I-5 Travelers: Expect Peak Festival Traffic on Weekends in Washington

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival | I-5 Exit Guide

Washington’s Skagit Valley tulips are getting ready to bloom, a welcome sight following what felt like an unrelenting winter. This means the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and the extra traffic it draws from around the globe, is right around the corner.

Visiting the flower fields in April should be an enjoyable event, not a day spent stuck in traffic. Make the trip as pleasant as possible by preparing for congestion, planning alternate routes and understanding the area.

Alternate Interstate 5 exits
Many travelers choose to take Interstate 5 to exit 226 (State Route 536/Kincaid Street) as the most direct route to the tulips. This route cuts through the heart of Mount Vernon and easily connects to shops and restaurants. However, during peak weekend visiting hours, traffic can quickly clog up the city and back up onto I-5. Consider alternate exits to avoid this congestion.

  • Exit 230 (SR 20/Burlington/Anacortes): SR 20 is a great option for anyone traveling from Canada, points north of Skagit County or those from the south who want to avoid congestion in town.
  • Exit 221 (SR 534/Conway/La Conner): Northbound travelers can avoid backups farther up the highway by taking this exit and heading west toward Conway.

Tulip viewing is best as a driving or bicycling tour
The tulips are not concentrated in one location, but rather at many fields scattered across the Skagit Valley. Fields are often several miles apart on narrow county roads, so walking is not advised. Instead, consider driving, carpooling or bicycling along the designated Tulip Route, marked with green signs.

To eliminate distracted driving, passengers should take photos while drivers safely navigate the roads. If everyone wants to get out of the car, visit the display gardens at Roozengaarde or Tulip Town to find designated parking areas. Parking is free with admission to these tulip farms.

Travelers should also:

  • Obey all no parking signs.
  • Never stop in the middle of the road.
  • Avoid parking in/blocking private driveways.

For those who would like to bicycle or take a bus to the event, two Skagit Transit Park & Rides in Mount Vernon connect to bus routes that stop near the tulip fields. When cycling through the fields, be aware of drivers touring the fields and follow the rules of the road. Motorists also should be extra alert and understand their responsibility to share the road.

Avoid the crowds
The tulip festival runs the entire month of April. Weekday visits typically allow visitors the chance to see the tulips with minimal traffic. Weekend visitors should arrive early, when the display gardens open. Congestion is often at its worst on county roads and on southbound I-5 during sunny weekend afternoons, just after the gardens close.

Go before you go
There are no public restrooms in the tulip fields. Those who purchase tickets to the display gardens or are customers at some area businesses will have access to restrooms. Others will want to make pit stops before hitting the flower fields.

  • WSDOT has safety rest areas just north of Arlington and near Bow Hill Road, just south of the Skagit/Whatcom county line.
  • The city of Mount Vernon has a public restroom at Lions Park just north of downtown.

Don’t rush: Enjoy the beauty of the Skagit Valley by planning ahead, knowing alternate routes and allowing extra travel time.

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