After the long confinement due to COVID-19, you along with all the other RV-ers are undoubtedly itching to get out on the road. So to make the most of your time, we’ve pulled together a list of seven scenic drives in Washington State for you to explore.
These are all part of the America’s Byways®—an umbrella term for the collection of 150 roads that include National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. For a national map of America’s byways, go here.
Note: Always check with the locations where you’ll be traveling, since there may be travel restrictions in place. Also, know what the health guidelines are in the various locales and bring along plenty of PPE (personal protective equipment), including masks.
PO Box 805, Chehalis, Washington 98532, firstname.lastname@example.org
White Pass Scenic Byway is a four-season destination with a diverse landscape of forests, meadows, lakes, and waterfalls. Choose your time to visit and you’ll find plenty to see and do, all in the shadow of majestic Mt. Ranier. (View the map here and visit White Pass Scenic Byway for a deeper dive into what can be found here.)
The byway begins at the intersection of I-5 and US 12, via exit 68, then runs for 119 miles on US 12 east, ending at the intersection of US 12 and US 410, with more than 35 campgrounds are located along the byway, although some are closed for the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Campgrounds include those in Lewis County PUD Park, Tacoma Power Parks, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and Naches Ranger District.
The six scenic areas along the byway each have distinct identities.
- The Salkum Plateau at the west end of the byway is the only place where you can view all three mountains— Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams—at once.
- The Lakes District has recreation facilities that offer camping, fishing, wildlife watching, and hiking.
- Big Bottom Valley is a broad lowland floodplain—a favorite of the elk population—and access to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Columbia River Gorge.
- For those who like the birds-eye view of the landscape, the Alpine Pass fits the bill, since it climbs steeply and has incredible views into Mount Rainier and other alpine peaks, along with other natural environmental beauties.
- Rimrock Lake, a reservoir created by the Tieton Dam, is on the east slope of the Cascades and has ponderosa pine forests and scenic vistas along with year-round activities and camping areas.
- The final section is Oak Creek, a narrow canyon that extends from the highlands to the convergence of the Tieton and Naches Rivers, with a special attraction for those who enjoy rock-climbing.
Other Scenic Drives in the State
Here are six other scenic drives on the America’s Byways® list for Washington to explore.
The Chinook Scenic Byway has spectacular views of Mount Rainier, dense forests, river canyons, the unique basalt flows of the Columbia Plateau, lush sub-alpine meadows, and waterfalls. Allow about three hours to drive the 85-mile byway, starting from Enumclaw until the byway ends in Naches.
The 150-mile Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway is a three-and-half hour journey into the imagination as you picture the power of Ice Age floods required to carve the canyons where none had been before. Then explore the three state parks and national wildlife refuge, and visit the Grand Coulee Dam and Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.
The International Selkirk Loop, which circles from Washington to Idaho, covers 280 miles (including British Columbia). The 144-mile loop takes from eight to 10 hours to drive, including ferry ride and U.S.-Canadian border crossings. But the hours will fly by as you view the snowcapped peaks, the diverse wildlife, and crystal-clear lakes—not to mention the picturesque settings and charming communities.
From pastoral valleys to dramatic mountain landscapes—that’s what awaits you on the Mountains to Sound Greenway. The 100-mile greenway will take at most two hours to travel, but you can pack a lot in during the drive. From historic towns and scenic walks through quiet forests, there are lots to enjoy and explore.
The 89-mile Stevens Pass Greenway runs from Everett (its western terminus) east through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee National Forests until it ends at the town of Wenatchee. Along the two-and-a-half-hour drive, you’ll view the pastoral Puget Sound, the towering peaks of the Cascade Mountains, and the pine forests and fruit orchards in the Wenatchee River Valley.
The 61-mile Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway, in the most northwest point of the mainland, is home to majestic eagles, gray whales, otters, and salmon, just to name a few of its “inhabitants.” Although it takes about two hours to drive, you might want to quadruple that to allow yourself time to explore the wild shoreline or forests or learn about Native American cultures.