by Dave Beaudette, Lee Cain, Dan Stephens, and Andy Stepniewski

revised by Dan Stephens

From Puget Sound at Everett, US-2 follows the Snohomish and Skykomish River valleys to the Cascade Crest at Stevens Pass, then descends along the Wenatchee River drainage to the Columbia River at Wenatchee. The highway is open all year, except for temporary winter closures for avalanche control. Eastward from the summit, it is only a one-hour drive from moist lower-subalpine forests to dry Eastside woodlands and semi-arid shrub-steppe habitats. To the south, hundreds of glacial lakes nestle beneath serrated granite ridges in the rugged, sparsely timbered Alpine Lakes Wilderness.



The Old Cascade Highway—closed to through traffic—offers about the same mix of species as the far busier Stevens Pass. This road turns north from US-2 about a quarter-mile west of the summit. The habitat at the top end is a thick forest of Silver Fir, Mountain Hemlock, and some Alaska Yellowcedar. A good birding spot is at the first switchback (1.5 miles). The forest is more open here, with Noble Fir, Douglas-fir, and heavy brush. Sooty Grouse hoot along the road in spring and early summer, and Golden Eagles sometimes fly along the ridge to the north. Forest and openings can have Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, MacGillivray’s, Yellow-rumped, and Wilson’s Warblers, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, and Evening Grosbeak. Dusky Flycatcher and Nashville Warbler sometimes can be found in brushy places. The Wellington Trailhead (Iron Goat Trail #1074—America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest Pass required) is at the end of a short spur road one mile beyond the switchbacks. Look for American Dipper from the footbridge over the Tye River at the road’s end (2.3 miles).

The Silver Fir forest at Stevens Pass (elevation 4,061 feet) has been opened to make the Stevens Pass Ski Area, creating an abundance of brushy habitats easily accessible from US-2. Walk along any of the roads around the ski slopes. Breeding birds include Rufous Hummingbird, Olive-sided and Willow Flycatchers, Violet-green and Barn Swallows, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Townsend’s, and Wilson’s Warblers, Slate-colored Fox, Lincoln’s, and White-crowned (pugetensis) Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, and Pine Siskin. Purple and Cassin’s Finches occur in fall; later, a few Common Redpolls may appear among the more numerous siskins. White-winged Crossbills are regular here in irruption years. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Stevens Pass, providing access to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to the south and the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness to the north.

Perhaps the easiest way to reach upper-subalpine parkland habitats is on the trail above Union Gap. From Stevens Pass, drive about four miles east and downhill on US-2, turning left onto Smithbrook Road (FR-6700). In 2.7 miles, park at the Smithbrook Trailhead (America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest Pass required) and walk the one-mile trail to Union Gap. The trail passes through brushy slopes, old-growth forest (where Northern Pygmy-Owl and other birds typical of moist forest can be expected), and a small sedge meadow (check for Lincoln’s Sparrow). At the crest (elevation 4,680 feet), turn left and take the Pacific Crest Trail to Lake Valhalla (1.5 miles). You encounter mature Silver Fir and Mountain Hemlock forest first, then parkland with lots of Mountain Ash and huckleberries. From the ridge above the lake, climb right (west) on an unmarked footpath up a small peak, reaching open slopes with huckleberry pastures and views south to Mount Rainier and north to Glacier Peak. This habitat is especially good for migrants in late summer and fall: Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, Bohemian Waxwing (after mid-October), and a variety of warblers and sparrows.

Continue east on US-2 for 1.6 miles to the Stevens Pass Nordic Center and the Upper Mill Creek Road. The open areas about 2.5 miles up this road are good for both subspecies of White-crowned Sparrow (pugetensis and possibly gambelii) as well as Slate-colored Fox Sparrow. Another 11 miles down US-2, the Nason Creek Rest Stop is good for Ponderosa Pine species; White-headed Woodpecker has been seen here.



