Chinook Scenic Byway: beautiful secondary road to a gourmet destination

The Chinook Scenic Byway is the only road in Washington that is both a scenic route and an all-American highway, an honor given to thoroughfares of unusual natural beauty. It’s a less traveled 92-mile route, eventually leading to Yakima, a bustling town with new breweries, wineries, restaurants and hotels. But this is a seasonal offering – the Chinook Scenic Byway will only be open for about a month. The snow closes the road until next summer. So take advantage of it while you can.

The route begins at Enumclaw and passes Crystal Mountain through the diverse and awe-inspiring landscape of Rainier National Park. From Crystal Mountain, you’ll continue on WA-410 toward 5,430-foot Chinook Pass, the highest point and namesake of the route, and a bridge that takes hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail.

The road passes through various park jurisdictions offering camping, hiking, fishing, and other recreational opportunities as you drive through the fir and pine forests of the pass. Jurisdictions for these areas can be somewhat confusing and include the US Forest Service’s Norse Peak Wildernessand William O. Douglas Wilderness, named after the late United States Supreme Court justice who grew up in Yakima.

The Washington Trails Association lists 87 hikes with various challenges in the area, pleasant loops at 7,766 feet high Mount Aix or 6,856 feet Nordic peak. Some hikes are short, while others can take all day – many offer a chance to spot mountain views, seasonally changing landscapes, and marmots and mountain goats. Unusual hikes include by Edgar Rock arrows and the trail built by the Civilian Conservation Corps circa 1930s rock cavecreated by ancient lava flows and habitat for the western Pacific big-eared bat.

RV and tent campers can stay at Lodgepole CampgroundLittle Naches Campground, the smaller Pleasant Valley Campground or the delightfully named Hell’s Crossing Campground. Be aware that you probably won’t get much (or any) cell service along the way, so plan accordingly. Tiny towns begin to appear again as you descend from the Cascades before the road officially ends at Naches. But don’t put your card away just yet.

Road trip to Tieton

En route, detour to the original town of Tieton, about 30 km west of downtown Yakima. Over the past decade, the city’s revival has focused on an arts and dining scene clustered around a scenic, grassy urban park. Literary and artistic events take place throughout the year in this intimate and lively city, including poetry workshops. But sweet surprises also await visitors, such as the huge apple tag-style mosaics.

Plan to visit on a weekend where you can buy handmade furniture at Atlas and Cedaroutdoor gear store Merchant Nomad, or the art to Boxx Gallery or among the small workshops of local artists. At the annual 10x10x10xTieton (on view until October 7) exhibit, browse works from around the world – each no larger than 10 inches in width, height or length. Then, feast on pupusas at Don Mateo Salvadorean and Mexican Cuisine or tapas at 617 Tieton Square.

Towards Yakima

You’ve probably dined or had a drink in the orchards and vineyards of the Yakima Valley without even knowing it. The Yakima Valley contains approximately 75% of the total hop acreage in the United States, as well as 20,000 acres of grapes. As a result, new attractions in the area include a foodie’s dream, with culinary, beer and wine tasting experiences. But there’s plenty to keep shopping and history buffs busy for a Saturday stroll.

The Yakima Valley Museum offers one of the best museums in Washington, filled with surprising and delightful exhibits. See signage at Yakima’s retreat at the “Neon Garden,” a polio-era iron lung, an unusual collection of marketing pens and pencils, and anecdotes about apple processing and famous residents like William O. Douglas – who continued to marry younger and younger women. While weird and fascinating things abound, don’t miss the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. Open the drawers of the looming cabinets to find antique dentures, stuffed birds, and other assortments.

Find your own curiosity at one of the area’s antique malls or fine, well-priced furniture gleaned from historic homes around town. Both Village of yesterday and Palm antiques offer a lot of both.

For newer products, browse Inklings Bookstore shelves of books, toys and gifts tucked away in an unassuming mall. At the same shopping center (Chalet Place), English country market offers hand-selected imported children’s clothing/toys, kitchen utensils and treats in two separate display cases. Find other local hits on I have the Yakima heartwatch a live performance at Capitol Theateror discover art exhibitions at Larson Gallery.

For foodies

Downtown Yakima hosts a growing number of jaw-dropping dining options. Downtown is full of newer dining options, such as the stylish Canyon Coiche cuisine premium fare drawing from international and pan-Asian sources EZ Tiger. The spectacular, lively Made sends shareable and seasonal plates out of the kitchen (make a reservation).

If you want to stay close to downtown restaurants, the only Hotel House has a fascinating pedigree – this former Freemason lodge has just joined the Hilton Tapestry collection. Built in 1911 and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hotel Maison has myriad photos and details (like an aviary built into the exterior). Ask about informal tours at reception.

On a Sunday morning, visit the Downtown Yakima Farmer’s Market for fruits, vegetables, meats, pastries and quick meals from local vendors. Enjoy a quick pastry at the downtown Essencia artisan bakery or walk to the historic brick-built train station to stop at the beautiful main stop on the avenue, which serves up hearty Mexican-influenced omelets, benedicts and scrambles.

Yakima County’s population is 51% Hispanic, according to the US Census Bureau, so keep an eye out for announced events and sponsored by the Yakima-Morelia Sister Cities Associationlike the Latin movie series, Dia De Los Muertos and special tequila tasting fundraisers. Award-winning Mexican cuisine isn’t hard to find, including Los Hernandez Tamales, which won the James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award. Other local favorites include Mercedes and her family, The Watchtower, 5 saucesand Great Monarch.

If you like liquid refreshments, various producers of wine, beer, cider and spirits abound in the Yakima Valley. The Fresh Hop Beer Festival takes place in October. Or sip craft foam at Single Hill Brewing Company’s 16-tap dining room in downtown Yakima, samplers in the countryside Bullet breaker and craft beers accompanied by a brewer’s board at wandering jump.

Wine lovers can tread the grapes catch a crush October 8-9, 2022. Or simply enjoy the abundance of 90 tasting rooms and small artisan producers and vineyards at the region’s five tasting spaces. Show up or book at Gilbert Cellars and Sheridan Vineyardsparkling wines Treveri Cellarsorganic oriented Wilridge Wine Estateand Owen Roe experiences – including guided tastings and outdoor cabana tastings paired with a five-item picnic basket.

But perhaps the best part of Yakima is that there’s always more for foodies to discover, whether it’s restaurants, local farms to choose from, or up-and-coming wineries.

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