At the junction of Hwy 7 and Hwy 706, Elbe is best known for the Historic Elbe Church (46° 45' 52.2" N & 122° 11' 39.5" W) and the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad (46° 45' 51.3" N & 122° 11' 37.6" W). The Nisqually River goes through the heart of town and empties into Alder Lake, a popular boating and fishing destination.
Mineral, south of Elbe on Hwy. 7, is one of the state's best kept secrets for a recreation and fishing experience. Mineral Lake boasts one of the best views of Mt. Rainier around. This small hamlet is home to a hundred year old lodge and is a frequent stop for the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad. For a list of exciting events and activities visit www.Minerallake.com.
Morton, also south of Elbe on Hwy. 7, is a former logging town that is undergoing a renaissance with restoration of a historic train depot and theater. It is home to an active performing arts community, restaurants, services and more. Each August, Morton hosts a top international logging competition, The Morton Logger's Jubilee. Visit the Morton Chamber of Commerce for more information on area events and fun-filled activities.
Just six miles outside the Nisqually Entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park sits the mountain community of Ashford. Tucked away in the forested foothills discover lodging establishments from cozy cabins to friendly motels, all serving as basecamp for Mt. Rainier adventures. Area restaurants include family friendly grills, convenient cafes and historic inns. Of course recreation abounds with summertime hiking trails and winter snowshoe routes all in close proximity. Several shops and galleries in town offer exquisite, original artworks and outdoor shops provide gear for year-round adventure. A new addition to the community in 2010 is Ashford Community Park located on Highway 706. This 30 acre park offers a children's play area, accessible trails, and a restroom facility.
Packwood is located 9 miles south of Mount Rainier National Park and 30 miles northeast of Mt. St. Helens on US 12 in the northern part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Packwood is said to be the "heart of volcano country" given its proximity to Mount Saint Helens, its remote location and a warm small town ambience. There are many outdoor activities for residents and tourists alike. Enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing, birding, watching wildlife, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and camping. Access www.DestinationPackwood.com or call 800-963-7898 for more information.
On the White Pass Scenic Byway, the small community of Randle is the junction for those wanting to head to Mt. St. Helens. Forest Service Road 25 will take you to Windy Ridge on Hwy 99 during the summer season. Many other outdoor recreation opportunities exist in the area south of Randle in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The Cowlitz Valley Ranger District Headquarters are located in Randle.
Crystal Mountain, at the Northeast corner of the Mt. Rainier region, is 6 miles from Mount Rainier, in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, accessed by Highway 410 East. In the winter, the area boasts a top-rated ski area with a 3,100-foot vertical drop and an average annual snowfall of 350 inches. In the summer, it is a popular outdoor recreation area with chairlift rides to Crystal Mountain's summit at 7,012 feet, Summit House dinners, and more. For more information, call Crystal Mountain Lodging Association at 1-360-663-2284 or access www.staycrystal.com and www.stayrainier.com.
The charming community of Greenwater is located west of Crystal Mountain on State Route 410. This small, eclectic town lies in a densely forested area surrounded by designated wilderness areas including Norse Peak, Clearwater, Mount Rainier, William O. Douglas, Tatoosh and the Glacier View Wilderness areas. Look for family owned and operated eateries, espresso shops and Wapiti Woolies, which is well-known for their hand-crafted hats. Also in town, Greenwater Skis offers downhill skis, snowshoes, cross country skis and mountain bike rentals. Greenwater iswell- positioned near a multitude of recreational activities including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and of course downhill skiing at nearby Crystal Mountain.
Carbonado was a company boom town in the Carbon River Valley when growing towns such as Tacoma and Seattle were being settled. In addition to the lumber and other raw materials that were harvested near Carbonado, coal mining was what kept it alive until a huge mine explosion, killed half the town and ended the era of coal mining that had begun in 1876. The railroad was an integral part of life hauling raw materials as well as people in homesteads in the valley. Two homesteads survive today, one known as Carbon River Ranch and the other known as Huckle-Chuck. Many of the houses originally built by company builders still line main street. Today the population of about 600 enjoy the rural character and remote location on Hwy 165 near the Carbon River Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Wilkeson, a nearby neighboring town next to Carbonado has a smaller population, but a more distinct business and school district. Today the population is near 400. Incorporated in 1909, Wilkeson boasts the oldest operating school district in the state. The town was named for Samuel Wilkeson who was the secretary of the Northern Pacific Railway. He never lived in Wilkeson, but invested substantially in the coal companies that operated there. The town is known for its coal coke ovens, as well as the natural sandstone formations that were used in the new capital building in Olympia.
Mt. Rainier stands majestically over the bustling gateway community of Enumclaw. An ideal basecamp for fun in the mountains, this community is surrounded by endless possibilities for year-round outdoor recreation. Lakes and streams provide lucrative fishing opportunities to catch that elusive trout, while miles of nearby hiking trails delight backpackers and campers. Honoring the proud logging history of the community be sure to visit the city's newest park, Logging Legacy Memorial Park, located in front of the Enumclaw Library. Enumclaw offers events throughout the year including the Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race in May, the Scottish Highland Games held each July, as well as the annual Christmas Parade in December. Less than an hour from Seattle and even closer to Mt. Rainier, Enumclaw is a year-round destination located halfway between action and escape. For a list of exciting activities and attractions, visit the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce.