance then wrapping around the lake and back down Lake Cavanaugh Road is you only real routing option. About seven miles west of the lake is Granstrom Road, which leads back to Highway 9. Granstrom Road offers more tree-lined pavement with more than enough twists to keep your attention.
If you’re on a dual sport or adventure motorcycle, then options abound for exploring dirt roads and single track trails in this area. For true dual sport riders, you passed by at least a couple entry points to Walker Valley Off-Highway Vehicle area along the north side of Lake Cavanaugh Road. There are enough gnarly single track trails at Walker Valley to entertain you for several days.
For riders of larger adventure touring motorcycles, there are other options. Leaving from the southeast part of the lake is Deer Creek – Lake Cavanaugh Road. This six mile stretch of dirt road is a hoot. On the southern face of Frailey Mountain the views from the road are incredible. The North Fork Stillaguamish River cuts a narrow valley that reaches out to the Puget Sound. Immediately south of the river is Ebey Hill, Wheeler Mountain and increasingly more rugged mountains to the east. The road drops down the mountain and connects with Highway 530 near the hamlet of Oso, between Arlington and Darrington. From this intersection you need to decide if you’re heading toward the sunrise or the sunset. Heading west will end your ride a bit sooner, but no worries as this route will be memorable nonetheless.
Connect this route to others nearby for a truly memorable and adventurous motorcycle ride:
- Finney Creek Road, over the hill we go
- Cascading views along Washington’s Mountain Loop Highway
- Skirting the North Cascades Highway
- Bucolic Mosquito Lake Road
Please post your comments below about this route and others in the area. The more we share, the more adventure there is to be had by all.