The Cascade Range is Washington’s great divide. In addition to creating almost opposite climates on either side of the state, the mountains also serve as a political and psychological barrier between east and west, resulting in what seems like two states within one.
The two halves of the state are different not only in appearance but also in other, less-obvious ways. Speaking very generally, western Washington is urban-oriented, with an emphasis on commerce and manufacturing, while eastern Washington is mainly rural and agricultural.
Crossing the Cascade passes in winter—an adventure many Washingtonians prefer to forgo—is an experience that thousands of avid skiers tolerate to reach the slopes. They simply learn to live with the snow tire and chain requirements, snow-packed and icy roads, and occasional pass closures.
In summer, the Cascades take on a more benign image and become a popular destination for all manner of travelers, who have a wide variety of places and experiences from which to choose. Millions of acres have been set aside for recreation. The North Cascades and Mount Rainier National Parks, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the areas around Mt. Baker and Mt. Adams, along with numerous wilderness areas and wildlife refuges—all constitute the backbone of Washington’s outdoor recreation.
The Cascade Range is an enormous area and I've choosen to divide it into northern and southern sections to make covering it easier. The Northern Cascades section follows the Cascade Range roughly from Mt. Baker at the north to Stevens Pass and Skykomish Valley. The Southern Cascades section picks up the trail at Snoqualmie and follows the Range all the way to the Mt. Adams area near the state’s southern border. This guide follows the main highways over the passes; visiting the sights, backcountry trails, and settlements en route.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition