Due to a schedule conflict I wasn’t able to join this year’s Marblemount to Mazama weekend ride hosted by the Redmond Cycling Club, so instead some High Performance Cycling buddies and I rolled our own, so to speak.
This amazing ride climbs Highway 20 over Rainy and Washington Passes through North Cascades National Park. Our out and back version of the ride started at the Colonial Creek Campground. From this starting point the ride is 100+ miles with 10,000′ climbing round trip:
Colonial Creek Campground has a reputation for being a safer place to leave an unattended vehicle than Newhalem or Marblemount. Another benefit of Colonial Creek is that it’s easy to take a post-ride swim in Ross Lake.
With high temperatures in the mid-90s, we chose to ride with hydration packs. The heat index really hit me hard on the return trip and I consumed a whopping 180 oz of fluids (plus a cappuccino in Mazama). There are water stops at campgrounds along the way, but with hydration packs you should be able to make each leg of the ride without a water stop.
9,000′ of climbing means awesome descents: The east side of Washington Pass is a total gas. And on the steep descent back to Colonial Creek I got hit with a strong tailwind that accelerated me to over 50 mph. A new personal speed record. Expect strong to violent cross-winds on the return trip as you approach Ross Lake. Watch for the sign that says “Severe Cross Winds Next 27 miles” and take heed. Leave the deep dish wheels at home.
Advanced planning is recommended. We left Seattle at 5 AM and were pedaling at 8:30. There is usually a ton of traffic on weekends, so play hooky from the rest of your life and do it on a weekday. It is usually hotter and drier on the east side of Washington Pass, but rain, hail, and snow are possible at the passes any time of year.