Skagit Valley is located about 60 miles north of Seattle, making it a great destination for a weekend getaway or just a quick day trip. It’s an easy drive straight up Interstate 5 (I-5). But you can also get there (or return) via the following more leisurely routes. For a more scenic route, you can drive Washington (WA) State Route 9 (SR-9), which runs east of I-5 from WA-522, just past Woodinville. In fact, you can take SR-9 all the way to the Canadian border at the town of Sumas, Washington.
A nice return drive from Skagit County is along the Whidbey Island Scenic Byway. This drive meanders south from Anacortes over Deception Pass and down the entire 60-mile length of Whidbey Island. You’ll see mountain and water views among old growth forests. Note that this route includes a 20-minute Washington State ferry ride from Clinton to Mukilteo (around $10 for car + driver, plus $6 additional fare for each adult passenger). You’ll end up just south of Everett, where you can catch I-5 for the rest of the trip home.
About Skagit County
The defining feature of Skagit County is the Skagit River. Though the river begins in Canada, here it tumbles out of the Cascade Mountains to the east and meanders westward through fertile fields before it empties into Puget Sound. The Skagit River system includes her tributaries, the Sauk, Suiattle, and Cascade rivers. The rivers are known for trout and all five types of native Pacific salmon: chinook aka King, chum aka keta or dog, coho aka silver, pink aka humpback or humpies, and sockeye aka red.
Abundant birdlife also makes their home in the region, making it a favorite destination for birding, especially fall through spring when large flocks are migrating. Popular sightings include geese, swans, falcons, herons, and eagles.
Over 300,000 people call Skagit County home. The international economy consists of agriculture, fishing, wood products, and specialized manufacturing. It is the epicenter of Washington State’s petroleum industry. The region also boasts a vibrant arts community.
Many of the area’s communities occur along State Route 20 (also known as the North Cascades Highway) which closely follows the Skagit River. Some of the principal cities and towns across county include Anacortes, Bow-Edison, Burlington, Concrete, Conway, Mount Vernon (the county seat), Newhalem, Rockport, and Sedro-Woolley.
Several (over 20) ancestral tribal communities are at home in Skagit County, including Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Samish Indian Nation, and Upper Skagit Indian Tribes.
Popular Skagit Valley museums and attractions
There are a variety of free and cheap attractions in Skagit Valley that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
(Listed alphabetically by city/location)
Causland Memorial Park in Anacortes is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in the 1920s, a portion of the park is dedicated to Anacortes veterans from World War I to the Vietnam War. Unique to the park is its use of decorative rock and black and white mosaic for structures and walls surrounding the park. A bandstand, amphitheater. and terraces are similarly made of colored pebble and rock mosaic. Other features of Causland Park include picnic tables, mature ornamental plantings, a small grassy lawn and many terraces.
Guemes Island was the Samish tribe’s winter village until they were forced off the island in 1912. Today the island has a General Store and community center, county park on the northern shore, nature preserve on the southern shore, and hiking trail on the southeast side of the island. Geocaching and painted rocks are other local activities. Access the island via a ferry from Anacortes. Ferry tickets: $12/car+driver, $4/passenger.
Swinomish Casino & Lodge in Anacortes offers gaming, many dining options, entertainment, 18-hole Par 72 scenic golf course, and overnight accommodations.
T. Preston Stern Wheeler in Anacortes at Altair-Americus Park is a beautifully restored vessel, originally owned and operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers. It was built by the Lake Union Dry Dock in Seattle in 1939. It’s main duty was keeping the navigational water of the Puget Sound free of obstructions or snags. After it’s retirement in 1981, the Preston became a National Historic Landmark. Download the self-guided tour before you go. Closed November-March. Admission: $5. Children under 5: FREE.
Skagit Casino Resort in Bow offers gaming, restaurants & buffets, headliner entertainment, hotel accommodations, and a convenient location to other activities and events while visiting Skagit County.
Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington at the Skagit Regional Airport features historic military aircraft with a focus on US Army Air Corps and US Air Force vintage “Warbirds”: fighters, trainers, and liaison aircraft. Admission: $10.
Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) in La Conner features the art, diverse cultures, and environments of the Northwest. The MoNA store offers contemporary jewelry, art books, home decor, and handmade objects by more than 100 Northwest artists. Free admission.
Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner features traditional and contemporary textiles of the Pacific Rim. Located in the restored 1891 Victorian Gaches Mansion. Check their calendar for special fiber and quilt events, usually held spring and fall. Admission: $7. Children under 12: FREE.
Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner details early Skagit life. Collections include dolls, household items, quilts, clothing, Native American pieces, tools, and farm equipment. There is also a resource library, including photos and videos, and museum store. Of interest is their gallery of General Stores and map of Historic Barns, which you can look for on a driving tour through the county. Admission: $5 adult, $10 family. Children 5 & under: FREE.
- Self-guided Historic Barn Tour. The Museum has created a heritage barn tour that includes over 50 historic registered barns scattered across Skagit County. Use the Mobile Tour or download tour information for each barn. These self-guided tours include the build date, roof style, agricultural use, and in many cases, the family history of many Skagit County pioneers.
Red Door Antique Mall in Mount Vernon offers a wide range of antiques and vintage goods.
Annual festivals and events in or near Skagit Valley
Winter. Winter birding in Skagit Valley offers the opportunity to see hundreds of bird species, including trumpeter swans, snow geese, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, and countless more. A wide variety of birding talks and classes, photography workshops, guided tours, and river floats area available for birders of any level. From the waterfront in Anacortes to the Cascade foothills in Marblemount, there are six different areas and more than 20 birding sites, making it a great winter weekend getaway. Free and paid activities.
January. Skagit Eagle Festival happens during eagle-watching season every full weekend in January in eastern Skagit County, with a rotating roster of activities in Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount. Free and paid activities.
March: La Conner Daffodil Festival precedes tulips in April. Like the tulips, check their bloom map to find out which fields have burst into seas of yellow blossoms. There are also exhibits and fun events in and around La Conner for a day trip or weekend adventure. Free and paid activities.
March. North of Skagit Country in Whatcom Country, the Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival celebrates migratory birds that flock to the pristine coastal waters of Drayton Harbor, Birch Bay, and Semiahmoo Bay, near the town of Blaine. The festival includes an all-day birding expo in Blaine with expert speakers, exhibits, and kids’ activities. Free and paid activities.
March/April: Skagit Beer Week is a week-long marathon of beer dinners, tours, tap takeovers and educational events around Skagit Valley. Signature events include the starts a Kick-off Concert, the Skagit Farm to Pint Beer Run, Skagit Farm to Pint Passport, and Skagit Farm to Pint FEST. Many events are free, many are 21+ only.
April. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is one of Washington State’s primary destination events, attracting hundreds of thousands of people from across the country and around the world. The festival is designed as a self-guided driving tour, since hundreds of acres of blooming flowers are scattered across farms throughout the valley. There are many other events and activities in the area, including art galleries and museums, breweries and wineries, farms and nurseries, tours (on land, over sea, and in the air), plenty of food options, and special events that happen only during the April tulip festival. Free and paid activities.
May. Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show Featuring Trawlerfest (facebook.com). Browse hundreds of new and brokerage boats of all sizes from your favorite brands, dealers, brokers, and exhibitors in one place, as well as 25+ seminars from experts and rendezvous evening activities. Free and paid activities.
May. Skagit Valley College Powwow. Celebrates Native American culture with drummers and dancers in full regalia. Highlights include Dance Competition, Kids’ activities, Food and Art Vendors selling traditional crafts and original Native American artwork. Drug and alcohol-free event. Free Admission and Parking. Free and paid activities.
Summer to fall. Farmers markets in Skagit County generally open May to October in the following cities. Some also have seasonal holiday and winter hours. Last time we checked (Feb 2022), summer hours were as follows:
- Wednesday: Sedro-Woolley 3-7p
- Wednesday: Mount Vernon (TBD)
- Thursdays: Bow (TBD)
- Saturdays: Anacortes 9a-2p
- Saturdays: Concrete 9a-3p
- Saturdays: Mount Vernon 9a-2p
October. Festival of Family Farms is a fall weekend when the area farms open their barns and lifestyles to you and your family for this one-of-a-kind event. Enjoy hands-on-experience learning what it takes to run a farm, from growing crops to feeding animals. Talk to farmers and follow your food from the fields to the table. Find fun-filled festival activities including educational exhibits, demonstrations, free samples, corn and hay mazes, pumpkin patches, farm tours, and kids’ activities. Free and paid activities.
