Nestled between three iconic mountains near the banks of the Cowlitz River, the small town of Packwood is the perfect basecamp for a weekend of exploration around the Cascade Mountains. Full of scenic beauty, incredible recreation, rich in history and fun for the family, those looking for a dose of Pacific Northwest beauty need to look no further than this amazing town.
Packwood offers both the quirkiness and familiarity of life in small town Washington, as well as access to jaw-dropping scenery and a lifetime of adventures. Stopping by Packwood is sure to increase your wanderlust and desire to explore even deeper into the wilds of Washington. Sporting a population of just over 1,000 people, Packwood is the perfect mountain escape with great lodging, dining and adventure opportunities.
While you could just drive through Packwood and make one or two stops, we strongly suggest you make the small town near White Pass the basecamp for your next adventure. With a stay at the Crest Trail Lodge or Cowlitz River Lodge, you’ll have access to town as well as the natural wonders all around the region.
These lodges are more than just a place to throw down your gear before heading out, though. Comfortable rooms, free Wi-Fi, an incredible complimentary breakfast and in-room Keurig coffeemakers are just the tip of the amenities you will enjoy. Plus both offer two glasses of wine to enjoy in the evening, perhaps while a herd of elk wander by your room.
Despite a small population, Packwood offers numerous dining options that serve tasty dishes. Each morning, we recommend heading over to Mountain Goat Coffee. With great drinks and pastries available, as well as Wi-Fi and indoor seating, you may find yourself wanting to sit here and watch the happenings in Packwood all day long. Mountain Goat also has some cool gear, including mugs and t-shirts.
For lunch, stop by Blanton’s Market and pick up some good road trip food for a day of exploring. They offer all the grocery items you’ll need, as well as guidebooks to enhance your experience.
For dinner, we highly suggest refueling with burgers from Cliff Droppers. Here, you’ll find one of the best burgers in the region, known as the Sasquatch Burger, as well as other mouthwatering options. If you are looking for something a bit more refined, you can’t go wrong with dinner and dessert from Josie’s Italian Restaurant. If you need a drink to unwind afterward, head over to the Blue Spruce Saloon and mingle with both Packwood locals and visitors alike.
Explore the Town
Packwood is rich in history, as is the rest of the region around White Pass. A great way to peer back in time is to stop by the White Pass County Historical Museum. Here you’ll find pictures and displays showing off the history of logging, the flooding of a town and the spirit of the region. A stop here will have you excited to see more of the sights.
If you’d rather stretch out, you can swing by Mountain Pose Yoga for a class before or after your day of hiking.
Take a Day Trip
While many will enjoy the small town life of Packwood, most who come to the region are here to experience the beauty of the Cascade Mountain Ranges. Packwood is close to Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, wilderness areas and National Forests.
In the winter, the region is a mecca for snow sports, thanks to its location near the fantastic skiing at White Pass. In the summer, the area is home to some of the best hiking and sightseeing in the Pacific Northwest. To say Packwood is spoiled with outdoor adventure options is an understatement.
While we could literally list hundreds of places to explore, there are a few that are great places to start. Packwood is right near Mount Rainier National Park, so taking a road trip into the park is a no brainer. Close to the seasonally open and stunning Steven’s Canyon Entrance, you will have access to iconic destinations like Ohanapecosh, Naches Lake, Silver Falls, Reflection Lakes and both Sunrise and Paradise.
For those looking for more primitive solitude, head down National Forest Service Road 21 in the summer for jaw-dropping views of Mount Adams and entry to the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Often overlooked, the views from these seasonal trails are truly spectacular and are ideal for more rugged hikers. Finally, those longing to see the blast zone of Mount Saint Helens can drive down to the Windy Ridge Viewpoint near Spirit Lake in the summer months. Here, you can wander along well-maintained trails that let you gaze right into the crater of the mountain, as well as witness the remarkable regrowth around the still steaming volcano.