Retrace These Retro Washington Road Trips, Updated for the GPS Era

Drive the state’s historic scenic byways with an updated version of a 1940s-era road trip guide.
Cruise through Leavenworth’s downtown.

In the midst of the Great Depression, writers and photographers were deployed nationwide to research and craft detailed highway guides for every state (a Works Progress Administration project). The final edition of Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State, published in 1941, offered 21 road trips with details on the state’s geography, history and culture.

Digital update: Today, you can retrace the same trips—all updated to reflect seven decades of more recent history—via a recent digital restoration of the guidebook, available online from the nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Plan a trip: Try the Laurier-to-Pasco tour, which starts at the Canadian border and travels through Spokane, showcasing some breathtaking views of winding wheat fields, lava wall coulees and a 130-mile-long artificial lake. The tours carefully guide you via GPS while also providing accounts of each stop’s rich and diverse past, such as the history of small company towns scattered throughout the North Cascades in the Everett-to-Leavenworth tour.

Get dramatic views of the sweeping landscape at Palouse Falls State Park.

Collectively, they pass through all of the state’s Main Street communities (there are more than 30 that participate in the state’s program incentivizing main street revitalization for heritage tourism), including Chelan, Prosser, Mount Vernon, Yakima, Olympia and Walla Walla, and the routes overlap with many of the state’s scenic byways, such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway National Scenic Byway or Coulee Corridor National Scenic Byway. Optional side trips are included too; take the Bellingham to Artist Point (at the base of Mount Baker) route, with side trips to Silver Lake and Sedro Woolley.

It’s in the details: The site (and app, if you save the URL to your smartphone’s home page) provides distance, driving times and countless tour legs to explore, leading you everywhere from the Puget Sound’s major islands to less explored areas such as Skokomish and Davenport. With each tour thoughtfully curated around a handful of unique themes, you can revisit Washington again and again.

Main Event: Visit a Main Street community in November and enjoy events such as Olympia’s Twinklefest.

Visit the Grand Coulee Dam, a technological wonder on the Columbia River.

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