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Yakima to Olympia

  • Distance: 177 miles
  • Routes: SR 12, Old Naches Valley HWY, Interstate 5, SR 164, SR 410
  • Estimated Driving time: 3.5 hours

The portion of this tour crossing the Cascade Mountains follows the Chinook Pass Scenic Byway. Dominated by majestic Mt. Rainier at every turn, this All-American Road traces the historic Naches Trail trading route between Enumclaw and Naches. At 5,430 feet, Chinook Pass marks a dramatic change in the landscape, separating the dense cedar and fir forests on the westside of the Cascade Mountains from the massive basalt cliffs of the Columbia Plateau on the eastside.

As both ends of the tour near their destinations, they pass through dense agricultural areas, river bottoms, and tribal lands. The portion running between Tacoma and Olympia for this tour follows Interstate 5 to provide the most expedient connection. Refer to the Seattle to Olympia leg of the Canadian Border to Vancouver tour for an alternate connection between Tacoma and Olympia.

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On the Yakima River at the geographic center of the great Yakima Valley, the town owes its growth to the development of the surrounding region, where approximately 500,000 acres of irrigated land historically produced bountiful crops of fruits, vegetables, hops, hay, and alfalfa. Almost ringed by sage-covered hills, the city lies upon level ground except for elevations in some of the suburban areas. Along broad Yakima Avenue is the main...

Learn more about Yakima
Points of Interest
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Masonic Temple

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U.S. Post Office and Courthouse

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A. E. Larson Building

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Old North Yakima Historic District

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Yakima Valley Transportation Company (YVTC)

First called Cowiche but in January of 1924 was named Brace, the maiden name of the wife of the manager of the Garretson Fruit Company at the time. Near the town, the tour follows a slight incline through the orchards of the Naches River Valley. Brown, rock-cleft hills rise gradually toward the Cascade Mountains.

Learn more about Brace

Mile: 199

A bustling town with a small, compact business district. Naches began to grow in 1908 when valley farmers, aided by the Federal Government, started the irrigation system. Two apple-packing plants and a small sawmill, which cut box shooks (a bundle of parts ready to be put together) from yellow pine, were the economic backbone of the town. One of the packing establishments, a million-dollar concern in the 1940s, employed 250...

Learn more about Naches
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Naches Band Stand

The tour leaves the bronzed, grass-tufted hills and runs close along the Naches River, almost hidden by the timbered mountains. The Naches Valley narrows to a canyon between towering cliffs of somewhat porous stone, folded and faulted into spire-like forms and palisades. Time-etched rocks project like gargoyles from the canyon walls; porous layers of lava, broken up by moisture and frost, present many color variations.

Learn more about Sanford Canyon

Mile: 115

The main residence of a pioneer farmstead, the Buckeye Ranch House was built between 1906 and 1908 by Winfield Scott Stevens, an Ohio native who arrived in the Nile Valley in 1887-88. He built the first road to this remote area following old Native American trails. Eventually he developed a large ranch and orchard, and built this unusual concrete structure, which represents a very early form of this technology. Scott...

Learn more about Buckeye Ranch House

Mile: 110

Dick Darlington owned and built this simple structure made up of vertically set logs in 1904. It is one of the last way stations that served the workers constructing Bumping Lake Reservoir. Darlington was as a camp cook for the Bureau of Reclamation during the dam construction (1901-10), and then worked gold and mineral claims in the area until the mid-teens. The lodge was used as a way station for...

Learn more about Edgar Rock Lodge

Mile: 98

Formed by the collapse of the hillside over the stream bed; the water eventually washed out the rubble, leaving a rock-vaulted passage 400 feet long and 15 feet high. In summer, tiny streams trickle through the passage. In spring, freshets roar through the tunnel. The stream above the cave is called Devil Creek, and from it a 75-foot waterfall leaps far beyond the edge of the cliff, forming an aquatic...

Learn more about Boulder Creek Cave

The tour enters a defile between towering peaks, some bare and rugged, others heavily forested. Here are the last of the heavy lava flows to be seen throughout eastern Washington. Looming north of the road is Fife’s Peak, the highest point of Fife’s Ridge. Geologists believe it to be a remnant of an old volcano, which was probably the source of some of the lava flows of Yakima County. An...

