Nothing says summertime like a scenic drive. Rolled down windows welcoming a warm breeze. Natural beauty in every direction.

Life in Washington State provides amazing access to eight National Forests. This summer, let me introduce you to an underrated spot: White Pass Scenic Byway through Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. In particular, the striking Rimrock Lake Recreation Loop section.

Located in the shadow of Mount Rainier, White Pass Scenic Byway (part of Highway 12) offers regal views in a refreshing way. Enjoy nature at your own pace. Pause at photo-worthy viewpoints, quiet your mind on a trail, or meander on Forest Service roads. All minus the large crowds drawn to nearby Mount Rainier National Park.

If you’re looking for the perfect day adventure or weekend camping destination, then check out this short and sweet scenic drive in Washington.

At a Glance: Rimrock Lake Recreation Loop

Route Distance: 16 miles

Suggested Duration: 2-3 hours (includes ample time for recreation like picnicking, swimming, taking photos, etc.)

Nearest Major Cities: Tacoma, Washington; Yakima, Washington

Starts in: Naches, Washington

Ends in: Naches, Washington

How to Prepare for Your Visit to Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

After exploring most of Washington State, I’ve learned how useful it is to assume that you will not have phone service during your outing. In fact, I did not have phone service while driving the White Pass Scenic Byway – which wasn’t a downside. If this happens to you, take it as an opportunity to be present, disconnect from technology and, above all else, be prepared.

1. Always Download Maps

    In a matter of clicks, you can save a free PDF map of the area of your choosing – courtesy of the USDA Forest Service. For good measure, you may want to print a copy to keep in your glovebox.

    Besides charting your course of travel, you’ll want to be in the know about hiking trails, camping opportunities, and wildfire closures.

    2. Get your Car Ready

    As with any scenic drive or road trip, ensuring that all regular vehicle maintenance is taken care of will deliver peace of mind.

    Additionally, you may want to check tire pressure, oil life, and fuel levels.

    For White Pass Scenic Byway, the nearest gas stations are found in Packwood and Naches.

    Here are the drive times to White Pass Scenic Byway:

    • Tacoma, Washington: 2.5 hours via Highways 167 & 410
    • Seattle, Washington: 2.5 hours via I-90

    3. Know When to Visit

    Note that the best time to visit is from mid-June through October, when snow has melted and day use areas and campgrounds are open. Utilizing the Forest Service’s online interactive map, you can check the status of recreation areas.

    Expect campgrounds to fill up faster on weekends, so arriving early and having a few options is wise.

    4. Purchase a Recreation Pass

    While visiting the areas highlighted below, bring a Northwest Forest Pass. Choose between a $30 annual pass, a $5 day pass, or an America the Beautiful pass ($80 annually, grants access to National Forests and National Parks).

    Or consider visiting on a Free Day, when fees are waived in honor of holidays.

    Must-See Spots on the White Pass Scenic Byway

    It’s true that White Pass Scenic Byway’s beauty impresses. But, it’s the gems that lie just off of the highway on National Forest roads that may surprise you the most.

    Heading East from Packwood towards Rimrock don’t miss:

    1. Clear Creek Overlook Interpretive Site

    Hold your breath as the 228-foot falls gush down the side of a rugged canyon.

    Beauty aside, this overlook helps orient visitors with the area using its interpretive signs – which include maps and points of interest.

    Excited for fall foliage? If so, be sure to visit in October to witness Western larch trees turn golden. No hiking required!

    2. Clear Lake Day Use Area

    Part of what makes the Rimrock Lake Recreation Loop special is its mesmerizing lakes.

    Clear Lake provides a haven for lakeside loungers, boaters/paddlers, and fishermen.

    One particularly picturesque spot is Clear Lake Dam Spillway, off of NF-740. See the water cascade as it connects to neighboring Rimrock Lake.

    For those looking to stay a little longer, ample camping is available at Clear Lake South Campground and Clear Lake North Campground.

    3. Wild Rose Day Use Area

    Unless you’re camping, my recommendation is to drive as far East as the Wild Rose Day Use Area. Here, you’ll find the perfect place to picnic alongside the Tieton River.

    Need supplies? The nearest town is Naches (20 miles away).

    4. Delving Deeper into Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

    Since the above-mentioned stops are relatively close to the main highway, it is worth mentioning that this area boasts countless other day use areas and camping opportunities that are further off-the-beaten-path (especially if you have a 4x4 vehicle and are confident driving on unpaved roads).

    Consider visiting Lost Lake, hiking into wilderness at Andy Creek Trailhead, or perhaps finding your own dispersed camping site.

    As a reminder, be sure to download or print maps of National Forest lands.

    Discover more about Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. After all, it includes 3.8 million acres!!

    About the Author

    Kara Patajo is a travel writer and content creator based out of Seattle, Washington. Whether sharing destination guides or hiking trails, she strives to inspire responsible outdoor adventure. See the best of the Pacific Northwest with her guides on or on Instagram: @YourNorthwestieBestie.

    All photos by Kara Patajo.


    Did this blog get your adrenaline going for some National Forest adventure experiences? We hope so! Your support is crucial to ensuring the National Forest Foundation can complete dozens of projects each year that keep the adventure coming. Please click here to make a much-needed unrestricted gift today. And, happy (safe) adventuring!

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