Archives for category: Mt Rainier Things to Do!
  1. Snow Play

To access snow play spots out of Packwood here are a few roads that go up into the mountains and snow line.  Packwood is only at the 1000’ level so the snow has to be low in order to reach snow in a reasonable amount of time on some of these road.  Some are plowed, some not.  You should carry chains and exercise caution and always have an emergency kit in the car with you at all times.  Contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to check the accessibility of these areas as there can be fallen trees from previous storms.  The Randle Forest Service Office number is 360-497-1103.

Highway 12 East towards White Pass – this is the most popular spot to go to.  At the ski lodge to the right is the perfect place the sled with the kids.  When you get cold head into the lodge for some hot chocolates and one of their famous brownies!  Snow play can also be found across the street from the lodge behind the condos surrounding Leech Lake.  The perfect place for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, winter hiking and some secret stash sledding areas!

Snyder Rd to Packwood Lake – this road is not gated and it is not plowed as well.  Drive to the snowline and find a place to pull off and play in the snow. No winter park pass is required.  If you can make it to the parking area it is well worth the hike in part or all to Packwood Lake.  There are 2 trails.  The trail head from the parking area that is in trees most of the time OR walk back down the road to the gate and the ATV trail.  Hike in a mile or so for some of the most spectacular views of Mt Rainier and the Packwood valley below.  This is a great spot to cross country ski or snowshoe.

Johnson Creek Rd 21 is west of Packwood of 12 – this road is not plowed as well yet it is traveled because there is a snow park up a ways where people park and snow mobile on groomed trails.

Cispus Rd 23 – Go west to Randle, in Randle go left onto 131 then go right onto 23.  This road is plowed for some miles and it follows the Cispus River…gorgeous!  It leads up into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest towards Mt Adams.  Once in the snow there are many spots to pull over and play, sled or snow shoe.

Skate Creek Rd – this road begins to the right of the Shell Station and goes up into the National Forest.  It is closed in the winter but you can drive high enough on paved road to reach the rushing creek and some when the levels are down around 1500-2000’

WHITE PASS SPORTS HUT is so cute and they rent skis, snowboards and snow shoes.  Snowshoes are only $15 a day.  They also know a lot about the area and what to do and where to go!

  1. Have a campfire at the cabin and cook s’mores and hot dogs.
  2. Sit in the hot tub and soak it all in and relax!
  3. Hang out at the Cowlitz River bank and take a walk in lower Timberline
  4. Visit the Packwood Library and check out some books or videos.
  5. At Blanton’s Supermarket checkout a DVDs from their rental room with all the top movies you will ever need!
  6. Winter Fishing – fishing is always open in the Cowlitz. Go down Skate Creek rd and before the bridge walk down to the left to access the river. The upper Cowlitz is stocked with Salmon all year long.
  7. Visit Mt Goat Coffee and Bakery in downtown Packwood. They roast their own beans and make fresh homemade muffins and cookies daily!
  8. Play Bingo at the Packwood Community Center every Friday, doors open at 6PM.
  9. Visit the White Pass County Museum in downtown Packwood

Winter hours start the Saturday following Labor Day and are Saturdays from Noon to 4 PM. If you are in the area and cannot make it on the days that we are open, please call the following phone numbers to arrange for a special tour. Dave or Martha 360-494-4031; Don 360-494-5343; or Janice 360-494-4007.

  1. Visit the Blue Spruce for some great food and kids are welcome. Many draft beers on tap. Every Tuesday night is ALL YOU CAN EAT TACOS for just $2.50.
  2. DeGoede Bulb Farm – Travel west on 12 to Mossyrock. This is a cute little town off highway 12. Past the light is DeGoede Bulb Farm.  This is a beautiful place to visit not just to buy plants and things but they also have a show garden you can walk through!

13 In Morton, our favorite stop is Spiffys.  They have the largest and best soft serve ice cream ever.  The outside food window is open all year.  Travel west on Highway 12 and go right into Morton and then take your next right.  Spiffys is down on the right.  Good burgers and fries too!

14  We really love Cruisers Pizza in Packwood.  Although spendy but there is really no crust like it anywhere.  They have been in Packwood for years and their recipe and goodness has not changed!

  1. Cliffdroppers Burgers are probably the best in Packwood. This family run restaurant has stood the test of time. They handcraft their burgers, the fries are generous too.  The milk shakes are not to be missed as well!
  2. Mount Rainier National Park – is open at the Nisqually entrance for winter recreation and hiking. Make it a day! From Packwood in winter go west on 12, go right at Morton (don’t forget Spiffys ice cream and the Mexican restaurant in Morton has good food and Margaritas as well) on highway 7 go to Elbe.  In Elbe go right onto 706 and head straight to  the Nisqually entrance to Mt Rainier National Park.  The Longmire Visitor Center and restaurant is open in winter and if you like brave the trip to Paradise (weather permitting) and sled, snowshoe and hike in the snow (traction tires and/or cahins are at times required).
  3. Historic Mineral Lake Lodge – This 3-story log lodge has been placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was built in 1906 to resemble the rugged elegance of a German wilderness hunting lodge. This is on the way from Morton to Elbe.
  4. Mineral Lake – Gem of the Northwest – Beautiful web site which showcases some of the highlights of the historic town that is home to the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. This is on the way from Morton to Elbe,
  5. Morton’s Roxy Playhouse – The newly renovated, 1930’s Roxy Playhouse offers onstage action, romance, and laughter captivating audiences through song, dance and dialogue.
  6. Morton Depot – Built in 1910, the two story frame building is one of the last of this type of Milwaukee stations in existence today!
  7. Northwest Trek Wildlife Park – Northwest Trek is a 715-acre wildlife park featuring a 435-acre free-roaming area tram tour. Pacific Northwest native species are exhibited in natural habitats.
  8. The Little White Church in Elbe – This beautiful 18 x 24 foot National Historical Monument still bears the original inscription placed there in 1906 “Ev. Luth. KIRCHE” (Evangelische Lutherische Kirche) a reminder of the people’s origin.
  9. Pioneer Farm Museum & Ohop Indian Village – Journey back to the 1880’s with your tour guides to experience homesteading in Washington. Journey back to a time before the first contact with Europeans to experience the seasonal Ohop Indian Village.

We hope that you stay in a Great NW Cabin this winter (or Summer).  See all our cabins here at Great NW Cabins or call us anyday from 9-9 PST for information and reservations.


When staying in Packwood you are so close to so many small and large mountain lakes.


West of Packwood are what I call the large lakes, Riffe, Mossyrock and Mayfield.  These lakes support large boats and jet skis.  Mayfield Lake is the most popular with a great marina, beach and picnic area.  You can rent a boat, jet ski or wave runner for a great rate.  We rent a wave runner.  Our kids will always say it was the best vacation they’ve ever had.  We usually make it a whole day.  The lake is 40 miles west of Packwood on highway 12.  We set up at the Mayfield Lake Park under the trees (get there early in summer).  They do have charcoal grills and picnic tables so BBQing hamburgs and hot dogs with macaroni salad and chips is a must.  After setting up, my friend and I unload the kayaks and head to the marina to pick up the wave runner.  On a sunny day there is no better rush than gliding across this pristine lake at 60MPH or pulling the kids on the tube (came with the waverunner) and hearing them laugh and watching them fall off into the cool water.  For a few hundred dollars you get a whole afternoon of family fun.  We usually pack up as the sun is setting and head back east to Packwood.  We can’t pass Morton without stopping at Spiffys and getting a huge soft serve ice cream (go left off highway 12 into Morton and take your first right and Spiffys outside food window is on the right).  Both Mossyrock and Riffe lakes are just as beautiful and pristine and there are so many spots to picnic, swim, kayak or fish.IMG_2182

