White Pass Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2009)
- Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation
- Length119 miles
Majestic is what comes to mind as you travel past lakes, volcanic peaks, tulip fields, and meadows. Hunting, hiking, skiing, boating, wildlife viewing, fishing and camping are just some of the opportunities to be found along the bypass, which includes two of the country’s celebrated peaks – Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier.
Story of the Byway
From East to West, West to East, the byway offers World Class recreation. For many visitors within the region or around the world, the byway is a route for exploring Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mt Adams. For those in the know – either canny locals or niche recreationists from around the country – there are amazing recreational opportunities all along the byway, in every season.
Trophy fishing the Cowlitz… catch and release fly fishing the Tieton… boating Riffe and Mayfield Lakes… hiking the Pacific Crest Trail… camping in dense forests… Mount Adams mountaineering… watching elk at Oak Creek Wildlife Area… wilderness horse packing… backcountry skiing… rock climbing along the Tieton… downhill skiing at White Pass… snowmobiling… rafting the Tieton… mushrooming the Gifford Pinchot… Visit again and again – there’s plenty to see and do. There’s no place like it in Washington State (or anywhere else!).
If traveling west to east, take exit 68 from I-5 near Mary's Corner to get onto SR-12. You’ll reach Mossyrock in approximately 20 miles and then head around the northern edge of Riffe Lake. The Cowlitz River runs along SR-12 as you head toward Packwood just over 44 miles later. You’ll come to the town of Rimrock in Yakima County and its lake in another 34.8 miles. The final leg of the bypass takes you to its end in Naches.
Points of Interest
Cowlitz Trout Hatchery
Release point for summer-run and winter-run steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat; a no-fee boat launch with ADA-compliant fishing platforms; some parking lot camping allowed
Woods Creek Watchable Wildlife Area
Directions from Randle, Washington travel south on State Highway 131 (Forest Roads 23 adn 25). Veer right in 1 mile at the Y of Forest Road 25 for 4.8 miles.
Oak Creek Big Horn Sheep Feeding Station
Also home to an even larger number of Rocky Mountain Elk, on the east side of Mount Rainier, weather-dependent so contacting the wildlife office is recommended
Grove of the Patriarchs Loop
An easy 1.5-mile boardwalk trail that leads through a stand of massive 1,000-year-old Douglas firs, western red cedars and western hemlock up to 50 feet in circumference
White Pass Ski Area
Directions Take Exit 68 from I-5 to White Pass Ski Area which is located 12 miles Southeast of Mt. Rainier National Park at the summit of US HWY 12. Packwood is 20 miles west of the summit, and Yakima is 50 miles east of the summit. It is approximately 40 miles west of the Town of Naches and 93 miles east of the City of Chehalis.
The West Side Loop
This journey begins in the mountain community of Morton located on US Highway 12. Stop at the Morton Loggers’ Memorial, recognizing those who gave their life working in the forest industry and the Morton Depot. Travel north on SR 7 to Mineral Lake, which offers rest, relaxation and world-class trout fishing with unbeatable views of Mt. Rainier. Check out the Historic Mineral Lake Lodge and the post office.
Continue to the Nisqually enterance to Mt. Rainier State Park. Notice the wooden entrance arch built in 1922. The Nisqually-Paradise Road continues to the Kautz Creek Bridge at 3.3 miles. This is the site of a massive mudflow which occurred in 1947. The original road through this area now lies 20 feet below the surface. A parking lot will allow you to get out and take a look around. Take a short walk along a fully accessible boardwalk leading to an overlook of the 1947 debris flow and a splendid view of the mountain. Notice the young forest that has undergone a complete succession of re-growth within the past fifty years.
Stretch your legs at Longmire, where you will see your first grand view of the mountain. Visit the Longmire Museum and the National Park Inn, a great place to stop for lunch. Walk along the Trail of Shadows.
As you follow the byway, keep an eye out for many scenic overlooks and waterfalls as you approach Paradise. At 5,400 feet, this area with its glorious views of Mount Rainier is the primary destination for many visitors to the park. The town offers a visitors center and historic inn as well as many trails.
Now descending down the mountain, stop and see Mt. Rainier’s stunning reflection in the crystal waters of Reflection Lake. Its picture-perfect beauty makes it one of the most photographed areas of the park — and you can get there by car. On a peaceful day, the reflection is almost too grand!
Following the White Pass Byway, you will find more historic museums and scenic oversights. Stop at the La Wis Wis Campground, filled with giant trees, and the White Pass Country Historical Museum.
A few miles off the byway, drive to Lake Scanewa and view Cowlitz Falls Dam. A favorite location for anglers and families, the lake is well stocked with rainbow trout and offers a family-friendly area to picnic and play at Bud Allen Park. The route comes to an end as it returns to Morton.
Update this byway information today!