White Pass Scenic Byway, or U.S. Highway 12, cuts through most of Southwest Washington’s largest county, offering numerous road trips and stunning vistas as one picks up the byway off Interstate 5 just south of the Twin Cities of Centralia and Chehalis. The road meanders east through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, offering jump-off points to Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier. The community of Packwood is the last sizeable town before the byway crests White Pass in the Cascade Mountains on its way to Eastern Washington and eventually Michigan.
Lewis County offers visitors a chance to explore along the Interstate 5 corridor, from its northern most and largest city of Centralia to its southern most communities of Toledo and Vader. State Route 6 is the gateway to the western part of the county and its communities, parks, agricultural valleys and eventually on to the Pacific Ocean.
The Twin Cities of Centralia and Chehalis rest in a valley where three rivers come together — the Chehalis, Newaukum and Skookumchuck. Heavy rains during the winter months, especially if hills are covered with snow, have resulted in flooding, though none quite as devastating as the flood of December 2007. The record floodwaters closed Interstate 5 for most of a week, and wreaked havoc on smaller communities just to the south and west of Centralia and Chehalis, such as Adna, Curtis, Boistfort, Doty and Pe Ell.
Map provided courtesy of Cowlitz County Tourism Bureau, www.visitmtsthelens.com.
Nearly three quarters of Lewis County is unpopulated, unless one can count trees. Most of the eastern third of the county is national forest.
The natural beauty has provided opportunities for a number of tourist-oriented organizations:
Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce. Its visitors center is off exit 79 at 500 N.W. Chamber Way, Chehalis. There is another visitor center at the Centralia Factory Outlets, 1301 Lum Road, just off exit 82. Call 748-8885 or visit www.chamberway.com.
East Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, Mossyrock. Call 983-3778 or visitwww.eastlewiscountychamber.com.
South Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 607, Toledo, WA, 98591. Call 864-8844 or visitwww.slcchamberofcommerce.com.
Destination Packwood, 13173 U.S. Highway 12, P.O. Box 64, Packwood, WA, 98361. Call 494-2223 or visitwww.destinationpackwood.com.
White Pass Scenic Byway, 13173 U.S. Highway 12, P.O. Box 64, Packwood, WA, 98361. Call 494-2223 or visit www.whitepassbyway.com.
Visit Rainier, P.O. Box 434, Ashford, WA, 98304. Call 877-270-7155 or visit www.visitrainier.com.
Mount Rainier Visitor Association, P.O. Box 214, Ashford, WA, 98304. Call 877-617-9950 or visit www.mt-rainier.com.