East of Packwood are what I call the “small lakes”.  We love getting up early in the morning and head to town first to get a freshly roasted coffee and muffin.  The Mt Goat Coffee shop is in the center of Packwood and in the morning IS the center of Packwood.  They have some of the best coffee anywhere!  Grab a mocha and take a pound with you.  It’s fresh, smooth and the staff is friendly and helpful.  Head east up highway 12 towards White Pass Ski Area.  The first small lake is Leech Lake direct across the highway from the ski area behind the condos.  This is the lake that you cross country ski around in the winter with groomed trails.  In summer you can hike, camp, swim and picnic.  But we have come to kayak.  Access to the east end is located right after the White Pass store on the left.  All these areas are fee areas so bring $5 with you to fill out the envelope and place it in  your car.  The put in is a short way in to the left.  This small lake is a gem for sure.  The surrounding peaks are spectacular but the best view is of the ski area itself.  You feel like you are in a commercial for Sun Valley with the ski lifts and trails looming over the lake.  As the sun comes up the water is glistening like silver, the fish are jumping and the geese are squacking.  All of these lakes are so clear and clean you can see the bottoms with fish and grasses.  There is nothing like being out in the middle with the sun in your face.  The peace is complete stress detox.  Spend an hour or take the family to any of these lakes for a day of fun and food!


The second small lake is a short drive down highway 12 east.  To the left is Dog Lake.  There is a put in and parking on the west end at the campsite.  This lake has a dramatic rock covered mountain at one end.  You can see this shale covered hill from the ski trails in the winter.  At one end is a literal bird sanctuary.  We observed an eagle in her nest at the top of a dead tree.  She was protecting her young and watching over the lake as if this was her military outpost.  We wanted her to swoop down and fly but she never moved from the edge of that nest that morning.  Again this is another great spot to spend the day with the family or a few hours in the morning before returning to the cabin for a big brunch.


The third lake is Clear Lake.  Head east again on highway 12 towards Yakima and about 10 more miles from Dog Lake you will see the turn off to the right.  How is it that you come to a place to vacation for years and never explore these areas?  Someone told me about Clear Lake years ago but this was my first time to experience it.  WOW what a jewel.  This lake is on the east side of the Cascades so if it’s cloudy in Packwood you can bet it’s clear and sunny at Clear Lake.  Only a few miles in this mountainous area reveals the blue water to the left.  It is the largest of the 3 small lakes.  The day area is located to the left as well.  There is a covered picnic area with charcoal grills, bathrooms and docks to fish off of.  There is a large shallow sandy area where you can walk across the lake.  Clear Lake is surrounded by mountain peaks with a real cool island in the middle.  Kayak out to the island and take a nap on the soft grasses and enjoy the views.  They do allow small motor boats on the lake but because it’s off the beaten path location it’s never really crowded.  It is a hidden gem and one of the best small lakes to spend the day with the family.


The fourth lake…oh bonus, there is a fourth?  Yes there is!  But it’s not small by any means, it’s Rim Rock Lake.  This is just a few miles east of Clear Lake on highway 12.  This large lake has campgrounds along it’s shore with put ins for ski and fishing boats.  At the far end is the dam and the start of the Tieton River.  In September they let out the water so that rafters can hit the white water.  So come back for a September weekend to remember.  Stay Friday night at the cabin, head up to raft Saturday, return to the cabin for a great meal and campfire and head back home Sunday morning.  See our blog article about rafting the Tieton.

We hope you enjoyed this article.  To book one of our Packwood Cabins for a lakes getaway go here at or call us anyday from 9-9 PST at 503-492-8783 for information and reservations!

As a family, we have been going to Packwood, WA for the past 18 years, we love it.

We love summer as much as we love winter.

We call it, “the place where God kissed the earth”.

Here is our TOP 10 LIST of THINGS TO DO IN SUMMER at our cabins (all within a few miles)!  You can book one of our 4 Packwood cabins at or call 503-492-8783 from 9-9 PST!  Stay with the best on Mt Rainier!

1. Relax…you can’t help but do this at the cabin in these amazing settings.

Relaxing on the porch at the Mt View Cabin!

2. Have a campfire, make smores and watch the stars.

Campfire at the cabin under the stars!

3. After dinner hike either the Grove of the Patriach old growth forest trail or Silver Falls trail, its light till late!

