Spending an Hour in Cle Elum

If you are a Washington resident, or even a newcomer to the state, you know that driving over the Snoqualmie Pass can be treacherous at times. Even during sunny seasons, driving from one side of the state to the other can be exhausting. 

You need somewhere to stop where you don’t have to drive fully off the freeway to take a break that also has everything you could need — snacks, shopping, coffee, drinks, a good meal and more! The next time you are driving across Washington and need a quick break, consider stopping in the panoramic Cle Elum.

Heading Downtown

While Cle Elum is a small town of about 2,000 people located in Kittitas County, the downtown scene has many amenities to offer for anyone from seasoned travelers to new visitors. If you’re planning to fill up on gas, grab a snack and get back on the road, the Warrior Quick Stop is your destination.

However, if you are in need of a longer travel break, start your journey through Cle Elum at the 509 Bake House. Located in the heart of downtown, this local bakery is packed to the brim with cupcakes, cookies, macarons and my personal favorite — lemon bars. 

The treats are delicious and worth the stop, especially if you have companions with a sweet tooth. Indoor dining may be limited but there is seating outside with a view of the snow-packed mountains and picturesque evergreen trees

509 bake house in cle elum

Now, sweets can only curb so much hunger which means you may need to head a bit further down the road to Stella’s Cafe. With a variety of sandwiches, breakfast foods and smoothies to try, this local favorite is sure to kick-start your energy for the rest of your trip. If the weather is nice, try sitting out on the patio and you will find a view of the historic Flag Pole Park.

Visiting South Cle Elum

Stella’s is a great choice if you are looking to relax and unwind before hitting the road again. But if you want to explore more of what this mountain town has to offer, head toward South Cle Elum to Smokey’s Bar-B-Que. What may appear to be a railroad car is actually a restaurant filled with ribs, brisket and sandwiches.

If a railroad car seems like an unusual building for a restaurant, that is because Smokey’s is actually at the base of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail which is home to the Pacific Railroad South Cle Elum Rail Yard. This was once a functioning railway known as The Milwaukee Road which is now a historical landmark in the area.

When visiting you will find a multitude of old railroad cars to explore while enjoying this picturesque location. 

Supporting Local Artists

Although the PNW is known for having the most outdoor-loving people, some travelers may prefer to do a bit of shopping back in downtown. If this is up your alley then the first place you must visit is Pacific Crest Creatives

This unique art store is filled with collections from local artists and creators. What is different about this art collective compared to others is that many of the artists on display in the front room have chosen for a portion of their proceeds to be donated to charities and nonprofits.

If you have already been sold on visiting Cle Elum and enjoy expressing your creativity, plan a time to come back again because Pacific Crest Creatives offers a wide array of art classes and is one of the only retailers in the county to sell high-quality art supplies.


Come Back Again!

There are many other spots in the downtown that are worth the stop as well. Before you get back on the road, make sure to visit Lums Coffee on the way to the freeway. And if you are in the market for a huge slab of meat for your next family dinner, stop by Owens Meats and see what they have to offer. 

welcome to cle elum

While your travel plans may only include an hour break, make sure to take a pit stop to visit local businesses in scenic Cle Elum. 

Featured image: Discover Cle Elum.

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Madeline Wilson

Madeline Wilson is a native Californian who relocated to Central Washington three years ago to attend CWU. She enjoys spending her weekends (and any piece of free time) away from the hustle of school by regularly visiting new parts of Washington state with her friends. Trying as many hole-in-the-wall coffee shops as possible — even without a liking for coffee — is always on her checklist. If all goes according to plan, she will graduate within the next year and continue her passion for writing about the wonderful people and places across Washington.


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