My husband and I took a spontaneous get-away this week to Roslyn, Washington, a small and historic town (pop. 1,015) 80 miles east of Washington in the Cascade Mountains. This former coal mining town, perhaps better know these days as the setting for the popular 1990s TV show Northern Exposure, is on the National Historic Register.
While we intended to go for a day hike in the Central Cascades, we ended up taking it slower. We explored Roslyn on foot and the surrounding areas by car. We enjoyed some fantastic meals and soaked up the sunny scenery.
Care to repeat our trip yourselves? Here’s what we did, and some ideas for next time.
The Inn at Suncadia. I’ve been wanting to check out Suncadia Resort for a while. It’s a planned resort community on 6,300 acres just outside the town of Roslyn.
We chose to stay at the resort’s smaller Inn property, rather than the larger Lodge, for several reasons: it was adults only, it included a continental breakfast, and it came with two complimentary glasses of wine, turn-down service and two day passes to the spa.
Unfortunately, the Inn delivered on only two of the five services: the wine and the spa. None of the others. There were teens in the lobby bar, the breakfast was dismal and there was no turn-down service. To boot, the previous day’s dirty breakfast dishes were outside our room for our entire stay and the too-loud lobby music could be heard from our bathroom.
What I did like: the large rooms and the view of the mountains in the distance, which were reminiscent of the flatirons in Boulder, Colorado.
The Lodge at Suncadia. We’ll stay here next time. True to its online description, it truly does resemble the majesty of a National Park lodge and the view over the Cascade Mountain range is a panorama of awe.
Downtown Roslyn. Originally a coal mining town, Roslyn still retains many of its original buildings and homes, including the Brick Tavern, the oldest operating tavern in Washington. Downtown Roslyn was placed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic District in 1978.
We arrived in town for the last half hour of the weekly Roslyn Farmer’s Market. The main street, Pennsylvania Avenue, was small-town busy with shoppers and live music. Check it out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday through mid-September.
Northern Exposure locations. From 1990 to 1995, Roslyn doubled as the remote Alaskan village of fictional Cicely for the popular TV show, Northern Exposure. Many of the locals worked as extras. The town’s Hollywood pride is still on display, including the full set of KBHR radio where character Chris Stevens waxed poetic as he gazed over town. Also on the NE tour, the exterior of character Dr. Joel Fleishman’s medical office, the Brick Tavern, and the famous camel mural at Roslyn Café. Many of the “homes” the characters lived in can be found on this map, courtesy of the Roslyn Historical Society Museum.
Side note: When we arrived home we were anxious to relive old television memories and watch the show again. We were disappointed to learn it’s not available for online streaming, but the DVDs can be reserved at our local library.
Roslyn cemeteries. I love old overgrown cemeteries with stories to tell. I found one nestled in the trees in the hills above town. City Cemetery is one of 26 (yes, 26!) cemeteries on 15 acres here. All totaled, more than 24 nationalities are represented in 5,000 graves, reflecting the diversity of ethnicities that settled here.
The drive from Roslyn to Salmon La Sac Campground. The 18-mile drive from Roslyn to the Salmon La Sac Campground is beautiful and worth the time. The road follows the shores of Lake Cle Elum and then the Cle Elum River. Bring a picnic from Basecamp Books & Bites, pictured below.
Basecamp Books and Bites. This place lured me in with its name. It was an great choice for lunch. The upstairs has several well-placed tables among shelves of books of all genres, including a good selection of hiking guides. The decor was a mix of modern and vintage, reflecting old Roslyn and its recent evolution as weekend destination for urbanites.
We ordered a tasty turkey sandwich and healthy quinoa/beet salad, and sat by the front window overlooking the town’s main street. This would also be a good place to grab an espresso drink or some snacks for a day on the trail. On a future visit, we hope to hit the cozy downstairs bar.
Swiftwater Cellars. Yum, yum. Yum. We chose Swiftwater for dinner based on the reviews. They were spot on. Located in a stunning new building at Suncadia Resort, we sampled a simply delicious flight of their wines in the bar before being seated for dinner where I ordered the best chopped salad I’ve ever had. My husband had a tasty chicken and loaded-with-roasted-garlic flatbread pizza.
This place has a fascinating history. It was built on top of a 1930s coal mine that closed down in 1963. You’ll pass the old mine shaft as you walk from the parking lot to the front door. Peer down and imagine descending into its depths to go to work. Mining is the work that drew a huge and diverse influx of immigrants to Roslyn, beginning in the 1880s.
The massive wall of windows at the Swiftwater overlooks the new and old: the new Suncadia Golf Course and a towering hill of coal slag, now grown over with grasses and other vegetation. We pondered all through dinner why the trees grew only on one side of the slag, but we never asked. Let me know if you find out.
Portals at Suncadia Lodge. We ended up walking to the Lodge for breakfast at Portals because the choices at the Suncadia Inn were seriously lacking. The continental breakfast that came with the room consisted only of pastries and a platter of sad-looking fruit. Breakfast at Portals was good, if expensive. I paid over $8 for a bowl of steel cut oats. My husband’s smoked salmon omelet was over $15. The service, though, was excellent, and the view overlooking the Cascades spectacular.
Roslyn Café. To be honest, I forgot this café and its mural were featured in Northern Exposure—and I was a big fan of the show. The mural is just plain cool, painted as it is on the side of the old brick building. It’s so out of place, it draws you in—like an oasis. We had a good lunch here. I’d recommend the pulled pork sliders my husband ordered. It’s one of their specialties.
Trails. Suncadia has more than 40 miles of trails on the resort property. We brought our bikes, but unfortunately, the cool, strong winds that day turned us around quickly. In the winter, many of these trails double as Nordic trails and we look forward to exploring them on skis. Farther afield, this region is the gateway to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area in the Central Cascades. There are multiple options for hiking. For ideas, visit the Washington Trails Association. Or, combine a trail adventure with history and explore the Coal Mines Trail that spans 4.7 miles between Cle Elum and Ronald.
1000 Steps. Out the backdoor of The Lodge at Suncadia is the “1000 Steps Trail” to the Cle Elum River. It’s not 1,000 stair steps (there’s just 379 of those), but 1,000 steps from door to river. The view over the Cascades is beautiful and the river is picturesque. Make five roundtrips and you’ll meet your Fitbit daily challenge.
Fitness Center. Suncadia has a modern swim and fitness center with two water slides.
Water. Suncadia also has a small lake where guests can rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards. In the winter, they offer ice skating.
Glade Springs Spa. We almost skipped over the spa in favor of other activities, but I’m glad we didn’t. Two day passes were included with our room at the Inn, a perk that wasn’t available for guests at the Lodge, and it’s a $75/pass value. We didn’t stay long, but soaked for an hour or so in one of the mineral spas and sipped some tea in their tranquil reading area. Unfortunately, the eucalyptus steam room was out of order and the sauna wasn’t hot. Still, the experience was a nice time out and I hope to return for a longer experience.