Historic Highlands Loop — Northern WA
240 km (150 mi)
The Okanogan Highlands Historical Loop is a nice way to discover the back roads. This loop links the tiny communities of Oroville, Molson, Chesaw, Curlew, Republic. It connects back to Hwy 97 at Tonasket, where you can go antiquing or pamper yourself at a spa.
Oroville and Chesaw
Oroville has three local wineries, a brewery and a farmers’ market. Drop by the Oroville Museum and Visitor Welcome Center. You’ll find permanent historical displays and a section that changes every year.
The community of Chesaw got its start during the 1896 mining rush. It doesn’t have a motel or a bank, but it does have a tavern and a mercantile. Most importantly, it is home to one of Okanogan County’s wildest, woolliest events, the Chesaw Fourth of July Rodeo.
A short detour between Oroville and Chesaw will lead to the ghost town of Molson. The town began in 1900. It went through many ups and downs over the years. It relocated and was renamed three times. Today you can sample pastries at the onsite museum and get a fresh cuppa coffee. Take your time exploring a complex of early 20th-century buildings. Wander through the bank, an assay office, and two homestead cabins. It is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Continue east on the Historic Highlands Loop to Curlew (another ghost town) and visit the Ansorge Museum Hotel. Built in 1903, it still has many of its original furnishings. The curators will allow you to browse through almost every room.
Hunt for Fossils
Further south, near Republic, check into the Stonerose Interpretive Centre and go fossil hunting. Once you’ve returned with your treasure, staff will identify the fossil and give you a reference sheet to go with it. You can rent hammers and chisels here. Please ensure you wear shoes and clothing that protect against sharp rocks. It is recommended you bring your own paper to wrap the fossils. Don’t forget the sunglasses/goggles, sunscreen and water!
For a shorter trip, drop by the Tonasket Visitor Centre where they’ll give you a map of the backroads you can take on a drive from Tonasket to Chesaw and Old Molson.
Need to Know:
|Loop distance:||240 km (150 mi)|
|Duration of drive:||Three to five hours|
|Best time to drive:||Year round|
|Watch for:||Antiques, ghosts, cowboys and museums. Watch for livestock on road – this is range country. |
Omak Visitor Center
401 Omak Avenue
Toll Free: 1-800-225-6625
Historical Museum VIC
1210 Ironwood Street
Local (summer only) 509-476-2739
Email Contact: send message
Republic Regional Visitors
and Convention Bureau
15-1 N. Kean St
Phone: (509) 775-3387
Tonasket Visitor and
Business Information Center
215 S. Whitcomb Avenue