Five miles long and a mile wide, Lake Wenatchee enjoys a spectacular setting in a glacial trench between two high mountain ridges. The state park at the outlet (east) end of the lake is often crowded and noisy, and much of the shoreline is private. Better birding can usually be had at the inlet end. Turn north from US-2 onto SR-207 at Coles Corner, 2.7 miles east of Nason Creek Rest Stop and 14 miles north of Leavenworth. At a fork in 4.3 miles—0.8 mile past the entrance to Lake Wenatchee State Park South (camping, picnicking)—bear left onto Lake Wenatchee Highway, passing the north park entrance in 0.3 mile. Continue 5.8 miles on the highway to a junction with White River Road. Keep left here onto FR-65 (aka Little Wenatchee River Road). In another half-mile stop at the large meadow to look for Wilson’s Snipe and Common Yellowthroat. Cross the bridge over the White River and bird the riparian groves and conifer forest for the next half-mile from the road and on a couple of dirt tracks that lead off into the forest. Birds to look for include Common Merganser, Ruffed Grouse, Osprey, Black and Vaux’s Swifts, Calliope Hummingbird, Red-naped Sapsucker, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow, Hammond’s, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, Steller’s Jay, Common Raven, many Tree, Violet-green, and Cliff Swallows, Mountain and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Dipper, Veery, Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, and Townsend’s Warblers, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, Purple and Cassin’s Finches, and Red Crossbill.

Smaller, quieter Fish Lake—just northeast of Lake Wenatchee—is worth a look. If coming from the preceding site, drive east on Lake Wenatchee Highway 5.6 miles from the White River Road intersection, then make a left onto Chiwawa Loop Road (this turn is 0.2 mile west of the Lake Wenatchee State Park North entrance). In 0.6 mile, turn left onto FR-6107 (aka FR-6401 and Cove Resort Road).

If coming from the south, turn right at the fork 0.8 mile after the Lake Wenatchee State Park South entrance (just after crossing the Wenatchee River). Keep right in 0.4 mile at the next intersection. You are now on Chiwawa Loop Road, from which FR-6107 (aka FR-6401 and Cove Resort Road) turns left in 0.1 mile (Fish Lake sign). Drive north 0.8 mile on this road, park on the left just before a crowded resort area, and take the forest trail that winds along the southwest edge of Fish Lake. Look for geese and ducks, Red-necked Grebe, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and a variety of swallows, including Bank as this short trail nears the marshy west end of the lake.

FR-62 goes northwestward from Fish Lake deep into the Cascades, offering many USFS campgrounds along the Chiwawa River and trailheads for wilderness hiking and backpacking. For a quick sample of the lower part of these forest habitats, continue east on Chiwawa Loop Road from the FR-6107 turnoff, and in 0.7 mile turn left onto FR-62 (aka Chiwawa River Road). At an intersection in 2.2 miles, where FR-62 goes straight, turn left onto FR-6300. In 2.5 miles, note Meadow Creek Campground (fee) on the right. At a fork in another 0.4 mile, keep left on FR-6300, which traverses moist forest for the most part. In 3.5 miles, a small stretch of Deerbrush hugs the steep south-facing slopes. Breeding birds in this habitat are Calliope Hummingbird, Dusky Flycatcher, Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers, and Slate-colored Fox Sparrow. Continue driving up the road another 1.2 miles and park near a locked gate. Just before the gate, walk left along FR-6309 for 30 yards over a creek to explore riparian habitat dominated by alders.

From the gate, Trail 1537 heads into the Glacier Peak Wilderness, reaching the Twin Lakes (elevation 2,822 feet) in two miles. Barrow’s Goldeneye and Spotted Sandpiper nest here. Birding riparian and conifer habitats near the gate and along the trail might yield Vaux’s Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers (and hybrids), Olive-sided Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, Swainson’s and Varied Thrushes, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, and Townsend’s Warblers, Western Tanager, and Black-headed Grosbeak.



US-2 follows the Wenatchee River as it tumbles down the Tumwater Canyon, flanked by towering granitic peaks. Tumwater Campground (USFS, fee, closed through 2015 because of flood damage) is on the left side of the highway at the head of the canyon, 5.6 miles south of the SR-207 junction. To the right is Hatchery Creek Road, FR-7905. This road is good for Ruffed Grouse and, at 1.9 miles, a riparian area is excellent birding with Black-throated Gray Warbler often seen.

Return to US-2 and pull off at the blocked FR-7903 road on the left in another 2.1 miles. This road/trail meanders through a variety of habitats for several miles with good chances for Sooty Grouse, plus a great variety of eastside forest species. Continue down the highway toward Leavenworth for 1.3 miles to a pullout just below the Wall Rapids. Here, scan to the west across the river into the Drury Falls cliff complex for Peregrine Falcon. At least one pair has successfully nested here for the last 15 years. Early morning and evening are the best times to see birds at the nests, as the adults hunt the Wenatchee River drainage during the day. Look in and above the white cliffs. The active nest sites change frequently and are not always visible from the highway.

