SR 20 (North Cascades Highway) will reopen at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 5. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

SR 20 (North Cascades Highway) will reopen at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 5. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

The North Cascades Highway will open Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Traversing Washington and Rainy passes, Highway 20 connects the Skagit Valley with the Methow Valley.

By Robert Mittendorf / The Bellingham Herald

Seasonal snow clearing of state Highway 20 linking Eastern and Western Washington is complete, and the road will open at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, the Washington state Department of Transportation said.

Highway 20, which traverses Washington Pass and Rainy Pass over the Cascades peaks, connects the Skagit Valley with the Methow Valley.

Also called the North Cascades Highway, the road closes east of Newhalem and west of Winthrop every year in early winter because of avalanche danger.

It closed Nov. 13 last year, according to the WSDOT website.

Clearing work began April 5 this year and finished April 30, but the opening was delayed until the road was inspected and seasonal repairs were made last week, along with avalanche-control measures, WSDOT said.

Crews usually clear deep accumulations of snow by early spring.

It opened June 4 in 2020 because of delays as road crews adjusted to restrictions to limit the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.

Opening ceremonies usually are widely publicized and create something of a carnival atmosphere as Western Washington residents looked forward to the warm, dry weather on the east side and access to popular trails and campsites.

For many years, a Marblemount resident made cinnamon rolls and gave them to road crews on opening day.

This year, WSDOT is asking those who attend the opening ceremony to wear a face covering and keep physical distancing because of pandemic concerns.

Many U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service facilities are closed and backcountry roads remain covered with snow.

“Our crews clear the road and shoulder and any pullout needed for our maintenance work, but otherwise, it is still wintry up in the mountains and there are few services or rest stops,” WSDOT said. If you are considering a trip up into the backcountry, we still advise that you are aware of avalanche risk and other potential hazards. For your comfort and safety, please plan accordingly.”

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