You may have heard of Skagit Valley thanks to its famous tulip festival that happens every March and April. Each year over a million people come to see the beauty of 300 acres being absolutely covered in brilliantly colored tulips. This is a beautiful thing to experience (and as someone who grew up on the islands nearby in the local waters, I went every year multiple times), but August is even better.
This valley is absolutely stunning. With its proximity to both the ocean and the mountains, it offers incredible views of the Cascades, Puget Sound, wild rivers, croplands and orchards, and endless pines and forests. It’s ideal for anyone who loves nature, fresh produce, or a good view. Due to its northern location, this region typically experiences cooler temperatures than pretty much all of the rest of the continental United States. Its weather is very similar to that of Nordic countries, and during the winter you can even faintly see the northern lights if you are closer to the sea where there are less lights. With all of that in mind, it’s no surprise that August is perfect for exploring the region. It’s the warmest month of the year there, and this is when the most prized berries are in season. In other words, August is when Skagit Valley is thriving. Everyone needs to experience it at least once in their lives.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are the highlights.
Explore the local art and grain scene in Mount Vernon.
There is honestly so much to do here, especially for art appreciators. Make sure to wander through the Skagit Valley Co-op– where my family and I would get our groceries when we were on the mainland. It’s filled with incredible, organic, local food, and the top floor features amazing art and gifts crafted by local artisans! This is the perfect spot to support local makers and have something to remember your trip by. After, walk around the historic district (looking out for the iconic tulip smoke stack- painted by a local artist) and pop in the little shops selling earthy goods and organic snacks. When you get hungry, head to Shambala Ancient Grain Bakery and Bistro for some incredible dishes true to the local food scene (like “wish n chips”—vegan fish and chips and obviously a whole slew of sandwiches, which are a favorite of the region). If you’re more of an Italian food fan, there is no better restaurant than Il Granaio. Started by a chef who immigrated from Milan, this place is authentic, and is located in an old granary. The valley has become famous for reviving ancient ways of growing grain and bringing back heritage strains, so this is a beautiful way to honor that core piece of this northern valley. There are plenty of options for vegans like hearty bruschetta, pasta dishes, salads, wines, and a tomato soup that will blow your mind (it is the only soup to ever bring me to tears because it is so incredibly good—my sister and I literally wrote a thank-you note to the chef on our napkins because of it).
Feast on Local Produce and “Immodest Ice Cream Cones” at Snowgoose.
This produce market is a favorite and a staple among locals, and my siblings and I grew up coming here constantly every summer for their ice cream (their best flavor being “Sour Splash”—a vegan sorbet that tastes like tangy fruit). With the wooden stand being in the middle of beautiful fields and orchard lands, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic. Pick up locally grown flowers, Washington wine, Skagit Valley chips and salsa, jellies and bread, and of course, lots of produce and ice cream! Make sure you come hungry, because their local goods are plentiful and absolutely delicious.
Taste the best bread of your life at Breadfarm Bread in Edison.
Edison is arguably the cutest town in the entire region. Consisting of about 100 people, this town along the Samish Bay is peaceful and filled with classical Skagit culture. The little flower stands, coffee shop, and grounding in organic produce makes this town the poster child for the region. What locals know it for though, is its incredible gem—Breadfarm. Any restaurant or market worth its salt in the area carries this bread, and for good reason. Started in 2003, their focus is on naturally leavened bread and handcrafted rustic pastries. Everything is made from organic ingredients that were farmed sustainably and locally. Their ciabatta breads are by far the best and they always sell out, so get there early! Walk down the block to Tweets to get some vegan squash soup to go with the bread! Another staple in the valley, their seasonally changing menu always includes vegan options and they carry lots of vegan ice cream flavors!
Admire the Pacific Northwest views and bounty along Chuckanut Drive.
