Life in NorthCountry
Four distinct regions, one incomparable destination
BY SEATTLE NORTHCOUNTRY
To say that Seattle NorthCountry is vast and varied would be an understatement by almost any measure. So vast, in fact, that within the nearly 2,200 square miles that comprise Snohomish County, you’ll find some of the most scenic, diverse, and historically significant lands in all the Pacific Northwest.
Like the headwaters of a wild and scenic river, NorthCountry originates high in the Cascade Mountains, tumbling through densely forested hills, before meandering through fertile valleys on a pilgrimage to the Salish Sea. The four NorthCountry regions take visitors on journeys through time and geography. Here, local life spans urban hustle and rural reality, and ancestral homelands with high tech. Together, these regions — including the Skykomish & Snohomish River Valleys, Stillaguamish & Sauk River Valleys, Urban Basecamp, and Salish Sea Coastal Communities — represent complex ideas and places in one incomparable destination.
NorthCountry’s regional experiences begin just 15 miles north of downtown Seattle, stretching from the Cascade Range and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in the east, to the Salish Sea in the west.
Elevation rises from sea level to 10,541-foot Glacier Peak make this the go-to getaway destination for Seattle metro residents.
Such diverse geography was bound to foster innovation and creativity in things like art, food, and outdoor activities, each giving rise to numerous passionate maker-cultures. From the ancient forested lands and revered riverways of Skykomish & Snohomish River Valleys to the upper backcountry and rural cities of the Stillaguamish & Sauk River Valleys to the east, and from the international bustle of Urban Basecamp and the coastal life of the Salish Sea, there is so much to see, do, learn, and explore.
With that in mind, these are the peaks, the valleys, towns, and the waters which inspire the experiences that sweep you around and away in Seattle NorthCountry:
SKYKOMISH & SNOHOMISH RIVER VALLEYS
A journey through the upper Skykomish River Valleys includes scenic passage to the ski slopes of Stevens Pass via the communities of Skykomish, Baring, Index, Startup, Gold Bar, and Sultan, where climbers, hikers, and paddlesport enthusiasts congregate at the end of the day to share stories and build bonds.
The agrarian lower Snohomish River Valley communities of Monroe, Snohomish, and Lake Stevens slow the internal clock. Rich with makers and collectors, daily life bustles in bakeries, vintage boutiques, and coffee shops where local merchants and regional icons gather.
Mountain life and heritage farm culture are everything in the Skykomish & Snohomish River Valleys.
Seasons are measured here not by days or months on a calendar, but rather by the presence of summer markets, pumpkin and sunflower fields and blazing bonfire gatherings in the fall, and hunting for holiday trees in winter. Here, local life draws visitors in.
STILLAGUAMISH & SAUK RIVER VALLEYS
In the upper Stillaguamish-Sauk River Valley, and secluded deep in the Central Cascades, the towns of Darrington and Granite Falls are linked by the mysterious and almost mythical Mountain Loop Highway. Backcountry and off-grid, these communities and their bluegrass roots live below towering snow-capped mountains. Here, glacier runoff pools into pristine alpine lakes. Historic fire lookouts reward a lucky few with star-strewn night sky views. Musicians, paddlers, mountain bikers, van-lifers, and snow explorers gather here to build community.
In the lower Stillaguamish River Valley, which is centered around walkable streets and dynamically curated storefronts, historic downtown Arlington is a convergence of cycling and river cultures. Self-contained by nature, this growing community is the flagship of the valley.
Tucked between the Cascade Range and the Salish Sea, the influential cities of Bothell, Brier, Everett, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, and Mountlake Terrace are the vibrant heartbeat of NorthCountry. Urban Basecamp is perhaps best known as a globally-recognized aviation hub where the world’s finest aircraft are made. A new, state-of-the- art commercial passenger terminal at historic Paine Field Airport gives easy access to NorthCountry. Here within the Paine Field Aviation District, visitors come daily for the Boeing Future of Flight and the Museum of Flight Restoration Center & Reserve Gallery.
Young creators, innovators, and academics also give rise to a start-up vibe in the Urban Basecamp. International life is tasted in markets, and in a diverse spectrum of cultures and cuisines. Not to be missed favorites include tortas, fresh tortillas, rice noodles, sushi, and Korean barbecue. Basecamp creature comforts include the performing arts, upscale retail, and spa-life experiences.
SALISH SEA COASTAL COMMUNITIES
Life along the shores of the Salish Sea is of constant fascination in NorthCountry. The lower coastal region brings visitors into the local life of Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Everett. Saltwater is everything here, shaping history, heritage, arts, and food. From paddling and diving to exploring tiny sea creatures and big Dungeness crab on rocky beaches, life here feels influenced by the tide.
Artists and artisans congregate around the Schack Art Center, and the area is rich with performance art, festivals, and food.
The upper coastal region where the Consolidated Borough of Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip Indian Reservation lies, as well as the cities of Marysville and Stanwood, is heavily influenced by ancestral heritage, tribal gaming, and luxury retail shopping. The Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve at Tulalip, which is dedicated to deepening the educational awareness and understanding of the Tulalip Tribes and their ancestral heritage in what is today called Snohomish County, is not to be missed. Everything in the Coastal Communities is inspired and informed by the Salish Sea. Respect, knowledge, and understanding are passed down, atmospheric visual art is inspired, created, and appreciated, and life in NorthCountry is learned here.
To learn more about Seattle NorthCountry, including events, attractions, and activities, visit SeattleNorthCountry.com. ✦
Cover photo: Jake Campbell