Scenic Byways - Part 3: Washington

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Northwest Scenic Byways

Washington – The sequel

Photo - A look across the Lyons Ferry Bridge into the Palouse region

Ahhh… Here we are. It's been a harsh winter and we've all been planning out our rides for the spring and summer. You've had a crack at reading about Idaho's and Oregon's scenic byways here in Sound RIDER! so here's the final act – Washington.

As was the case in the previous two articles I will only provide you information on several of my favorite romps, then at the end I'll give you a website link for more details.

As is the case with both Idaho and Oregon, Washington boasts it's own bounty of scenic byways. Two are ranked as All American and four are ranked National Scenic Byways (NSB). Beyond that there are many more. Here' a few of my favorites:

SR 112 - The Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway

Rated as a NSB this stretch of road runs from Port Angeles west toward the Makah Indian Reservation. It's twisty to be sure and will challenge your cornering skills with every turn. It's one of those roads you just gotta do out and back in the same day to get the full effect. Along the route you'll travel through a deeply wooded forest and have glimpses of the coast throughout.

Riding along SR 112

SR 261 – The Starbuck Highway

The serpentine allure of this highway calls me out to it at least every other year. Located on the west end of the Palouse Region it runs from Dayton to Washtucna and is simply a roller coaster of pleasure. Again – one direction is not enough. Allow yourself enough time to ride out and back on it. A little history here is that the erector set of a bridge, known as the Lyons Ferry Bridge (see photo at top of this article) which now provides passage across the Snake River on this ride - it used to be located in Vantage and allowed motorists passage over the Columbia River before the advent of I-90.

Adventure travel along SR 261

The Vantage Highway (Old SR 10)

Looking for an alternative to the boredom of I-90 between Vantage and Ellensburg? Take a squirrely jaunt across this bit of history through the hills just north of the interstate. Traffic is nil here and deposits you into the old town area of Ellensburg which makes a nice meal break . You can extend you're time away from I-90 by continuing on to Cle Elum via SR10 from Ellensburg. A very nice canyon drive.

SR 821 - Yakima Canyon

If you like delicious scenery, this is the place to get your fill. Steep canyon walls retain a peaceful river often playing host to fishermen and kayakers alike. Ride through mid-day when the sun is highest for the best light with the least shadows. You'll drop from the Thorpe Prairie into the Yakima River abyss. Pavement is usually good here and turns have wide radii as they follow the river down into the city of Yakima. If you like to ride fast this is not the place to do it as it's heavily patrolled by the Washington State Patrol.

SR 14 – The Columbia River Gorge

This is how you cross the Cascades with nominal elevation gain. Head east on SR 14 from Washougal and follow the Columbia River all the way out to the Maryhill area. It's an amusement park of geology, history and art. Consider stops at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson and at the Maryhill Museum which boasts world class art in the middle of essentially nowhere. Head a few miles east from there past the junction of US 97 and experience a life size replica of the fabled Stonehenge. Not to mention what an awesome road SR 14 is all along the way!

But these five are just the beginning and there are many more to explore. For more information visit:

Story and photos Patrick Thomas/Winter 08 

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