City Escape: Seattle, Washington

Text: Robert Smith • Photography: Robert Smith

This circuit includes Seattle's own volcano, Mount Rainier, climbs over the 5,430-foot Chinook Pass, goes through Mount Rainier National Park, and returns via the Puyallup River valley. Park entry fee is for motorcycles. Stop in charming Elbe and take a two-hour steam train ride on the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. The best time to visit is summer or early fall.

Length

Approximately 180 miles

Meet-up Spot

Starbucks, 1436 Auburn Way South, Auburn, WA

Lunch Stop

Excellent burgers and fries served in a genuine 1922 railroad car at the Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company, next to the Scenic Railway Station at 54106 Mountain Highway East, Elbe, WA, (360) 569-2500.

Scenery (5 out of 5)

Spectacular views of Rainier's year-round snow cap from inside the park and from Chinook Pass. View the dramatic variations in the landscape east of the pass.

Traffic (4 out of 5)

Mostly light traffic on weekdays, but try to avoid Auburn in the morning and evening rush hour. RVs are prevalent in summer.

Difficulty (3 out of 5)

Mostly fast, two-lane roads. Mountains make their own weather, so watch for sudden changes. Visibility can be tricky in dense forest sections. Watch for wildlife!

Road Conditions (3 out of 5)

Roads are generally decent but winter plowing can leave patches and potholes. Watch for gravel in turns, especially early in the season. If in doubt, ask locally about current conditions.

Points of Interest

  1. Federation Forest State Park
    Explore 600 acres of old growth Douglas Firs on Chinook Scenic Byway (SR 410) in Enumclaw, WA (closed October 1–April 1); www.parks.wa.gov/502/Federation-Forest.
  2. Paradise Valley
    Discover some of the best views of Mount Rainier and appreciate the enchanting wildflower meadows. Visit the historic Paradise Inn in Mount Rainier State Park; www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/paradise.htm.
  3. Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church
    Located west of Mount Rainier in Elbe, WA, this tiny white wood church was built by German immigrants and has been a symbol of peace since 1906; www.elbehistoricchurch.com.
  4. Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad
    Enjoy a two-hour train excursion from Elbe on the longest continuously operated steam railroad in the Northwest; www.mrsr.com.
  5. Lake Kapowsin
    Outdoor recreation areas include camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, and sightseeing on Orville Road north of Eatonville; www.hancockrecreationnw.com/kapowsin/about/about-kapowsin.