White Pass Scenic Byway
Length: 120 miles / 193.1 km
Time to Allow: Allow about 3-6 hours to fully enjoy this byway.
The White Pass Scenic Byway takes up 120 miles and requires at least three hours to drive but a few days to enjoy properly. If you want to avoid the snow, visit the area from the end of May to early October. The road closes each year from November to May because of heavy snow. As the byway sits in the lower west section of the state, it’s not too far a drive to Seattle, Portland, or a variety of scenic state parks.
Ethel sits close to the Cowlitz River that follows route 12 to Mayfield Lake. Start here to take a fishing charter or tour or even try sky diving. The gardens at Stillmeadows offers a unique stop with incredible views. Explore the Ike Kinswa State Park and even camp or RV while there. For less rustic accommodations, stay at the Retreat to Mt Rainier Bed and Breakfast or the Adytum Sanctuary. Grab some local grub at Kelley’s Kountry Kafe for some tasty American Diner meals.
The town of Morton sits close to Riffle Lake, going east with a scenic railroad for a fun little side trip. A short drive away sits the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Back in 1982, the area experienced a violent eruption. With a lake near the volcano and beautiful forestry, you can find hunting, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, and winter sports in the area. However, check ahead of time, as you never know when the volcano will become active again. Check out the crater from Windy Ridge Viewpoint if you want to stay safe.
Next, head to the White Pass Country Museum in Packwood. The area offers hiking trails, water, and small-town ambiance. Stay at the Packwood Lodge to fully explore the area and grab a cup of Joe at the Mountain Goat Coffee Company. From there, head to the Grove of the Patriarchs, an easy 1.5-mile loop on a suspended bridge that leads to a small island with gigantic Douglas-firs, hemlocks, and red cedar trees that are over a thousand years old.
If you want to go skiing, then head to the White Pass Ski Area for premier skiing on the driest powder snow in the Cascades, with hundreds of inches of snow each year perfect for a family-friendly ski resort. It was the training grounds for the Olympic medalists too. Next is Rimrock Lake, a perfect place for camping recreation and water sports. Oak Cree Wildlife Feeding Area feeds the Yakima elk herd and makes for an interesting stop.
The byway ends in the tiny community of Naches with incredible mountain views. Also, the town is the gateway between the wild forests of the Cascades and the fruit orchards of the Yakima Valley. As a small farming community, you can experience an authentic American downtown. Check out the Boulder Cave trail for a fun hike and camp out at the Hause Creek Campground. From here, you can pick up the Chinook Scenic Byway and continue your adventure through more of gorgeous Washington.
More Washington Byways
You can check out additional Byways in Washington by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the Washington Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.