Westside Road is located .9 miles from the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park off Highway 706, 10 miles west of Ashford, Washington. The road is closed to cars and gated three miles up due to a major washout years ago. The road used to allow cars easy access to great hikes, but now hikers have an extensive walk on the road, which takes too much time to get to trailheads. The history of Westside Road goes back to 1926 when it was originally built to allow motorists to encircle the park through the high alpine wilderness giving a rugged backcountry experience via car. But due to lack of funding the road was never finished.
Today the road ends in 13 miles and is open to biking and hiking. There are numerous hiking trails off the road all leading to great places (check Mount Rainier Green trails map). The road is in good condition for mountain bikes, it is not too steep and suitable for all fitness levels. Biking the road gives much quicker access to the many trailheads and adds a fun, fast downhill finish to any adventure.
My favorite bike/hike adventure is to Gobbler’s Knob off Westside Road.
Park your car at the gate, mount your bike and ride 3.8 miles up Westside Road to the Lake George/Gobbler’s Knob trailhead. It will be on the left side of the road.
Carefully place your bike in one of the carved grooves in the bike rack made out of a gigantic fir tree. You will find the Lincoln log looking bike racks at each of the trailheads. Hike 2.4 miles to the old fire lookout on Gobbler’s Knob – it is one of the four remaining lookouts built by the CCC's in the 1930s. Enjoy the breathtaking views of Mount Rainier on a clear day. Return to the road by foot then cruise downhill on your bike careful on the sweeping gravel turns, a great cool down to end your bike/hike trek.
On your way home stop at Whittaker’s Espresso and Café for coffee and treat — Enjoy!
Sara Graham is a long-time Woodinville Weekly columnist and an outdoor enthusiast.