The Grove of the Patriachs Old Growth Forest Trail

4. Walk downtown Packwood, get a coffee at the Butter Butte or a hamburger at Cliff Droppers…delicious!


5. Swim in the many rivers and lakes in the area!

6. Fish the Cowlitz River or an upper alpine lake – our caretakers will tell you how to get there and catch em!

Fishing with dad on the Cowlitz

7. Head to one of the many lakes off highway 12 (see our blog about it) and jet ski, raft, kayak, picnic and swim!


8. Elk hang out at the Cowlitz River Hotel in the evening.  If you haven’t seen any elk at the cabin, head out after dinner and drive to town.  Count them too.  How many bulls (males with antlers) and how many cows (females – yes that is a funny name).  Did you see any babies?

Elk in downtown Packwood

9. Bike up  6 mi Snyder Road to the Packwood Lake trail head.  Take along a snack and share it as you enjoy the view! Then head back down the 6 mi road – it’s all downhill from here!

The Packwood Valley

10. Attend the Memorial Day or Labor Day Flea Market in Packwood.  From the Mt View or the Alpine Chalet you can walk there and do not need to pay for parking.  With over 500 vendors and 10,000 visitors you will be wowed all weekend with good eats and treasures galore.  Book early because those 2 holiday weekends book fast!

The Packwood Flea Markets

At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the fifth highest mountain in the continental 48 states.  Packwood, Washington is home to a total of 86 mountain summits and peaks.

There are 2 ways to get there in the spring, summer and fall.   Go east on Highway 12 out of Packwood for about 7 miles.  Take highway 123 left to the entrance to the park called the Stevens Canyon entrance.  After you are in the park are hundred’s of trails, overlooks, alpine lakes and waterfalls to stop at as you climb to the main visitor center at Paradise and Paradise Inn.  You can also get to Mt Rainier National Park via Skate Creek Road and the Nisqually entrance.  In Packwood, to the right of the Shell station is Skate Creek Road.  This is a windy road that follows the river.  This is a beautiful river with many spots to stop along the way for fishing and wading.  It’s about 20 miles till you get to the end and then go right to the Nisqually entrance of the park.  This way to Paradise also hosts many many trailheads, waterfalls and picnic areas to stop at.  In the park don’t miss Nisqually Falls…spectacular!  After reaching Paradise take some time to do some hiking.  In summer the restored wildflower areas are beautiful.  You can drive the whole loop back to Packwood.  If you came in the Steven’s Canyon or Nisqually entrance go back the other way…both access roads are worth the drive and the views and lead back to Packwood.  This loop is a total of about 75 miles.  If you are staying with us in Packwood and only have one day and want to get a good overview of the park, this is the trip for you.  Start early in the morning if you want to drive up to Paradise.  There is limited parking up there.


Off Stevens Canyon Rd

– Grove of the Patriarchs – After you enter the Stevens Canyon entrance to Mt Rainier National Park STOP in the first parking area to the right.  The hike is only about 1 mi and you cross over a cool bridge over the river and enter an elevated walk way system that features some of the oldest and largest douglas fir trees you have ever seen.  This is a great hike for the kids and grandparents!  A must when staying in Packwood, WA!  Hike 1 mi

-Box Canyon –  one of the most unusual features in the park, and Nickel Creek Camp is a rustic backcountry retreat perfect for kids’ first backpacking adventure. The trail explores the rim of the deep chasm of Box Canyon before swinging out through the forest for a woodland ramble into the Nickel Creek valley along this short section of the Wonderland Trail. Hike 2 mi

-Bench and Snow lakes – are found just above the head of the Stevens Canyon Road, but you’ll feel like you’re deep in the backcountry once you immerse yourself in the cool lakes basin. The lakes are clear and pristine, and the upper lake, Snow, is nestled in a snow-filled cirque with fabulous views up to Unicorn Peak. Bench Lake boasts a great view of Mount Rainier. Hike 2.6 mi

-Lake Louise Trail – From the shores of Reflection Lake, this trail leads down jumbled talus slopes to the cold blue waters of Louise Lake, a pretty pool beneath the rocky wall of lower Mazama Ridge. The trail is gentle and kid-friendly, and since access is so easy, it makes a great stroll on a hot summer day. Hike 2 mi

