The scenic byway’s biggest small town
A full range of services
A magnificent view of Mount Rainier
On the Road to Rainier Scenic Byway, Eatonville is the largest town (pop. 2840), and the only one incorporated. Eatonville is on the northern part of the scenic byway loop and offers distinctive views of Mount Rainier.
On the scenic byway, the driving time to Mount Rainier National Park is the same whether you go through Eatonville or stay on Highway 7. These two routes join at Alder Lake, just before Elbe, on your way to the park.
Eatonville is an hour’s drive from Tacoma or Olympia and two hours from Seattle, depending on traffic. The main entrance to the park is a 35-minute drive east.
Northwest Trek, near Eatonville, is the Pacific Northwest’s premier wildlife and adventure park. It is operated by Metro Parks Tacoma. This 725-acre park provides up-close viewing of more than 200 elk, bison, bear, lynx, mountain goats, and other species that roam here. Tram tours and walking tours take you into the animals’ habitat. The Cheney Center is a place of discovery about nature with special appeal for children.
For the wild in everyone, five thrilling zip line/challenge courses take you through Northwest Trek’s tree canopy. These zip lines are separated by swinging log bridges, cargo nets, balance beams, and tight ropes that must be walked, climbed, and crawled through. The five courses vary in skill and agility, with some created for kids as young as five. All are designed to be fun, safe (using harnesses), and exciting.
Pioneer Farm Museum & Ohop Indian Village lets you learn hands-on about the lives of homesteaders in the 1880s and the native people who’ve lived here for thousands of years. This non-profit educational and cultural center is just outside Eatonville.
On the Pioneer Farm tour, live the way early settlers did: grind grain, churn cream, card wool, milk a cow or goat, blacksmith, or visit a replica schoolhouse. The trading post (gift shop) is in an 1887 log cabin.
The Ohop Indian Village gives you the chance to experience how native people lived during different seasons. Target shoot with a bow and arrow, braid leather, carve a slate arrowhead, chip out a canoe, weave on a loom, and play a plank drum. These and other activities show how the Coast Salish tribes used games to teach their children not only skills but respect for the environment.
Bud Blancher Trail is a popular, wide hiking and cycling trail in Eatonville through woods and along the Mashel River. From two footbridges across the Mashel, visitors can watch fish spawn in a setting that protects threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. After 2.3 miles, at the end of the second bridge, the path connects to an extensive trail network in the University of Washington’s Pack Forest (see below). The Bud Blancher trail also connects to Eatonville’s Smallwood Park and is only a short walk from Mill Pond Park. The trailhead for Bud Blancher is on Weyerhaeuser Rd. S. off Center Street which is part of the scenic byway. Mill Pond Park is accessed close by at Madison and Center and includes playground equipment and a skate park. Smallwood Park with its tall trees, open setting, and Kids’ Pond can be reached by car from Highway 161 S. just past the Mashel River.
University of Washington’s Pack Forest is home to the Center for Sustainable Forestry and includes 4300 acres of working forestland. The public is welcome to hike, bike, and horseback ride. Hunting is allowed on weekends during season. Pack Forest’s 40 miles of trails include a barrier-free, self-guided trail and trails to the upper and lower falls on the Little Mashel River. The main entrance to Pack Forest is on the scenic byway’s Highway 7 route. It also can be reached from Eatonville via Highway 161 S., a 3.4-mile drive.
Stringtown Cellars Winery & Lavender Farm is alongside the scenic byway at 39610 Eatonville Cutoff Road. Wine tastings feature Stringtown’s small-lot reds and whites from grapes grown on the farm and in eastern WA. The Lavender Farm has fields of purple lavender, U-Cut bouquets in summer, plants for sale, and a gift shop with locally made lavender products including soaps and honey.
Dogwood Park is a diminutive site with a huge vista of Mount Rainier. It is on the Road to Rainier Scenic Byway on Highway 161, just east of Barney’s Corner where 161 joins Eatonville Cutoff Rd. This state park was created for Washington’s centennial in 1989 to give motorists an easy pull-off to enjoy the view. This park also is the location of a historical marker denoting the route as a Blue Star Memorial Highway.
Eatonville Visitor Center is at 320 Center Street East. Driving into Eatonville from the west on Highway 161/Washington Ave., turn right on Carter Street, left on Mashell Ave. The Visitor Center is on the right. Hours and days of operation vary.
Also in Eatonville you’ll find restaurants, a bakery, drive-up espresso, Mill Village Motel, antique shops, a full-service grocery, drugstore, hair salons, a hardware/lumber store, liquor store, bank, library, post office, newspaper, and several other businesses.
For millennia, the Nisqually people thrived along the Nisqually and Me-Schal (Mashel) rivers and in the surrounding mountains. Their legendary Chief Leschi was born in this area in 1808. In 1856, defying orders from Gov. Stevens to abandon their homeland forever, many Nisqually, including women and children, were massacred where the Mashel feeds into the Nisqually.
In 1889, a Nisqually known as Indian Henry guided Thomas C. Van Eaton to the present site of the town, and the two men began an enduring friendship. Van Eaton, a successful Tacoma builder, had dreamed of starting his own town. The setting of Eatonville struck him as ideal, so he relocated and opened a trading post. Accounts from that time describe him as a generous community leader and businessman who valued education. The original Van Eaton Cabin, now the Stage Stop Museum, is at the corner of Alder St. and Mashel Ave. next to Mill Pond Park. The South Pierce Co. Historical Society opens the museum, filled with artifacts from the town’s early days, on summer Sunday afternoons.
Welcoming tourists has long been part of Eatonville’s life. From the time Mount Rainier became a national park in 1899, the town has served as a stopover for visitors heading to the Mountain. During the first half of the 20th century, Eatonville’s economy also heavily depended on its logging industry.