Learn more about American River

Mile: 88

The creek runs through a dell carpeted with wild flowers and ferns. Wild life is abundant. In 1790, the Spanish explorer, Manuel Quimper, roughly mapped the Cascades as Sierra Madras de San Antonio. About 1825 David Douglas, the botanist, used the name “Cascade.” An attempt was once made to call the peaks after former Presidents and to christen the range “Presidents’ Range.”

Learn more about Morse Creek

Mile: 75

Mounting a long easy grade with many curves, US 410 climbs high above a forest, which is covered with snow in winter. The green of alpine fir and mountain hemlock is brightened by yellow splashes, where clumps of larch trees stand with bleached needles. The larch is the only tree in western United States that loses its needles in winter. On the hillside are thickets of mountain ash, from which...

Learn more about Rainier Fork American River

Mile: 72

The highway pierces the main divide by way of Chinook Pass some 20 miles south of the old immigrant crossing through Naches. The pass offers the first good opportunity to see glacier-ribbed Mount Rainier. From the summit of the pass, a tumbled rampart of mountain peaks is visible to the west. To the east is the deep valley of the American River; northward is an orderly staircase of cliff-sided peaks,...

Learn more about Chinook Pass
Points of Interest
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Chinook Pass Entrance Arch

Shaped like the ace of clubs, drains a chain of ponds in the center of a skiing area. A small picnic area in the green bowl surrounding the lake, a natural basin, has tables, stoves, and running water. Trails radiate to great spires of rock affording excellent viewpoints. A bronze plaque, set in a large boulder, has a bas-relief bust of the late Stephen T. Mather, who laid the foundation...

Learn more about Tipsoo Lake
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Tipsoo Lake Comfort Station

The station marks the beginning of the Mather Memorial Parkway, 50 miles of the most scenic section of the Chinook Pass Highway, set aside by Congress March 24, 1931. Mount Rainier, its snow and ice glittering in bright sunlight, appears close enough to touch. Light-colored granite has replaced the brown lava cliffs and the glacial drift with the foaming White River appearing through openings in the woods.

Learn more about Mather Memorial Parkway

The action of glaciers on the comparatively soft material of Rainier’s cone results in rapid disintegration of the rock; and the river is milky with rock flour. The forest becomes more dense, as the highway follows the western slope of Mount Rainier between the valley and summit. Douglas fir and western hemlock, the dominant species in this humid area, attain a thickness of from 4 to 8 feet at the...

Learn more about White River

Mile: 60

The headquarters of the Forest Service in charge of the White River District of the Snoqualmie National Forest, one mile within the forest boundary. Important fire prevention and recreational improvements, including 112 modern summer home cabins, have been made adjacent to the station. Special lot leases are available at a low yearly cost through the Forest Service.

Learn more about Silver Creek Ranger Station

Mile: 57

The wagon road was roughly cut through the wilderness down the course of the Greenwater River to the confluence with White River for the Longmire-Byles wagon train of 1853. An Oregon Trail Memorial, depicting a covered wagon drawn by oxen, commemorates the memory of George Rowland Parsons, a pioneer from Colorado who crossed through Naches Pass. At this point an excellent vista of Mount Rainier, its valleys, glaciers, lakes, and...

Learn more about Naches Pass Wagon Road

The road crosses Twin Creek over a concrete bridge, near the point where the creek flows into the White River. The original concrete bridge is still intact although it is hidden behind modern guardrails, which have been installed over the original part of the bridge facing the highway. Evergreens more than 150 feet in height once formed a colonnade along both sides of the road. During the 1940s, in this...

Learn more about Twin Creek

Mile: 39

Many of the first settlers were from Scandinavia. The Indian name was given by Frank Stevenson, a resident of the town. The Indians used the word for a mountain in the hills about six miles north, variously translated as meaning “Place of the Evil Spirits” or “thunder and lightning.” The local Indians believed that the Thunder Bird lived in a cave on this mountain, and had changed tribesmen into thunder...

Learn more about Enumclaw
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Masonic Hall

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Louis and Ellen Olsen House

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Trommald Building

Mile: 15

Rolling hills form a background on both sides of the highway for the scattered houses and occasional poultry farms. Osceola was named for the Seminole Native American leader who battled against the United States government in the 1830s in Florida. The King County community of Osceola is one of twenty so named places in the United States. The community near Enumclaw had its own post office for a time but...

