Discover the White Pass Scenic Byway this fall
By MaryKay Nelson
Autumn on the White Pass Scenic Byway is endlessly engaging. Crowds and traffic have dissipated, yet the bounty of the season lingers on. From a basket of chanterelles or huckleberries gathered in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, to the sea-run cutthroat and the five-point bull elk, both flora and fauna are spellbinding. For those who pay attention to birds, the migratory populations are seen traveling south to their winter home. Agate hunting on creek bottoms or watching frenzied squirrels stockpiling nuts and berries for the long winter ahead are just some of the favorite things. At Mount Rainier National Park, you will find with little or no effort, a patchwork quilt of gold, bronze, warm reds and sunshine yellow foliage front and center. Occasionally, early mornings find vegetation highlighted with a bit of frost or even a trace of the first winter snow. Vine maples, huckleberry bushes, masses of orange-red mountain ash berries, are a sight to behold. While the region is known for winter snows and summer wildflowers, the fall season is just beyond compare. Golden yellow larches reach their peak on the east side of the White Pass Summit in mid-November.
The crackling of the campfire, starry night skies, the peace and quiet of the great outdoors…camping may be the most relaxing way to experience the Byway’s wonder, beauty, and adventure. Whether you seek the solitude and simplicity of tent camping or are looking for the perfect place to park the family RV, the White Pass Scenic Byway offers a true wilderness experience. Over thirty-five high-quality campgrounds are located along the byway. With so many choices, you may find yourself next to a picturesque lake, along a bubbling river, or nestled amongst the tall trees. Get back to nature, lose yourself in the mountains’ majesty and enjoy nature at its best.
Nature offers traditional gatherers limited opportunities for mushroom picking and huckleberry picking within or near the forested areas of the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District in Randle. The best areas for huckleberry picking are at higher elevations. Mushrooms may be harvested anywhere in the National Forests unless otherwise restricted and note that harvesting mushrooms in the Wilderness Areas is prohibited.
Discover the true beauty of this natural playground with a trek along one of the area’s beautiful pathways. Hike along trails that pass by crystal lakes and streams, through acres of wildflowers and witness countless viewpoints. Traverse trails through dense forests, towering peaks, and rugged mountains. Surrounding the Byway are the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, as well as the William O. Douglas, Tatoosh, and Goat Rocks Wilderness Areas.
The byway provides excellent opportunities for off-road riding. From high-mountain trails to dry open spaces there are many places to drive in the dirt. Divide Ridge near Naches is popular with four-wheel drive enthusiasts and offers trails both scenic and challenging. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest with over 200 miles of trails has some of the best trails in Washington State.
Energizing the body and recharging the soul, a river rafting or kayaking adventure along one of the Byway’s waterways is an unforgettable and “moving” experience. Home to some of the fastest whitewater in the state, journey past rugged basalt cliffs and beautiful tree-lined shores. Get introduced to the rivers of the Byway, the Tieton and Tilton, Cowlitz and Cispus. Join the many people who have come to know and love rafting these raging rivers.