Western Trips

Western Trips

Friday, November 22, 2013

Travel the White Pass Scenic Byway

Picturesque views of Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in Washington state's Cascade range are what fun trips to the Northwest are made of. Traveling the White Pass Scenic Byway is one great way to achieve this.

mount ranier viewed from tacoma
Towering Mount Ranier
The White Pass Scenic Byway, one of America's great Scenic Byways, spans from Yakima in central Washington in the east to the area of Interstate-5 and U.S. Hwy 12 to the west. Hwy 12 is located about three miles east of the Interstate off exit 68. The entire route is 119 miles and passes through both the Gifford Pinchot and Wenatchee National Forests.

The Three Highest Peaks in Washington State

The White Pass Scenic Byway is also known as Washington's Volcano Playground. This is known as Washington's volcano country. This is because all three of Washington's highest mountain peaks, Mount Ranier, Washington's highest, Mount St. Helens, a National Monument with it's jagged crater and Mount Adams all are part of your White Pass Scenic Byway experience.

Mount Ranier itself boasts twenty-six glaciers surrounding it. Mount St. Helens last erupted in 1980 that shot ash into the atmosphere that circled the globe. Mount Adams at 12,276 feet offers a real wilderness environment with alpine lakes that's enjoyed by campers during the non winter months. Hiking is spectacular in this area with both long and short trails offered. According to scientists Mount Adams last erupted circa 550 B.C.

mount adams washington
View of Mount Adams from Mount St. Helens
A Summer and Winter Playground

Rivers, lakes and waterfalls can all be seen along this scenic byway. Wildlife viewing, hiking, fishing and snowmobiling, downhill skiing, rock climbing are among the many recreational opportunities available.

One of the many picturesque lakes along the route is Rimrock Lake which is east of White Pass. The White Pass Scenic Byway (U.S. 12) passes right along the north shore of the lake where boating, good fishing and camping are very popular. Lakefront tent and RV camping among the stunning tall pines is available in all seasons.

Most suggest that the time required to travel over the White Pass Scenic Byway from end to end be at least six hours. To fully enjoy the scenery and attractions your trip can easily be longer than this. With the lodges and camping available along the route your trip can easily span days and would be well worth it.

White Pass Summit and U.S. Hwy 12

White Pass Summit is crossed by U.S. Hwy 12. The elevation is 4,500 feet and the roadway is open year around. Driving U.S. Hwy 12 over this scenic route offers an exceptional experience for young and old. The highway travels through alpine country, river valleys, foothills and several small towns.

white pass washington ski area
White Pass Ski Area
Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts can enjoy the White Pass Ski Area during the winter season which is located in Naches WA off Hwy 12 and just south of Leech Lake. The ski area offers a variety of terrain and some good bump runs.The ski area is quite large and the atmosphere is friendly and unpretentious. The White Pass Ski Area has a reputation for good snow, no long lines and plenty of runs. One of it's biggest attributes is no crowded skiing.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest

This National Forest is named in honor of Gifford Pinchot, personal friend of President Teddy Roosevelt's and the creator of the National Forest Service in the early 1900's. So much of the public lands set aside for  public enjoyment today was a direct result of both Pinchot's and Roosevelt's drive for conservation.

Pinchot served as the first chief of the National Forest Service and later was Governor of Pennsylvania for two non consecutive terms. During his tenure under Roosevelt, Pinchot, who had a good relationship with John Muir, eventually disagreed with the famous preservationist as to how national lands would be managed.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest comprises nearly 1.4 million acres and includes the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The links below are to additional Western Trips articles you;ll enjoy...

The Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho

Historic Route 66 Landmarks

The National Scenic Byways

A National Scenic Byway is a road or connection of roads that the U.S. Department of Transportation recognizes for it's history, natural resources, wildlife, scenery and archeological importance. The America's Byways program was established by the government in 1991 for the purpose of preserving these historic and scenic roadways along with providing maps and useful information for the traveler.

white pass scenic byway map
Red line is U.S. Hwy 12 through Washington
Included in these scenic roadways are National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. There are some 150 of these spread across the U.S. White Pass Scenic Byway is included under the National Scenic Byways. Other Washington state Scenic Byways include the Chinook Scenic Byway to the north of White Pass and the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway east of the White Pass route.

The state of Washington has no shortage of tourist destinations. From the seaport of Seattle to the volcanic mountains inland, the National Parks and Monuments and some of the most scenic wilderness areas found anyplace in North America, Washington has it all for the western traveler. The White Pass Scenic Byway is just one of the many scenic drives found in Washington.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images are public domain)

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