From an active volcano to gorgeous high-country lakes surrounded by virgin forests, the greater Lewis County area is nature’s playground.
Even the area’s biggest city, Centralia, is nestled amongst greenery and boasts natural areas that could — and has — kept scientists busy year after year.
Here are some places to visit to experience the adventure, beauty, biodiversity and spiritual richness of wild Washington.
Washington’s tallest mountain has opportunities for climbers — you’ll need to go with a guide, available in the mountainside hamlet of Ashford — hikers or day-trippers who want to visit an area so gorgeous that it’s called Paradise.
• Ohanapecosh — An island of old-growth trees on a family-friend hiking trail
• Paradise — Glacier hikes and a historic lodge
• Wonderland Trail — for an afternoon or a week, hike around the mountain
• Ashford and Longmire — These two charming communities are along the route from Morton and Mineral to Paradise.
Find Out More:
www.visitrainier.com has maps, sample itineraries and all you need to know to plan your excursion
Mount St. Helens
Until 1980, this mountain was known for its perfect conical shape. That all changed on May 18, 1980, when an explosion with the force of a nuclear bomb blew the top off this volcano, killed more than 50 people and decimated a huge area.
A network of visitor centers and roads approaching from different sides allow you to experience an active landscape of change and rebirth.
• For those who want to get out of their cars and tromp through the ash: Approach from the north via Randle on U.S. Highway 12 for a surreal experience as you drive through a canopy of old-growth forest and round a corner to a scene of absolute devastation. Be sure to stop and see the “miner’s car,” which sits ravaged where it landed after being hit by the eruption. Hike to the top of Windy Ridge and stare into the awe-inspiring crater. Take in the surreal scene of a mat of logs floating on Spirit Lake. This highway closes during the winter.
• For a quick and rewarding drive: Approach from the west via Toledo on state Routes 504 and 505 for an easy drive to a handful of interprative centers that are open year-round, and a summer-only center at Johnston Ridge that is so close to the volcano that it seems almost within reach.
• To go underground: Approach from the south and take tours of the Ape Caves, the longest lava tube in the continental United States.
• To hike to the top: A limited number of climbing permits are available to hike along the “Monitor Ridge” route on the south flank of the volcano, allowing you to hike to the very top of the crater.
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White Pass Resort
Late spring, summer and early fall activities at the pass include hiking, bird watching, fly fishing at Leech Lake, lake fishing at Dog Lake, mountain biking, swimming, wildlife viewing, driving tours and huckleberry picking.
• Hogback Basin — This new 750-acre expansion area is friendly to intermediate-level skiers and features a mid-mountain lodge.
• Winter Carnival, held the first weekend in March, includes a no-holds-barred ice sculpting competition that has included a fire-breathing dragon made with a welding torch.
Find Out More:
www.skiwhitepass.com — weather conditions, rates, services and more
www.whitepassvillageinn.com — The White Pass Village Inn, which remains open year round.
• Packwood Lake — Just a short drive and four-mile hike from the East Lewis County community of Packwood, this 42-acre lake is on the edge of the untrammeled wilderness. The view of an island in the middle of the lake is unforgettable, and the late-summer water is the perfect temperature for swimming.
The trailhead is located on Forest Road 1260. Contact the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District at Randle (360-497-1100) for advice on trails in the area.
Find Out More
www.fs.usda.gov/activity/giffordpinchot/recreation/hiking for more information and maps
Pacific Crest Trail
The world-famous Pacific Crest Trail winds through huckleberry patches and opens into several areas in this well-traveled stretch of the trail that runs from Mexico to Canada.
• The trail crosses U.S. Highway 12 at White Pass, making access to this hiking opportunity very easy. Hikers can plan a long camping trip, or any number of short day trips. A variety of scenic lakes can be accessed from Lewis County via the Pacific Crest Trail.
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