Learn more about Osceola

Mile: 12

The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is a federally recognized Native American tribe whose membership is composed of descendants of the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup people who inhabited Central Puget Sound for thousands of years before non-Native American settlement. The Tribe’s name is derived from the native name for the prairie on which the Muckleshoot Reservation was established. Following the Reservation’s establishment in 1857, the Tribe and its members came to be...

Learn more about Muckleshoot Indian Tribe

Mile: 6

Division point of the Northern Pacific Railway, it was dominated physically and economically by the huge red buildings of the expansive railroad yard. The fact that Auburn is situated almost equidistant from Seattle and Tacoma, in the fertile White River Valley between the Cascades and Puget Sound, made it one of the earliest important railroad centers. In this pleasant valley, in 1887, Dr. Levi W. Ballard, one of the first...

Learn more about Auburn
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Blomeen House

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Auburn Carnegie Library

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US Post Office

Founded by Joseph Dieringer in the 1880s. Mr. Dieringer was a migrant from Wisconsin who opened a restaurant in Tacoma and later bought a farm in the Stuck River Valley. The post office was established as Norwood on May 29, 1888, by Mr. Dieringer and was named for him on August 5, 1892. It closed on October 18, 1957. It is the site of a Puget Sound Power & Light...

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Points of Interest
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Dieringer School

Tour winds among trellised berry fields and hop lands, where, during the picking season, single persons and families once crowded the highway in nondescript cars, seeking farms where they could pick. During the berry season, as many as 3,000 transient workers were employed for picking. Hops were formerly a big crop in the valley, but farmers have largely abandoned them for the more profitable berry growing. The cost of harvesting...

Learn more about Puyallup River Valley

The oldest town in the Puyallup Valley it is located on the rich valley floor along the dyked banks of the Puyallup River, lying 300 feet below the surrounding plateau. Formerly a dense wooded expanse, now a busy modern city, Puyallup was the center of broad berry fields, orchards, and green pasture lands. Here, as in Sumner, its sister city, berry fields used to encroach as far as the main...

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Points of Interest
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Site of Old Fort Malone

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Western Washington Fair Grounds

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Western Washington Experiment Station

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Ezra Meeker Mansion

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Stewart-Brew House

Tour hugs the south side of the Puyallup River, which has its source in Puyallup Glacier on Mount Rainier and is fed by the North Mowich and South Mowich glaciers. The Carbon River and the White River via the Stuck River also flow into the Puyallup. The highway cuts across thousands of acres of daffodil, berry, and truck farms. On distant hillsides may be seen occasional silver-fox farms, enclosed with...

Learn more about Puyallup River

Puyallup Tribe of Indians known in their aboriginal language, as the spuyaləpabš (Spoy-all-up-obsh), meaning "generous and welcoming behavior to all people (friends and strangers) who enter our lands." Per the Puyallup Tribe Website: Our people lived here for thousands of years existing by the bountiful gifts provided by the Creator. Our Mother, Mount Tacoma, provided the water that supplied our salmon. We were fed by the abundance of natures gifts:...

Learn more about Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Lying along the protected waters of Puget Sound and Commencement Bay, into which the Puyallup River drains, is about midway between Seattle to the north and Olympia to the southwest. Commencement Bay, a fine natural harbor on the Sound, is recognized as one of the country’s leading ports. Few cities may boast a more beautiful setting. To the west is the sweep of Puget Sound with wooded bluffs rising from...

Learn more about Tacoma

Before the United States entered the World War in 1917, Pierce County voted bonds to purchase 62,000 acres of land midway between Tacoma and Olympia and present this tract for a military cantonment. On that rolling, flat, prairie land rose Camp Lewis, named in honor of Captain Meriwether Lewis. Barracks were quickly constructed, tents pitched, and sewage, water, and lighting systems installed. The accommodations and training facilities necessary for the...

Learn more about Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Points of Interest
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Entrance to Fort Lewis

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McChord Field Historic District

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American Lake Veterans Hospital

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Captain Wilkes Celebration Site

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Adjutant General’s Residence

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Red Shield Inn/Lewis Army Museum

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Prairie

Mile: 121

State capital and seat of Thurston County, Olympia spreads, fan-like, from its harbor on Puget Sound over gently sloping hills, with Mount Rainier on the east and the more distant Olympics visible to the north. Here, near the place where the Nisqually once met in solemn council to devise means of protection against the soleeks itsweet (angry brown bear), today legislators convene to represent the citizens of Washington State. From...

Learn more about Olympia

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