Proceed 2.3 miles downcanyon and turn left into a parking area where a steep trail leads to Castle Rock. Hike around Castle Rock where, from the top of the trail, you can view a complex of cliffs where Peregrine Falcon has consistently nested. One mile farther down US-2 turn right into a parking lot (not marked and easy to miss). Take the Tumwater Pipeline Trail across the steel bridge that once supported water pipes leading to generators that powered Great Northern electric locomotives through the eight-mile Cascade Tunnel, where coal-burning engines could not operate. The power plant was abandoned decades ago when diesel replaced steam. Walk upstream on the smooth path. Look among the giant boulders in the torrent below for Harlequin Duck, Common Merganser, and American Dipper. Trailside thickets of Bigleaf Maple and Ocean Spray, interspersed with Douglas-fir and Ponderosa Pine, have breeding Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, Nashville Warbler, and Western Tanager. An Osprey nest is on the highway side about a mile upstream from the Pipeline Bridge.

Continue down US-2 and turn right in 1.6 miles onto Icicle Road, on the western outskirts of Leavenworth. In 2.1 miles turn left on Hatchery Road to reach Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. If the gate is closed, park outside and walk in. Cross the dam to the east side of the hatchery to find a natural area that features a one-mile loop trail where over 120 bird species have been recorded. Breeding season and migration are the best times for birding. The habitat is primarily deciduous forest and brush, with a few conifers. Wood Duck, Harlequin Duck, and Common Merganser nest along the waterways; other nesting species include Osprey, Western Screech-Owl, Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds, Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers (and hybrids), White-headed (pines) and Pileated Woodpeckers, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, all three nuthatches, American Dipper (dam), Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird, several species of warblers, and Purple and Cassin’s Finches. Black Swift is often seen overhead and evidently breeds somewhere in these mountains. In migration, check for Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows. Winter brings a few Pine Grosbeaks.

The turnoff to Sleeping Lady Mountain Retreat is 0.3 mile farther along Icicle Road. Many environmental conferences are held here, along with music festivals and other events open to the public. Birders are free to wander the grounds: look for White-headed Woodpecker, Lazuli Bunting, and Cassin’s Finch, among many others, and for Harlequin Duck and American Dipper in the creek.

Icicle Road (becomes FR-7600) continues up Icicle Creek for more than 15 miles, serving a number of campgrounds (USFS). Check Lower Johnny Creek and Eight Mile campgrounds for Harlequin Duck in the spring and early summer. The blacktop ends in 10 miles; continue on the gravel road for another 2.3 miles to the USFS Chatter Creek Guard Station (maps, information). Half a mile farther on is parking (America the Beautiful Pass or Northwest Forest Pass required) for the Icicle Gorge Loop Trail 1596,a four-mile loop on a smooth, gentle trail that follows alongside boulder-strewn Icicle Creek. Walk left to cross the creek on a bridge. The trail goes upstream and then veers away from the noisy creek into moist forest, followed by a dry forest of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir; then, the trail comes back to Icicle Creek and follows it for about 100 yards, where Harlequin Duck can be seen in late spring and summer. Continue on the trail as it leaves Icicle Creek and soon crosses Jack Creek; continue for another 0.2 mile to FR-7600. Turn right and cross Icicle Creek into Rock Island Campground (0.1 mile), picking up the trail again on the opposite bank. Walk downstream on this trail to return to the parking lot. Species to look for at various places along the loop include Harlequin Duck, Common Merganser, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Olive-sided, Hammond’s, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, Townsend’s Warbler, Red Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. To reach drier habitats and vistas of Icicle Canyon, take View Trail.

From the same parking lot, walk 50 yards back toward the guard station and head uphill on a moderately steep trail for about three-quarters of a mile to a prominence overlooking the valley, passing through Douglas-fir and Deerbrush forest—good habitat for Cassin’s Vireo and Western Tanager.

Trailheads along FR-7600 give access to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area (393,000 acres), renowned for its picturesque lakes set in glacially polished basins and framed by Alpine Larches that turn blazing yellow in fall. White-tailed Ptarmigan, American Pipit, and other alpine species occur above treeline, but getting into their habitat demands lengthy hiking or backpacking on steep, rocky trails, which few birders undertake.

