Cayuse Pass

Cayuse Pass is the third in the list of scenic Mount Rainier two -way summits. It is lower than Chinook Pass and Paradise s(u). It also has more traffic and fewer reasons to stop. But there is one possible vista point, that is arguably one of the most attractive point onto Mount Rainier, at least when the clouds play along. Cayuse Pass is also a possible way point to the highest one-way summit in the park: Sunrise.

1.(1050ft,mile00.0)START-END SOUTH ALTERNATE: Packwood
2.(1620ft,mile07.6)START-END SOUTH:profile goes left onto Wa123, while right goes to White Pass
3.(2260ft,mile13.0)jct with Stevens Canyon Rd to Paradise on left
4.(4675ft,mile23.9)TOP: Cayuse Pass
5.(3790ft,mile27.1)jct with Paradise Rd on left
6.(750ft,mile63.6)jct WA410-284th Ave ,just west of Enumclaw


From South. From Packwood US12 climbs intermittently. This is a busy, noisy highway with a huge shoulder. A sign stating "Mount Rainier National Park: 3miles" appears at the junction with Wa123, hinting at relief from all that noise. Most of the traffic does stay behind, so does the shoulder. The road climbs gently, without any turns to speak of, for the first 2000ft. Bridges over wild overgrown streams give a chance to get off the bike and marvel at all that thicket, that seems so impenetrable.

There are one ot two views of the Pinnacle area with a sliver of Mount Rainier glacier in the background. But these are easy to miss, and car travelers probably never even see them. Approaching the top, the road is bound by one of those picturesque stonewalls, and from here is the closest thing to a Mount Rainier view on this side. The pass is located at the junction with Wa410, climbing higher to the west over Chinook Pass. There is no pass sign at this location. Many maps do not label it either. But one of the signs , located lower uses this name.

From North. (described downwards). There is quite a bit more traffic on this approach, and only a very limited shoulder. The road continues on its straight north - south course.

For me the outstanding moment on this pass ride came during late morning light. A sign warned of a congested area. The sign was right. It was a traffic jam on the hillside. Tourists stood, facing east, their socalled smartphones held high in front of them, like a catholic holds a sugar waver, pretending it's a piece of God. In the blinding light they were trying to make out the image on their glare obscured LED screens. It was an image of Mount Rainier, about as good as it gets. Prevailing south west winds had placed a translucent layer of clouds on top of the mountain, to arrange for a shifting display of light conditions. One second was better than the next. Meanwhile Japanese tourists left the motors on their rented luxury mobiles running, and posed their wives and babies in a professional looking manner in front of the volcano. My jaw dropped at the spectacle of the mountain, and the spectacle of its spectators.

This potentially awe inspiring view onto Mount Rainier really has 3 possible spots to stop at on a bicycle. Possibly the nicest is one over a bridge. The "congested area" is the last possibility.

Comparatively speaking, after that it's an eventless roll to the bottom. There is the possibilty to turn the excitometer back up to full throttle, by taking a left turn onto the out-and-back road to Sunrise.

Sidetrip to Sunrise:

I was told that this was the highest paved road in Washington. But first it descends to cross Shaw Creek, and also pass the National Park entrance station. Even though Cayuse Pass in inside the national park since three miles after the start of Wa123, there is no entrance fee, until now. During my visit on Memorial Day, the queue of cars was at least 2 miles long. But traffic on the Sunrise Park road was mercifully light, and oh so considerate. After waiting so long to get in, I guess they were in no rush to get out.

The first several miles of this road are just your ordinary ride through the forest. Then the mountain appears above, the glacier as flat as a curtain on a window, but 9000ft high. The best part are the miles before and after Surnise Point. The road crests just before reaching the Sunrise visitor center, and this section shows off the mountain the best. But nobody seems to stop here, probably because they don't want to stop before reaching the predefined destination - a big parking lot with a snack bar, and in my case a helicopter and several ambulances working on a mountain rescue. On photos this road often looks a lot higher than it actually is, thanks to the spectacular backdrop, which actually reaches over 9000ft above the road.

1.(1050ft,mile00.0)START-END SOUTH ALTERNATE: Packwood
2.(1620ft,mile07.6)START-END SOUTH:profile goes left onto Wa123, while right goes to White Pass
3.(2260ft,mile13.0)jct with Stevens Canyon Rd to Paradise on left
4.(4675ft,mile23.9)Cayuse Pass
5.(3790ft,mile27.1)profile turns left onto Paradise Rd
6.(4000ft,mile32.7)turnoff to East Fork White River campground on left
7.(6390ft,mile42.9)START-END TOP: end of road at Sunrise Visitor Center



( < Paradise s(u) | White Pass > )
Cayuse Pass x2 , additional out and back : jct FR47 - US12 ( 2.5 miles west of jct Wa123 - US12 <> US12 <> Cayuse Pass <> Sunrise Park Road <> Sunrise: 78.5miles with 7880ft of climbing in 6:21hrs (VDO MC1.0 r2:13.9.1).
Notes: the crack in the frame on the Trek frame is now definitely noticeable. - I ran into Cindy and her husband again (this time on Sunrise Park Road, first time was on Elk Pass). The two are on a big loop from Idaho and seem to leave no hill unclimbed. - Sunrise Park road was the highest point, but highest two way summit is Cayuse Pass.


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