WSDOT begins clearing North Cascades Highway on Monday

The Washington State Department of Transportation has started the seasonal clearing of SR 20/North Cascades Highway.

According to WSDOT, on Monday, March 25, crews began the process of clearing snow and restoring access between Western and Central Washington on Highway 20.

WSDOT says of this year’s effort to clear the highway that “the snowpack is lighter than the last couple of years and our avalanche team measured between 63 and 83 inches of snow near the summit of Washington Pass. That could mean a quicker spring clearing, but since all that work is weather dependent, we will have to see what’s in store.”

Washington Pass is the second of two passes that encompass the North Cascades Highway as you head west to east. Rainy Pass is the first.

WSDOT also asks that anyone with a snowmobile parked at the Silver Star gate west of Mazama should move their equipment to make room for plowing operations. The closure on the west side of SR 20 is near Ross Lake.

WSDOT reminds people wanting to recreate in the area that the road behind the gates is a work zone Monday through Thursday until the snow is cleared and the pass is open, and that “for everyone’s safety, please stay out of the area when crews are working.”

Recreational users are also reminded to check with the Northwest Avalanche Center for spring avalanche conditions before accessing the backcountry.

The opening of the road is dependent on snow and weather conditions that vary from year to year. Data from WSDOT for the last 20 years indicates the earliest opening was March 10, 2005, the latest, May 30, 2011.