Westside Road Trails

– Narada Falls  -in the midst of the Paradise River pounds down into a deep plunge pool, sending out a curtain of spray that provides a refreshingly cool breeze to hikers on this route. You hike the falls from top to bottom before climbing through salmonberry brambles and rich forest ecosystems to reach the upper trailhead at Reflection Lakes. Hike 3 mi

– Comet Falls – This hike takes you by Comet Falls, one of the tallest falls in the park, named for its similarity to a comet’s tail. A short ascent through enchanting forest to a waterfall that drops over a 300-foot cliff. This hike takes you past two other waterfalls before you reach the highest waterfall accessible by trail in Mount Rainier National Park. Hike 3.8 mi

-Longmire Visitor Center – this area has many trial head along with a restaurant and gift shop.  Ask the ranger if he can recommend some trails for your hiking level in this area.


Stay with us, you will not be disappointed!


Call anyday 9-9 PST for information and reservations.  We take visa or mc and dogs are welcome!

Packwood Lake is worth the 4 mi hike!

From downtown Packwood go up Snyder Road (Across the street from the Shell Station) and go until it ends, 5 miles.  This parking area is the trailhead for Packwood Lake.  You will need a Parking Pass to park here so make sure you purchase one in Packwood at the sports shop before you go up.  This trail is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  From here you can pre-arrange horseback rides in.  You can take the trail (4.5 miles).  This is an easy trail and has some views but it is mostly in the woods.  The best route is the access road below the parking area.  Here you will experience some of the most astounding valley and Mt Rainier views from any place in Packwood.  Or you can go in one way and then come back the other.  This trail is the first trail where the snow melts and you still have an amazing mountain feel.  You will enjoy all the wildflowers that start to spring up in May including vanilla leaf, flowering current, salmonberry, vine maple, Oregon grape, yellow violets and pinedrops, the tallest saprophyte in our region.  Strong hikers can continue on the Packwood Lake trail to campsites and connections to other destinations including Mosquito Lake and Lost Lake.

There hasn’t been a general store or a resort at the lake since the 1980s.  The only structures at the lake today are the Guard Station and a historical Ranger Cabin under restoration.

Packwood lake, two miles long  and .6 miles wide.  On a clear day there are views of Johnson Peak; even on a cloudy day hikers will enjoy the view of Agnes Island not too far out from shore. Local lore has it that the island is named after the wife of the man who owned and operated the resort. Locals also call the island Wizard or Enchantment Island.

You can hike all the way to the lake and if you are energetic hike around the lake too.  Or just go in a few miles with a picnic lunch and sit and gaze at the valley below.

Have Fun!

When in Packwood stay with Great Northwest Cabins for a quality rustic elegant cabin experience.  Our Mt View Cabin is off of Snyder Road just below the Packwood lake trailhead.

Our website is

Call for information and reservations at 503-492-8783 anyday from 9-9 PST.

We take visa of mc and dogs are welcome!

The Atmosphere is Electric at the Famous Packwood Flea Market

Every Labor and Memorial Day weekends the beautiful mountain town of Packwood, WA goes from 1000 residents to 10,000.  All hotels, cabins and camping spots fill up quick,  first with vendors that come from all over the northwest and west coast, over 500 of them.  Packwood stores, restaurants and shops get ready for the craziest yet most profitable weekends of the year.  This is the Packwood Flea Market!  I call it the Packwood Festival…sounds more classy…and that’s what it is.  The downtown of Packwood is situated on highway 12 or officially named the White Pass Scenic Byway, a great name because it is for sure one of the most beautiful roads in the country.  If you are coming from Olympia, Chehalis or even south from Longview or Portland you will get to experience the hour and 15 min drive from I-5 through valleys, across lakes and through cute small towns.  Views of Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Rainier and hundreds of other peaks that surround this ring of fire are as dramatic and stunning.  Lakes like Mayfield and Riffe with their dams and vistas are worth the stop.  This is all before you enter into the town of Packwood.  Packwood sits at the base of Mt Rainier and is surrounded by over 100 mountain peaks.  It is a peninsula of public land with Mt Rainier National Forest on one side and Gifford Pichot National Forest on the other.  Seven miles from town is the Stevens Canyon entrance to Mt Rainier National Park, the most dramatic drive up to Paradise, in my opinion, and only 20 miles to the ever growing in popularity, White Pass Ski Resort.  I call it a resort because with the new expansion, new lifts and mid mountain lodge, it feels like one.  It’s not just a local ski hill anymore.

