Misty, sweet Snoqualmie It’s a land of ups and downs. As the rock face of Mount Si soars to the sky, the raging torrent of Snoqualmie Falls plunges into a narrow canyon. On the mostly level ground in between are history, fine dining and the lingering relics of a Hollywood cult.
The small towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend are less than an hour from Puget Sound, but seem much farther. They co-exist with scenery that might overwhelm weaker cities. But these are tough communities, forged by the pioneers of the Pacific Northwest.
Like most visitors, I began my day at the region’s star attraction.
Address: 6501 Railroad Ave., Snoqualmie
Hours: Park open dawn to dusk
Niagara is wider and Yosemite taller, but there’s something about the muscularity of Snoqualmie Falls that makes it one of Washington’s iconic sights. If you get there during or after a storm, the water will be leaping from the top of the 268-foot drop. A two-acre adjacent park contains parking areas, a gift shop and an observation deck.
A trail to the base of the falls was closed for two years while Puget Sound Energy, the entity that owns and maintains the park, renovated it. It reopened in September. The gravel path now slopes down to a long boardwalk along the riverbank that gets within viewing distance of the falls.
What you won’t see are a series of tunnels and rooms bored into the rock surrounding the falls that house PSE’s hydroelectric turbines. Dating back to 1898, they still produce power along with an above-ground plant.
Perched atop the falls is
Salish Lodge and Spa
Address: 6501 Railroad Ave., Snoqualmie
Information: 425-888-2556, salishlodge.com
Though parts of the building date to 1916, the Salish Lodge itself is only 26 years old, so preserving history wasn’t really a concern when the lodge renovated its 84 guestrooms in 2010. Each one now has a wood-burning fireplace, two-person jetted tub and balcony or window seat. Most face the falls.
The guest-room remodel was the beginning of a top-to-bottom renovation for the lodge that is nearly complete now. With a heavy use of stone and wood, the lodge embodies the aesthetic of the Northwest. General Manager Rod Lapasin said 95 percent of the lodge’s guests are from Western Washington.
In 2011, the lodge started an apiary (bee hives) that produced 2,400 pounds of honey in 2013. The sweet concoction is used in the resort’s food and spa treatments as well as its retail products, including honey-flavored marmalade, truffles and caramel corn.
The lodge’s spa, with its 11 treatment rooms and two soaking pools, is consistently rated one of the best in the nation. It offers dozens of treatments including some only-in-the-Northwest experiences like the Northwest Coffee Exfoliation ($125), the Puget Sound Seaweed Body Firming Wrap ($125) and Rain Drop Therapy ($120).
Another this-is-why-you-came-here experience is the lodge’s yoga tent. Perched within spitting distance of the falls, guests can find their downward-facing dog while getting misted by the spray.
But you don’t need to stretch your glutes to enjoy the view. The lodge’s two restaurants have some of the most spectacular vistas of any perch in the state. Upstairs is The Attic, a hip, slightly urban hangout with a wood-fired pizza oven. Downstairs is The Dining Room.
The Attic was closed for lunch on the day of my visit, so I settled in at a table in The Dining Room overlooking the falls. A long view stretched west toward Puget Sound while an almost circular rainbow (a raincircle?) floated over the falls. House-baked bread along with honey-infused butter soon arrived. A first course of delicata squash with crme frache and herbs straight from the garden could have been a meal in itself ($15).
The Dining Room’s menu isn’t long, but it’s highly varied. Culinary director Shannon Galusha puts an emphasis on local ingredients, giving the menu a natural trend toward Pacific Northwest cuisine. He has access to 90 local farmers and food producers.
“We’re not trying to confuse people with our food,” Galusha tells me. He strives for simple, but high-quality food. The Attic’s menu features a sourdough grilled cheese with tomato dip ($15) and Taylor Shellfish clams ($12). A Washington pear and fig pizza with caramelized onions, prosciutto, arugula and blue cheese is $16.