This is a favorite drive for locals, as it offers stunning views and plenty of nature away from tourists. Stop by Blanchard Mountain Farm for some organic and sustainably grown produce and flowers! They even have a beautiful guest house on their land—perfect for stargazing and connecting with the natural world. Bow Hill Blueberries is also the best place to pick organic heirloom blueberries, and it’s practically right off the road in Bow. For the best view of the sunset in this upper left corner of the country, head to Samish Overlook. You’ll get views of the rich fields and forests, as well as the Salish Sea as you sit atop a hill covered in wildflowers. It’s beyond idyllic. It’s a hike, but if you’re looking for something more challenging, it connects you to the trail for Oyster Dome—a popular hike for locals. Keep driving and you’ll hit Larrabee State Park—a wilderness filled with waterfalls, evergreens, and bald eagles flying free.
Play in flower fields at Gordon Skagit Farms.
This place is a gem in the autumn, but in August the wildflowers are in bloom! Come admire their colors amidst sugar maples and wild swans, streams, and those famously big Skagit Valley skies. Across the way is Schuh Farms, which is even busier during the summertime, but is worth the stop in. They’ve been around for about 60 years, and they’re one of the best spots in the valley to pick your own fruit! August is blackberry season, so be sure to get a big box of those. Their picnic area is next to growing grapes and their own espresso stand, which serves out of this world drinks! Be sure to get something refreshing—they have soy milk and lots of flavors to choose from.
Walk around the waterfront in the artist haven of La Conner.
Widely considered one of the most beautiful towns in the country, this town on the water is filled with beautiful art galleries, shops filled with locally crafted goodies, and really good food. Take a whole day to explore this lovely place, starting at the Museum of Northwest Art for a taste of the local artistic tradition. After, make your way around the many fine art galleries and shops. The best place in town to pick up some jewelry, paintings, and other gifts is the La Conner Artists’ Gallery, A Cooperative Spirit, as it gives a space for local artists to showcase their goods. The Olive Shoppe sells amazing olive oils, kitchen wares, and locally crafted home decor, making it a fun place to take in the local styles and flavors (as well as sample some incredible oils). For unique editions of beloved books, classic Washingtonian blown glass, local cookbooks, and other treasures, Two Moons is your place. The locals’ favorite spot in town however, including mine, is Handmade La Conner. They offer a bulk bar, lots of handcrafted zero waste products, sustainable oils, and household essentials. It’s a great place to pop in! After, make sure to visit Christianson’s Nursery to hang out with some local plants in their airy greenhouses. The best place to stay in town is the waterfront hotel, La Conner Channel Lodge. Enjoy the views and seaside architecture!
Camp in Rasar State Park.
This is the best campground in the valley for many reasons. The camp sites are in the middle of towering pines. Throughout the forest are ferns, wild salmonberries, forest flowers, wild huckleberries, and endless wildlife. On top of it all the Skagit River cuts right through it. Bring some foraged berries to the sandy shores and go for a swim. The current is quite strong, so stay close to the shore or go with other (vaccinated) people. At night, you can enjoy the blanket of glittering stars above your head and the crackling of your campfire in the balmy August nights. It’s the perfect place to reacquaint yourself with nature and get to know the local land.
Visit the North Cascades National Park at the eastern end of the valley.
If you’re wanting to have an adventure in an alpine wilderness, this spot is just for you. Known as the “American Alps,” the Cascade Mountains are majestic to say the least. Explore over 300 glaciers, endless waterfalls, and sweeping valleys in the middle of the peaks. It’s an incredible place to go stargazing, foraging, camping, hiking, and climbing. Bring plenty of food in (from one of the farm stands that you’ve visited, perhaps), and just enjoy the solitude in nature.
See the famous brand in person at the Cascadian Farm home farm.
Started almost 50 years ago, Cascadian Farm grows blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet corn, and pumpkins! Their farm stand sells the fresh produce, homemade snacks and espresso. It’s such a beautiful drive through the forests, so this is the perfect spot to fuel up. They have a native pollinator garden in their picnic area so make sure to enjoy that while you’re there! Now when you buy their sustainably made cereals, frozen produce, and granola bars, you’ll know exactly where it came from.
There are so many more things to do here- from visiting magical tea mansions and chamomile fields to going wine tasting through the farmlands, there is never enough time to do it all. Focus on exploring wherever calls to you, getting to know the local landscape, and eating as much fresh produce as you can. You can’t go wrong.
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Photo: Emily Iris Degn