Getting out of the house and into adventure has never sounded better. Whether you’re going solo, with kids, with a co-bubble friend or your partner, this route takes you over the Cascade mountains, down the eastern slopes into Washington’s “Dry Side.”
Set off in the morning from Seattle, and take Exit 38 off I-90 toward Olallie State Park. Named for the Chinook word for “salmonberry,” the 2,329-acre park once hosted the first wagon trail between Ellensburg and Seattle. Today, the park is a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers tackling trails amid evergreen forests, and rock climbers equipped for a boulder or two.
As you climb into the Cascades, you’ll pass some of the area’s most popular and accessible skiing and hiking destinations. In winter, The Summit at Snoqualmie offers snow tubing, Nordic skiing and night skiing, lessons and rentals. At this point, the Summit is hoping to welcome guests this winter, with new requirements for face coverings indoors and anywhere you can’t maintain social distance, along with limited lift tickets. Season passes, rentals and reserved lessons are already on sale online.
The Cascades area is known for its hikes past summer lakes and wildflower meadows, autumn fireworks of color, and serene winter walks perfect for snowshoeing. Popular summer and autumn hikes range from the family-friendly, two-mile Franklin Falls, to more heart-pumping options. Use the Washington Trails Association site to find a suitable trail — for your ability, stamina, and interests (fall foliage, old-growth, or both?).
Although not yet open for viewing or riding, several brand-new, lift-serviced mountain bike trails could open at The Summit as early as 2021. Keep driving east along I-90 and you’ll find more bike trails in and around the old mining town town of Roslyn. Here, you can pick up biking advice from the rental and repair shop Ride Roslyn Bikes or plan a route in advance with Roslyn Trail Alliance‘s site.
Across Pennsylvania street, Basecamp Books and Bites offers a handpicked selection of hiking books, along with climbing, biking and other guides. Many Roslyn eateries have outdoor seating — but Basecamp’s expansive grassy lawn presents a selection of picnic benches, awning-shaded chairs and tables, and other social-distance-ready options. Dinner options include salads, bowls, and burgers. Popular picks include the smoked salmon pasta, candied bacon and blue cheese burger, and southwestern salad with Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers.
Outside the Roslyn Museum, the overgrown, charmingly desolate outdoor area features rusted mining cars, an original log cabin and the outhouse (locked, sorry).
Spend the night at the 6,000-plus acre Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, the largest such resort in Phase 3 near Seattle. Plentiful year-round outdoor active opportunities are available here, amid forests, meadows and rivers. Whether you stay in the main lodge or the social-distance-ready rental home with full kitchen, ask for a mountain view to catch the sun setting over the nearby peaks.
It’s never too late to experiment with a new outdoor pursuit, and Suncadia delivers on options, which include a 36-hole golf course, horseback riding, fly fishing tours, archery and even ax-throwing (weather permitting). You can even rent a canoe or stand-up paddleboard. As always, activities are best booked in advance to avoid disappointment — and some activities are only available on weekends.
If you’d rather stick with the (free) basics, Suncadia’s heart-churning 1,000 Steps staircase is equivalent to a 19-story building, and takes visitors from the main lodge down to the flowing Cle Elum River. But any of the 40 miles-plus of mostly flat paved and unpaved trails are great for all-ages biking, hiking, and walking.
The resort’s three pools are open through September, but extra COVID-19 precautions include four sessions of timed entry that must be reserved 48 hours in advance and limited (50%) occupancy. It’s even nicer than it sounds. If you need to soak sore muscles, the newer Nelson Farm Pool’s hot tub isn’t open, so opt for the in-water lounge chairs — and for the kids, zero-entry water zones and a lazy river.
In winter, snowshoers and Nordic skiers can explore miles of dedicated trails, head out on the ice-skating rink, or slide down Suncadia’s rope-tow inner tubing hill, weather permitting.
On your way back to Seattle along I-90, swing by Snoqualmie Falls. Pick up a to-go carb-loaded meal from The Attic at Salish Lodge and Spa — Salish honey and chicken wings, Beecher’s Grilled Cheese, Mimosa Kit and Damn Fine Cherry Pie (a nod to its debut role in TV show “Twin Peaks”). If it’s a nice day, picnic at the base of Snoqualmie Falls by walking down the gentle 0.7-mile trail. You could call it a hike, but that would be a stretch.
Note: Always check Snoqualmie Pass Road Conditions with the Washington Department of Transportation before heading into or over the mountains, and don’t forget your Discover Pass if visiting a state park. As well, review trail and climbing conditions and do a gear check with expert sources such as the Washington Trails Association. Bring your mask and plan to be more or less self-reliant when traveling into rural communities. Right now isn’t the right time to ramp up the risk factor. If questioning your ability or taking up a new active pastime, research reputable guide services, and take classes. Rural communities have fewer health resources available, so travel responsibly (and observe mask etiquette) when visiting smaller towns.
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