The Dining Room’s menu changes roughly every month. On my visit it included lamb tartar, steelhead, chicken, risotto and rib eye. Entrees run from $28 to $64. Lunch entrees start at $15. Some guests come solely for the lodge’s 7-course breakfast, which costs $34 per person.
I finished my meal with a lightly seared Pacific tuna accompanied by saffron arancini (fried rice balls), honey caramelized fennel, pine nuts and lemon foam. It looked like modern art on my plate and was thoroughly satisfying on my palate.
The lodge got an immeasurable hit of coolness when auteur film director David Lynch included it in his 1990s cult-hit TV series “Twin Peaks,” in which the lodge was portrayed as the Great Northern Hotel. Characters often convened there and at the nearby Double R Diner in North Bend, which is actually called
Address: 137 W. North Bend Way, North Bend
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Information: 425-831-5511, twedescafe.com
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” FBI agent Dale Cooper tells Twin Peaks’ sheriff. “Every day, once a day, give yourself a little present.” The present, in his case, was “a damn fine cup of coffee” and a slice of cherry pie at the Double R Diner.
Due to a 2000 fire, Twede’s Café now bears little resemblance to its TV incarnation, but “Twin Peaks” fans still show up daily, owner Kyle Twede told me. Currently, there’s an influx from The Netherlands, where the series is showing. And yes, they all order cherry pie.
“I have to make cherry pie. It is the best around. But it’s not cost effective,” Twede said as his staff served food to a mix of locals and visitors. Those visitors travel by car today, but in the 1800s they would have arrived by train. Today, the Snoqualmie train depot is the
Northwest Railway Museum
Address: 38625 S.E. King St., Snoqualmie
Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 7 days a week
Information: 425-888-3030, trainmuseum.org
Admission: Free (not including train rides)
Technically, a man in the museum’s gift shop tells me, the museum is five miles long and 100 feet wide. Not coincidentally, that’s the width of a railroad easement. Within that easement, visitors will find both shiny and rusty railroad equipment.
The 1890 station is billed as the oldest continuously operating station in the state. The Snoqualmie Valley Railroad’s trains run on Saturdays and Sundays, April through October. The trains travel from the Snoqualmie depot to the North Bend station and back to Snoqualmie Falls before returning to the depot.
Along the way, you’ll get to see views of
Address: Trailhead parking is on Southeast Mt. Si Road between 461st Avenue Southeast and 454th Avenue Southeast in North Bend. Discover Pass required for parking.
At 4,167 feet, Mount Si towers over North Bend. And its popularity as a summit climb towers over every other mountain in Washington. Its proximity to Puget Sound, astounding views, little snow and four-mile (but steep) climb bring tens of thousands of hikers annually.
There were 11 cars parked at the trailhead on the day of my visit despite falling hail. The lower part of the trail passes over a sparkling clear stream and through a fern-filled forest. I would have hiked to the top but I had to get to
Snoqualmie Brewery and Taproom
Address: 8032 Falls Ave. SE, Snoqualmie
Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Mondays–Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesdays–Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays
Taproom: 425-831-2357, fallsbrew.com
Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Co. makes seven beers along with a rotating selection of seasonal brews. The brewery occasionally makes a couple of barrels of specialty beer such as pumpkin pie ale or spruce tip ale that are offered only on tap. “That’s a surprise for the person who comes and visits,” says Dave Eiffert, co-owner of the brewery. “The brewers have to keep themselves entertained.”
Just released in January is Baphomet, a blood-red ale with 8.3 percent alcohol by volume.
The two-story space doesn’t have much ambience, but after a day kicking the dust on the Mount Si trail (or kicking around the parking lot), their beer hits the spot. To bring my trip full circle, I quaffed a pint of their Salish Honey Ale. The Brewery’s partner on the slightly sweet pale ale: The Salish Lodge’s very own honey bees.
The Taproom’s menu has a large selection of pizzas, sandwiches, salads, soups and other pub grub at prices considerably less than the Salish Lodge.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 firstname.lastname@example.org