Year-round. Skagit Bicycle Club promotes and advocates for bicycling and conducts group bike rides and other activities throughout the year. Each spring they host the Spring Classic fundraiser, a one-day ride in the north Puget Sound region attracting 400-600 riders. Non-members are welcomed to join them on any ride. Membership begins at $20 and includes group rides, discounts at participating shops, club-sponsored activity insurance, and other benefits.
Easy walks and hikes in Skagit Valley
Besides attractions and festivals, Skagit County is a popular destination for hikers in the Pacific Northwest. We chose a few easy walking trails that can be done in any season, even during cloudy, cool weather (of course, dress appropriately). Families or anyone can enjoy these walks during a day trip to the area or as a pleasant diversion during a weekend getaway.
(Listed going west to east across the county)
Guemes Channel Trail and the Tommy Thompson Trail are shoreline walks on either end of downtown Anacortes. Guemes begins adjacent to the ferry dock and offers views of the San Juan Islands. Four miles west, the Thompson Trail meanders along and across Fidalgo Bay.
Padilla Bay between Anacortes and Burlington is a four-mile trail through an estuary at the saltwater edge of the Skagit River delta. Watch for birdlife and marine life, especially during low tide as you enjoy views of Puget Sound, Mount Baker (on a clear day), the Anacortes refinery, and remnants of old industries.
Port of Skagit Trails between Anacortes and Burlington. A total of 10 miles of trails that loop and intersect, providing a walk of any length. For kids, visit the wetland section with an interpretive trail children’s story featured in signs along the trail.
Northern State Recreation Area and Ghost Town east of Sedro-Woolley is on the site of a former state mental hospital. The urban park is enjoyed for walking trails, picnicking, frisbee golf, horseback riding, and birdwatching.
Cascade Trail can be accessed from Sedro Woolley, Birdsview, or Concrete. Plan to return the way you came. The 22.5-mile rail trail follows the abandoned Burlington Northern railway grade. The scenic trail meanders alternately along the Skagit River and SR-20 (North Cascades Highway). Depending on the part of the trail you are on, you may see farmland, meadows, forested foothills, log yards, sloughs, river and mountain views river log yards, birdlife, and elk.
Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport offers two trails: the family-friendly Wetland Wildlife Interpretive Trail and the Skagit–Sauk Reach Trail (8 miles round trip).
Skagit River Loop Trail begins outside of Newhalem in the Cascade foothills. Tucked behind the North Cascades Visitor Center, follow marked signs on the 1.8 mile loop trail (and ignore any unmarked turnoffs).
Restaurants and eateries in the Skagit Valley
Pack a picnic or snack foods for your trip. Or plan to stop at one of Skagit Valley’s many restaurants. These cafes, diners, delis, bakeries, distilleries, and pubs are some of the most popular places to grab some refreshment.
(Listed alphabetically by city)
- Coconut Kenny’s, Anacortes, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley and farther north in Whatcom County
- Rockfish Grill & Brewery in Anacortes. Family friendly. Kids eat free every Tuesday with a paid adult.
- Bastion Brewing Company in Anacortes. Family-friendly. Every Friday, kids’ meals are 50% off.
- 5b’s Bakery in Concrete
- Annie’s Pizza Station in Concrete
- Birdsview Brewing Company in Concrete. Family friendly.
- Birdsview Burgers in Concrete.
- Cascade Burgers in Concrete
- Miga Asian Cuisine in Concrete
- Marblemount Diner in Marblemount (seasonal)
- Mondo’s Restaurant in Marblemount
- Rexville Grocery in Mount Vernon
- Valley Shine Distillery in Mount Vernon
- Iron Mountain Bar & Grill in Sedro-Woolley
- Joy’s Bakery & Café in Sedro-Woolley
- Little Thailand in Sedro-Woolley
- Mestizo Mexican Family Restaurant in Sedro-Woolley
- Skagit Valley Burger Express in Sedro-Woolley
Calendar of events in Skagit Valley
Skagit Valley’s proximity to Seattle and many attractions make it a great destination for a weekend getaway or just a quick day trip any time of year. Listed below are upcoming events in the area.