On our recent weekend getaway to Mt. Rainier National Park we made a loop through the park, entering via the northern entrance and leaving via the western entrance. This route is ideal if you’re heading to the park in the morning because the road follows the sun, meaning Mt. Rainier’s summit is perfectly lit as you head toward it.
Our first visit to the national park was a day-trip, and we quickly headed home once we were finished. This visit we woke up early on Sunday morning, hiked the Nisqually Vista Loop, and then headed toward Elbe, Washington for breakfast before our three-hour drive home.
I knew of Elbe because I had read about taking the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad into the park and thought that would be a really fun way to experience the mountain, especially in the fall with the colorful foliage. The train departs from a small depot in Elbe, and you can create an entire train-themed experience of your visit by staying in cabooses at the Hobo Inn and eating in the dining car of the Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co.
The dining car was our chosen breakfast spot. We entered the train car and were quickly asked if we were trying to catch the train into the park—they were trying to wrap up those customers and get them on their way before departure time. There was only one waitress and the place was busy—she was thankful we weren’t in a hurry and wrapped up the customers who needed to get on their way before arranging the rest of us and expediting our orders to the kitchen.
We both ordered standard diner fare and enjoyed looking around the train car as we ate. This is a fun sit-down restaurant if you have the time!
We needed a walk after our hearty meal and headed around the train cars and across the tracks to a small white church sitting along a dirt road. There were some wooden steps along the church leading up to a window where I could peer in and just make out the pews—I wish it had been open so we could take a look inside.
A plaque out front indicated that this was the Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1906 to accommodate services that were previously held in people’s homes. Primarily a historic site today, monthly services are still held from March through November.
Our final stop was a few yards away—the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum. This wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t so much a museum as it was a gift shop—and by that, I mean there was no museum at all, only railroad-related tchotchkes for purchase. It turns out the museum is at the end of the train ride/you have to ride the train to the museum, it’s not at the depot. I should have looked into that before we arrived so I had the correct expectations!
A bit disappointed, we headed back out front to take a look at an old steam engine sitting along the road just outside the building. The rain was picking up so we wrapped up our visit, returned to the car and headed for home.
The next time we’re in Elbe, I’d like to check out taking the Mt. Rainier Railroad into the national park. I also read online that Scaleburgers, which is right across the street from the dining car restaurant, is supposed to have fantastic burgers. If those aren’t reasons enough to return, simply experiencing an alternative entry point to the park—in the afternoon when the sunlight is ideal—would make it worth revisiting. Until next time, Elbe!