Unwrapping the fine curves of Chuckanut Drive

Chuckanut Drive sounds like a candy bar. It is in fact one of the most scenic routes to be graced with a paved surface. I have wanted to point my V-Strom down Chuckanut Drive since I moved to Washington last year and heard someone talk about it for the first time. It was funny sounding, but everyone spoke accolades of the scenery.

The south end of the Chuckanut Drive blazes a path through the Skagit County farmlands.Let me tell you, this is a gem of a road. Washington State Route 11, aka Chuckanut Drive connects with Interstate 5 just north of Burlington, Washington. It takes just over an hour to reach the road from Seattle with light traffic. The luscious farmland promenade of Skagit County provides a beautiful shelf to hold up the eastward view of the North Cascade Range. The first few miles of the road cut straight through the fields.

After passing by a couple small grocery stores a bridge erupts out of a corner in the road and you are dropped in a tree and cliff-lined area along Samish and Bellingham bays overlooking the San Juan Islands. This is where the road becomes truly magnificent. It’s funny because the engineers at the Washington State Department of Transportation probably hate this road. It is curvy, has steep cliffs with loose falling rock that often damages the road and there is only one way in and out of the area. The exact same reasons why this is such a great motorcycle road… just beware of the falling rocks.

There are many convenient places to take photographs along the side of the roadThere are numerous areas to pull over and snap photos. A great place to stop and stretch your legs is Larrabee State Park. The more than 2,600-acre camping park along the Samish Bay shoreline has two freshwater lakes, tidelands and numerous hiking trails to really enjoy the wilderness. It is a popular overnight destination and worth checking out. After a short break to stretch my legs I made a loop through the camping area and was back on the road.

I gently pressed the handlebars left and right as I swerved along the tree-lined cliffs. My throttle hand was getting a constant workout as I sped up in the corners to settle the suspension of my motorcycle. It is real easy to put yourself in a “corner” mentality on this road. The constant shift between sweeping and sharp corners keeps you honed in on the ride. This is a rider’s road, but I found it best to enjoy the forest, marine and geological surroundings that make this road so special. Yeah, it was the surroundings helping me manage my speed and not the two state troopers that locked eyes with me as a started down Chuckanut a short while ago. The smooth power band of my adventure-touring bike requires me, the operator to mind the speed limit.

Win's Drive-In makes a tasty strawberry shake to help cut the summer heat.Chuckanut Drive is a short route of just 20 miles start to finish. As I approached its northern terminus I cross a bridge into the Fairhaven historical district of Bellingham. The buildings all reflect the heritage of this area, which was founded in the late 1880’s. As I pulled into town, Win’s Drive-In coerced me to pull in and check out their faire. After contemplating a juicy burger I decided to only order a strawberry shake. It was the perfect addition to a nice relaxing ride.

So what did I do after enjoying the shake and poking around Bellingham for a while? Rinse and repeat. I hopped on the bike and rode the ‘Nut again.

Since Chuckanut drive isn’t very long, it is a good road to link with some of the other scenic routes in Western Washington. I’ve reviewed other good routes in this area including Whidbey Island and the Mountain Loop Highway. Keep in mind that adding routes will make this a long day. It might work best to pack a tent and spend a weekend up in this area. It is certainly worth spending time to explore all that it has to offer.


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