Prior to any Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend vendors start to roll in at the start of the week to secure their spot and set up their wares.  You can buy anything from yard sale treasures to really nice artwork and log crafted furniture.  The food carts are abundant so bring some cash and eat some huge curly fries, tamales and end the day with some fresh made cotton candy.  The amazing thing is that this little town with its cute restaurants and pubs never has traffic issues (unless it snows a lot).  But on Saturday, at Flea Market time, there are actually traffic jams.  What should take a few minutes ends up taking 30 to get through town.  Why?  Well 10,000 people that’s why.  Both sides of main street (Highway 12) are packed 5-6 layers deep of people walking, eating and shopping for the 1 1/2 mile stretch.  If there is a piece of grass, field or empty spot in front of a hotel or business, it’s rented to a hungry vendor looking to sell his (or her) stuff.  You may ask, “Where does everyone park?”  Anywhere and everywhere…on every side street off of main street any home with any land parks cars and get’s in on the action, making some extra weekend cash.  It will cost anywhere from $3-$5 to park depending on how far you want to walk.  You do want to get close to the action because inevitably you will buy that Elk head or mountain scene with a heavy log frame for your home or cabin and you will need to carry that thing to the car.  Some people pull wagons to put their stuff in as they shop, shop, shop.

That’s why you need to stay in a Great NW Cabin.   Our Mt View Cabin and Alpine Chalet are less than 1/2 mi from town. These 2 cabins book up first because of their proximity to town.  Yet they are far enough away that you do not hear the noise and can rest in peace, but close enough where you can walk to the FESTIVAL and not pay for parking.  Or stay in one of our 2 Timberline Community cabins, 3 mi east of Packwood.  They both have access to 2 amazing outdoor saltwater heated pools and tennis courts and are only a few miles from the entrance to Mt Rainier.  You don’t have to fight Flea Market traffic to head up the mountain for some hiking and exploring.

You have to experience it at least once.  Yet many come back year after year because they are addicted to the Famous Packwood Flea Market….ahh..Festival.  You will love it, your kids will love it…come and be our guest!

For information on our cabins log onto or call 503-492-8783 for information and reservations.  We take mc or visa and dogs are welcome!


After Labor Day weekend the crowds subside and the days are getting shorter.  The weather is so perfect for all outdoor activities as the days are still warm and summery and the nights have that cool fall crispness where a fire takes the chill off the evening.

September is a great month to visit Packwood and Mt Rainier.  With school in we have many retirees and couples without kids come and enjoy the park and scenery.

Many also come to raft the famous Tieton River.  Fueled by water released from Rimrock Dam, the Tieton’s steep gradient produces 14 miles of narrow and swift Class III+ whitewater leading to the Naches River. Rafters come from all over and stay in Packwood.  They check in Friday night.  Early Saturday morning they arise and travel over the pass to the put in.  After an amazing day they return to the cabin Saturday night for some steaks on the grill and a therapeutic soak in the hot tub.

The river only runs white water one month a year in September.  The rest of the time it is a creek so shallow you can walk across in places. Guests get the thrill of paddling down a flooded canyon watching the river banks and canyon walls fly past. It has the steepest gradient in Washington State, providing fast moving water and big waves. The trip goes from Rimrock Dam to the confluence of the Naches River. The river never slows down as you make your way through the likes of “High Noon” and “Waffle Wall.”

There are many rafting companies to choose from and the rates range from $65 – $80 per person.  Some provide lunch or fancy bbq’s but all raft the same river with the same exciting 4 hours of amazing fun!  Log on or call one of these rafting places below.

For cabin openings log onto our website at or call us at 503-492-8783 any day from 9-9 PST.  We take visa or mc.

To reserve your spot with a rafting company contact one of these places:

Alpine Adventures (800) 723-8386

Blue Sky Outfitters  (800) 228 RAFT

Wet Planet Whitewater (877)-390-9445

Wildwater River Tours   (800)522-WILD