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Renton to Mount Rainier National Park

  • Distance: 51 miles
  • Routes: SR 169, SR 165
  • Estimated Driving Time: 90 minutes

This tour runs southeast from Renton through Maple Valley and Black Diamond to Enumclaw, then drops south until it approaches Mount Rainier National Park. The road crosses many rivers and gorges, often picturesque, and terminates within sight of the peaks of the Cascades. The major interest of the route, however, is the old mining country it traverses. Once the richest coal area of the state, these sections of King and Pierce counties are today spotted with small towns. Many of the small communities along this route offer visitors plenty to see and do. Their atmosphere is laid back and the valley offers beautiful scenery year round.

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The largest and most active trading center in the vicinity of Seattle, which covers the flats formed by the Cedar River and the former Black River. For years, the main street was flanked with one- and two-story frame buildings reminiscent of another age, but the war boom of the early 1940s brought growth and modernization to the city. Population in the area greatly increased when the Boeing Aircraft Company established...

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Points of Interest
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Liberty Park

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Renton Fire Station

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Horse Trough

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Renton History Museum

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Renton Substation of the Snoqualmie Falls Power Company

The expansive lawns of the public Maplewood Golf Course enhance the charm of the languid woodland setting. A public course, it continues to be a favorite with locals. The tour crosses the Cedar River and penetrates a valley dotted with truck gardens, dairy farms, and dwellings. The river and the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad run alongside the road.

Learn more about Maplewood Golf Course

Mile: 23

Built in 1927, this towering wooden frame skeleton was a combination office and shop for the Pacific Coastal Coal Company’s new (at the time) Black Diamond mine, with a powerhouse located in the east end of the building. In 1948, King County purchased this for use as shop for road crews. The building can be difficult to see, as it is located behind several dirt piles, and set back on...

Learn more about Pacific Coastal Coal Company

Mile: 20

Between 1880 and 1885, most of the population of Nortonville, in Contra Costa County, California, moved here to live in the coal mining town that was established by, and named for, the Black Diamond Coal Company. By 1885, the Black Diamond mines had the largest production in King County. A majority of the early population was from Welsh ancestry. The town was once readily identifiable as a mining town by...

Learn more about Black Diamond

Mile: 8

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
Points of Interest
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Masonic Hall

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Louis and Ellen Olsen House

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Trommald Building

Mile: 21

Sometimes called “The City of Good Water,” because of the cool, clear water with which the community was supplied. First known as “Perkins’ Landing,” it became White River Siding when the Northern Pacific Railroad built through the settlement. It retained this name until 1888, when Alexander Wickersham platted the townsite and called it Buckley in honor of the division superintendent of the Northern Pacific. The White River Shingle Mill was...

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Points of Interest
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Buckley Park

Sidetrip: Sumner

Drive this 26-mile round trip that brings you to some interesting features, including fish screens, ns, Power Flume, Connell Prairie Block House Monument, Sumner.

Take the Sumner side trip

At the turn of the century, it was an important coal-mining center. By 1927, the mines closed. It was named for Charles H. Burnett, operator of the South Prairie Coal Company. For a time Lower Burnett, on the creek level below had the railroad station and other buildings. A row of homes on the east side of the Carbon River road at Burnett at one time showed the place to...

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Mile: 19

In the heart of what was once a rich coal-producing region, Wilkeson, has been transformed into a ghost community by the depletion of its coal deposits and forests. Sandstone quarries producing a high-quality stone were also worked here and supplied stone for cladding the majority of the state’s Capitol buildings in Olympia. The town was named for Samuel Wilkeson, secretary of the board of the Northern Pacific Railway, which built...

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Points of Interest
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Wilkeson Community House

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Wilkeson Arch

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Holy Trinity Orthodox Church

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John Pete Homestead

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Wilkeson School

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Coke Ovens

Mile: 17

Sidetrip: Carbonado

Drive this 2 mile loop for a tour through the remnants of a “model” mining community, which passed into virtual oblivion when the Pacific Coast Coal Company abandoned its operations here in the late 1820s.

Take the Carbonado side trip

Tour passes a coal-loading chute built on the edge of a pasture. The railroad parallels the highway. Climbing along a deep valley, the road winds along a cut in the hillside and reaches a wild canyon with stone cliffs among the young second-growth trees. The Carbon River rises from the Carbon Glacier on the north slope of Mt. Rainier and drains nearby Russell Glacier through Cataract Creek, and then flows...

Learn more about Carbon River

D. B. Voight was an early settler of the upper Puyallup valley. In 1866 the Voight family consisted of D.E. and Amelia Voight homesteaded on land near the creek. The creek flows northwest from near the western edge of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and joins South Prairie Creek near Crocker to flow into the Carbon River at Orting. The tour winds back and forth in ascending an abrupt mountain...

Learn more about Voight Creek

This entrance is announced by a wooden sign. The Tolmie Monument nearby commemorates the arrival here in 1833 of Dr. William Fraser Tolmie, the first white man to explore this area. The monument was dedicated September 2, 1933, in the presence of Tolmie’s son, Simon Fraser Tolmie, then Prime Minister of British Columbia.

Learn more about Mowich Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park

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