Outdoors

Delightful end-of-summer camping and hiking along Chinook Pass

Crystal Lake from Sourdough Gap.
Crystal Lake from Sourdough Gap.

Every holiday weekend in the summer is a great time to get out of town and enjoy the scenery and wild beauty of the Cascade Mountains west of the Tri-Cities.

One of the most enjoyable destinations leads you right to the southeastern gateway to Mount Rainier National Park.

Chinook Pass is just under three hours west of the Tri-Cities along Highway 410. There are over a dozen public campgrounds either just off the road or a short distance from the road.

They range from small campgrounds that offer individual sites with flat areas and picnic tables all the way to group campgrounds with services, RV hookups and space for large groups.

Some of the options also include dispersed camping, with outhouses within walking distance.

All National Forest Sites are first-come, first-served and allow pets on leash. Campfires are usually allowed unless they are restricted due to fire danger.

Each of these campgrounds offer a varying number of sites for tents, vans, trailers and RV’s. In some cases, there are limits on how many sites can accommodate large RV’s and large groups.

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Mount Rainier from the Naches Peak Trail. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

Do your research in advance and identify whether a target location matches your needs and have a backup plan before you go. Many of the sites close by Oct. 15 because of snow in winter.

Before you go, check out the reports at the Naches District of the Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest https://bit.ly/2UmmNaW or call up the Forest Supervisor’s Office at 509-664-9200 and ask to be connected to the Naches Ranger District for the most current information.

Bumping Lake Campground. Offers fishing, boating, swimming with hiking along the lake. 3,457 feet in elevation, 57 sites.

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Mount Rainier from a rocky knoll north of Sourdough Gap. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

Cougar Flat Campground. This is rustic site offers a central location for fishing, horse-back riding, and hiking the magnificent ridges nearby. 3,081 feet in elevation with 12 sites and a pit toilet.

Soda Springs Campground. Along the forested banks of the Bumping River. 3,011 feet in elevation. 19 sites. Toilet and potable water available.

Sawmill Flat Campground. Next to the Little Naches River. 2,501 feet in elevation. 24 sites. Rest room and potable water available.

Indian Flat Group Campground. This popular group campground along the banks of the American River, it allows up to 65 people per site. And it only has one site. 2,759 feet in elevation, toilet and potable water available.

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Two Pacific Trail through-hikers, with trail names Slip-N-Slide and Pop Tart, on the Pacific Crest Trail heading to Sourdough Gap north of Chinook Pass. Courtesy of Paul Krupin

Cedar Springs Campground. Right along the Bumping River the site offers space for tents, trailers, RV’s with picnic tables and fire rings. 2,794 feet in elevation. 13 sites, toilet and potable water available.

American Forks Campground. At the confluence of the American River and the Bumping River, the site offers sites for tents, vans, trailers and RVs. 2,774 feet in elevation. 32 sites, toilet and potable water available.

Pine Needle Group Campground. Next to the American River, offers one large group site that can handle up to 60 people and their tents, trailers, vans and RVs. 2,982 feet in elevation. 1 site, toilet and potable water available.

Hells Crossing Campground. Along the shores of the American River. Beautiful and quiet places good for people and their pets in tents, trailers, vans and RVs. 3,268 feet in elevation. 18 sites, toilet and potable water available.

Pleasant Valley Campground. Along the shores of the American River. Individual and some small group sites for tents, trailers, vans and RVs. 3,348 feet in elevation. 12 sites, toilet and potable water available.

Lodgepole Campground. In old-growth forest along the American River with lots of hiking trails and wilderness areas close by. Sites for tents, trailers, vans and RVs. 3,492 feet in elevation. 28 sites, toilet and potable water available.

Hikes:

Bumping Lake Trail: Easy-to-get-to, has a pretty much flat easy to walk on scenic hike along the north side of the lake that goes in and out of the forest with cool and inviting water. The trail offers beautiful views of the lake and some remarkable sections where you can walk through some large, old-growth fir trees and impressive views of Nelson Ridge to the south and the higher mountains near Mount Aix in the William O. Douglas Wilderness Area.

Boulder Cave: Escape the heat of the day and take a 1.5-mile round trip hike into a cave. This short and easy hiking trail is great for families with kids and those who may not be in the peak of fitness.

Naches Peak Loop Trail: Known as one of the most beautiful and spectacular hikes around, this amazing flower studded trail offers stunning views of Mount Rainier. Get here early and be prepared to wait for a parking spot. This easy to moderate 3-mile loop trail lies just inside Mount Rainier National Park Best to start hiking at the top of Chinook Pass and head clockwise

Sourdough Gap Trail: Just on the east side of Chinook Pass, the well-established mostly flat trail to the shores of Sheep Lake, a picturesque alpine lake great for swimming and amazing views down the American River. You can then do a moderate climb one mile up to Sourdough Gap following the Pacific Crest Trail. Don’t stop now – just a quarter mile farther, beyond the gap, you can hike down to two rocky knolls overlooking the spectacular Crystal Lake. If you are lucky, and the skies are clear, you’ll be rewarded with a formidable view of Mount Rainier.

Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club www.imacnw.org . He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.
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