Snoqualmie Pass

Editor's Note - This is the first of a three-part series about travel through the Cascade Mountain Passes. The other articles are Blewitt Pass and Stevens Pass.

Most Western Washington RVers consider the Cascade Mountain passes a formidable barrier to cross on the way to somewhere else. What a shame, as these passes traverse thousands of acres of public land offering plenty to see and do including camping. In the next three installments (including this one), we will look at activities to enjoy and places to camp on Washington State’s Snoqualmie Pass, Blewett Pass and Stevens Pass. By the end of the series, you will have a stockpile of places to go for a weekend, a week or connect all three passes together for a loop excursion for an extended RV vacation. You might compare this loop tour to the popular 440 mile Cascade Loop, but this route is for more adventurous travelers that enjoy getting off the beaten path. It’s shorter without the crowded touristy sites.

In this entry we will look at the I-90 corridor over Snoqualmie Pass.

Hiking is a favorite among active RVers and there is plenty of opportunity to do so all along I-90 up and over Snoqualmie Pass. There are at least four dozen named peaks along the corridor you can hike/climb to enjoy stunning views. If gaining large amounts of elevation isn’t to your liking, try hiking to one of the many lakes within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Trails range from well built and signed to barely discernable allowing you to pick one that fits your hiking preference. Two great websites for locating a trail that fits your requirements are Hiking With My Brother and WTA. Some of the more popular trails along the I-90 corridor are Granite Mountain, Snow Lake and Lake Annette. Those with disabilities or just looking for an easy stroll will enjoy the barrier free trail around Gold Creek Pond.  


Stunning Views at Snow Lake


Snoqualmie Pass as seen from atop Granite Mountain


Gorgeous Gold Creek Pond

Fishing is another activity that can be enjoyed on the lakes and reservoirs along the corridor. RVers carrying boats can easily launch in Lake Keechelus (actually a reservoir) while more adventurous anglers can hike in to more remote lakes like the stunning Rampart Lakes or Lake Talapus.

Bicyclists will want to spend a day pedaling through the tunnels and over the trestles of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail (formerly known as the Iron Horse/John Wayne Trail), while more adventurous mountain bikers will want to test out their skills on the Hansen Ridge Trail on Little Saint Helen Mountain. 


Cyclists on the Trail

Caving - Cave Ridge is one of only three limestone cave systems in the State of Washington. The system of caves (six named with more that aren’t) located above Common Wealth Basin await those spelunkers with the skills and equipment to safely explore them.

Rockhounders or anyone with children will enjoy a day getting dirty and digging quartz crystals near Hansen Creek.

History: In addition to hiking or biking the historic Milwaukie Road rail bed contained in the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, those that enjoy retracing historical transportation routes will also want to travel the old Snoqualmie Pass Highway (aka Sunset Highway) and old Snoqualmie Wagon Road. Interpretative panels on the history of the highway can be found at the Travelers Rest Area and a great write up on the transportation history of the pass from Indian trail to interstate can be viewed here.

After a day of exploring you will need a place to cool off and refresh yourself before the next day’s adventure. Two great places to do so are Franklin Falls and the Denny Creek Waterslides.

If you still have energy left and need a few activities to round out your tour of the Snoqualmie Pass area you can also include:

- Geocaching: There are hundreds of geocaches to be found near your camp or while enjoying any of the activities listed above.  Visit Geocaching.com to learn more.

-  Huckleberries ripen in late summer to early fall and can be found along most trails and slopes in the area. They taste great right off the bush and can be frozen or turned into jam. Be sure to save a few to place atop of your morning cereal!

- Spectating: Hang gliders often take to the skies on warm summer afternoons courtesy of the updrafts along the east side of Lake Keechelus. Pull out your camp chairs and stake out a shoreline viewing location near the boat launch at the north end of the lake.  

CAMPING:

Following are a few of the places you can camp along the I-90 corridor across Snoqualmie Pass.

Mt Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest Campgrounds:

Tinkham Campground

Denny Creek Campground 


Entrance to Denny Creek

This is one of the few forest service campgrounds that offer electrical hookups. It is also a great basecamp for exploring Franklin Falls, the old Sunset Highway, the Denny Waterslides and the old Wagon Road.


Franklin Falls

Mt Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest Dispersed Camping Locations:


Dispersed Camping Opportunities

Dispersed camping (aka boondocking) is allowed along most of the forest service roads within the Snoqualmie Pass/I-90 corridor, following are some of the more popular areas:

1. Dispersed camping is permitted at the Lake Keechelus Boating Site and Picnic Area. This becomes a great place to camp later in the summer once the lake level begins to recede and large amounts of shoreline become available for camping. It is also a great basecamp for bike riding the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail in either direction. Note: A Northwest Forest Service Pass, America the Beautiful pass or Golden Age pass is required at this site.

2. There is a large dispersed campsite just off Cabin Creek Exit 63 south of the freeway at: N47° 17.656 W121° 17.248

3. Dispersed camping is popular along the length of Tinkham Road.

Note: Camping at Tinkham Campground or along Tinkham road is a great basecamp for the Hansen Ridge Trail or digging Hansen Creek crystals.


Snoqualmie Pass Stars

In the next installment we will look at Blewett Pass, the second part of this roughly 240 mile loop over the three passes. Stay tuned!

 

Author: EditorEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comments   

0 #4 Gloria Baarson 2018-07-03 07:43
Can you tell me where is a good,reliable, reasonably priced place to rent RVs or trailers? We live in Chelan, WA.
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0 #3 Newlin & India Reed 2018-07-03 06:16
Dear Dave, Thank you for this article. Sometimes my husband, Newlin and I want to get away for a few days to recharge with a dose of nature but don't want to travel a long way. And we're not always that great at coming up with fun destinations. So this is just the ticket. I can hardly wait to read about Blewett Pass. Thank you again for your interesting and informative article.
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0 #2 Lisa 2018-07-01 18:06
I'm so glad I went to the RV show and met you folks!

I am especially interested in boondocking near Seattle. Being on a fixed income now, I've got to be cheeeepo! A few days' camping fees really adds up, so this will be my future now.

Camping on the shores of Keechelus is such a novelty, I have to do it!!

With the population explosion in WA, our improved economy and federal administrative assaults on public lands, it is high time that Washington state starts adding to the state park system. The demand is exceeding supply! Add to that the maintenance negligence of several decades, and our parks are in trouble!

You can rally RV and camping enthusiasts to lobby a receptive governor to these concerns. Let's be bold!!

WHERE should we build 5 new state parks for camping? Nominations?
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0 #1 Randall L Larson 2018-06-30 21:40
Driving over Snoqualmie or Stevens Pass is a nightmare towing a trailer/5th wheel. Those road are so bad the beat the hell out of the trailer!!
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