Just past the Icicle Road intersection, US-2 enters Leavenworth. Made up as a Bavarian village, this friendly community offers many shops, restaurants, and motels, as well as prime riparian birding practically in the middle of town. Turn right onto Ninth Street (0.9 mile from Icicle Road) and go downhill three blocks to an intersection. Turn left here onto a gravel lane to parking for Enchantment Park (0.1 mile). A short trail goes upstream along the Wenatchee River to a bridge over a slough to Blackbird Island. This luxuriant riparian community, created a century ago by a logging mill pond (breached in 1932), is home to many birds. In May and June, look for Common Merganser, Osprey, Vaux’s Swift, Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, a variety of swallows, House Wren, Veery, Gray Catbird, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warblers, and Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks. Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Black-capped Chickadee are here year round, joined by Bald Eagle in winter. This place can be hopping in migration, too.



About four miles east of Leavenworth, US-97 turns south from US-2 and ascends the Peshastin Creek drainage for 21 miles to Blewett Pass (aka Swauk Pass) (page 404). Take this highway, and in 5.2 miles from US-2 turn left (east) onto Camas Creek Road (FR-7200). Go uphill 3.0 miles to an intersection with a minor road on the left. Turn left and then park in the small parking lot on the right. This large, tree-rimmed meadow is the 1,300-acre Camas Meadows Natural Area (DNR), dedicated to preserving a number of rare plants. It is also a great place for birds and butterflies. Walk into the meadow for about a quarter-mile to an aspen stand taking care to stay on the narrow trail.

Return to the parking lot and walk the minor road to the northeast for a half-mile through a disturbed Ponderosa Pine area; stay left at a road that leads to private property. Hairy, White-headed, and Black-backed Woodpeckers have all been noted in the vicinity as have a variety of passerines. Return to FR-7200 and proceed on this easement through private property (bird only from the road) to a junction in 0.7 mile. FR-7200 runs through riparian habitat for another half-mile; walk or stop frequently along this birdy riparian area. Continue for another 1.5 miles along FR-7200 through mixed forest and Ponderosa Pine woodland to a large logged-over area. Species in this area include Sooty Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Williamson’s and Red-naped Sapsuckers, Hairy and White-headed Woodpeckers, Dusky Flycatcher, all three nuthatches, Western Bluebird, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Nashville Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Cassin’s Finch, and Red Crossbill.

Return to US-2 (now combined with US-97) and head east. In 6.4 miles, turn right onto Aplets Way in the town of Cashmere, noted for a fruit confection called “Aplets and Cotlets” that can be purchased in any of the innumerable shops. The road soon changes name to Division Street. Bend right onto Pioneer Avenue in 0.6 mile, and, in about 0.1 mile, turn left onto Mission Creek Road. In 0.5 mile, the road jogs right, then left, and runs south along Mission Creek—initially through orchards, then through a mosaic of riparian and coniferous habitats. Birding is especially productive in May and June along this road, where you can expect Ruffed Grouse, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hammond’s and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireos, Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird, MacGillivray’s, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson’s Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Bullock’s Oriole, and Purple Finch. There are good pullouts at 2.7, 3.4, and 4.7 miles; otherwise this is all private property.

In 6.4 miles, turn right onto Sand Creek Road, which ends in one mile at a primitive campground (USFS, fee) and trailhead for Red Hill Mountain. Calliope Hummingbird, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and Nashville and MacGillivray’s Warblers can be found near the parking lot. The surrounding slopes are part of the Devil’s Gulch Roadless Area (25,000 acres), known for its old-growth Ponderosa Pine, an increasingly rare habitat type in Washington. Surveys have been conducted here for several years; the list of breeding species includes Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Flammulated, Northern Pygmy-, and six other species of owls, Common Poorwill, Vaux’s Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Hairy, White-headed, Black-backed, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Gray, Dusky, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cassin’s Vireo, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes, and Purple and Cassin’s Finches.

Red Hill Mountain Trail #1223 provides an excellent birding route. You will share it with dirt- and mountain-bikers, but they are generally not out in the early morning, when birding is at its best. The trail begins at the restroom, crosses Sand Creek, and gently switchbacks up through open Douglas-fir on a moist, north-facing slope to meet a ridgeline where Ponderosa Pines dominate. You arrive at a small logged-over area, now in a brushy state (Dusky Flycatcher). In 3.8 miles, you reach a saddle among still more imposing pines. Go left about a quarter-mile on Trail #1223.1 for great views of the Stuart Range.



From the Aplets Way junction in Cashmere, continue east on US-2/US-97 toward Wenatchee for 7.7 miles and take the exit signed East US-2 and North US-97. In another 0.6 mile, take the exit signed WA Apple Visitor Ctr and State Patrol.  At the end of the long exit ramp (0.3 mile), turn right onto Euclid Avenue. In 0.4 mile, where the road makes its second curve to the right, Euclid becomes Penny Road. Turn left here to stay on Euclid. Go 0.4 mile, turn left into the Wenatchee Confluence State Park, then right into the first parking lot (Discover Pass required). This popular park (camping, picnicking) at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers has the best riparian birding in Wenatchee. It is also a proven site for local and even state rarities, with records for Brant, Eurasian Wigeon (regular), Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Egret, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Parasitic Jaeger, Little, Laughing, Mew, Western, and Thayer’s Gulls, Arctic Tern, Gyrfalcon, Purple Martin, and Magnolia and Blackburnian Warblers, to name a few. Some 235 species have been recorded in the Confluence Park/Walla Walla Park complex.

A paved path leads from the parking lot to a footbridge over the Wenatchee River. From the bridge, search for Harlequin Duck (migration), Common Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Vaux’s Swift, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, among many others. Ospreys nest on the neighboring railway span. Just south of the footbridge, leave the paved path at the entrance to the Horan Natural Area (interpretive signage and trail map, on the left), a 97-acre, undeveloped part of the park. Birding in the open, weedy spaces and riparian habitat with a dense grove of Black Cottonwoods can be good at any season but is especially fine in spring and early summer. Birds seen regularly include California Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Mourning Dove, Western Screech-Owl, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Spotted Towhee, and Purple Finch. Sparrows are often abundant in migration and winter—among the many White-crowneds, look for Lincoln’s, Swamp, White-throated, Harris’s, and Golden-crowned. Wood Duck is a common nester in the sloughs and ponds. Overhead, look for Black Swifts in summer (occasional). Bald Eagles are common, especially in winter.

Trails through the natural area eventually rejoin the paved path. From here, you can continue along the Columbia River to Walla Walla Point Park. Stop at the first bench inside this park to scope the river edge for waterfowl, gulls, and terns and to admire the fine views of the river and surrounding hills. Birds often seen here include Canada Goose, Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, and, in migration, small numbers of Baird’s, Least, Pectoral, and Western Sandpipers, as well as Long-billed Dowitchers. Black, Common, and Forster’s Terns occur uncommonly. Arctic Tern has been recorded. Water levels fluctuate frequently due to dam operations. When water levels are high, inspect the lawns in both parks for gulls and shorebirds.

A very different spot on the outskirts of Wenatchee is No. 2 Canyon. Leaving Confluence State Park, retrace your route on Euclid to the T-intersection where Euclid changes names to Penny Road. Turn left here onto Penny Road. Travel 0.6 mile and turn left onto SR-285. Go 0.8 mile, turn right onto Maiden Lane, and continue uphill 0.5 mile to Western Avenue. Make a left here and go 2.8 miles to No. 2 Canyon Road. Turn right onto this road. In 1.5 miles, note a shooting range on your right. Scattered tall serviceberry bushes, on the left at the base of a steep, rocky slope, are attractive to Ash-throated Flycatcher, here at the northern extreme of its breeding range.

From this point forward, the road hugs a verdant strip of riparian vegetation, inviting many stops (private property: please bird from the road). An early-morning walk through the steep-walled canyon in spring or early summer may yield Chukar, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Common Poorwill, American Kestrel, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Violet-green Swallow, Townsend’s Solitaire (especially migration), Veery, Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, and Bullock’s Oriole. The pavement ends in 2.8 miles, but you can go farther on a primitive road (summer only) into Douglas-fir and Ponderosa Pine habitat. At 0.5 mile past the end of the pavement is a large gate and a primitive road or trail to the right. Park here and hike through riparian and Ponderosa Pine woodland and eventually into an extremely birdy basin. Species to look for include Northern Goshawk, Northern Pygmy- and Northern Saw-whet Owls, Calliope Hummingbird, White-headed Woodpecker, Gray Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, all three nuthatches, Nashville and MacGillivray’s Warblers, Chipping Sparrow, Cassin’s Finch, and Red Crossbill.