Exploring the Chinook Scenic Byway
The Chinook Scenic Byway is the only highway in Washington that’s both a Scenic Byway and an All American Road. That should give you an idea of just how gorgeous it is! Chinook Pass generally opens by Memorial Day and stays open until the first heavy snowfall (usually sometime in November).
The Byway literally runs right by our door and wanders through Mt. Rainier National Park before heading east across Chinook Pass towards Eastern Washington. Chinook Pass, with Tipsoo Lake and the Naches Peak Loop, is one of the most gorgeous spots in the world (!) and well worth a visit in its own right. But continue on the Byway towards Naches for even more awesome sights.
We especially love driving across Chinook Pass to visit Boulder Cave near the small “town” of Cliffdell. Boulder Cave is a unique cave for Washington state, about 400 feet long, and home in the winter to a small population of Pacific western big-eared bats. (It’s unlikely you’ll see any of bats in the summer but it’s fun to look.). You’ll definitely want a flashlight, and if you didn’t bring one with you, we have some inexpensive ones for sale in our office. Click here to learn more.
Continue a little further, and make sure to have lunch or dinner at Whistlin’ Jacks, a restaurant on the banks of the American River. The food is excellent and the story is really interesting. Whistlin’ Jacks is located on a small piece of private land in the midst of a national forest, so when you arrive, you might wonder why we recommend it since the land is crammed with a gas station, convenience store, cabins and a motel. But walk inside and the views are all of the river! We especially love going to Whistlin’ Jacks on full-moon nights, when we can drive back across Chinook Pass and see Mt. Rainier reflected in the moonlight. An incredible experience!
Keep driving and you’ll come to the town of Naches, famous for its fruit stands. Delicious!!! At Naches, you can either choose to turn around and come back to Alta Crystal Resort on 410 (still fun since the views will be different driving this way), or you can make a long loop by driving the White Pass Scenic Byway back to Highway 123. Lake after lake after lake, with lots of big-horned sheep and elk to see.