At the junction of Hwy 7 and Hwy 706, Elbe Washington is a small gateway community on the way to Mount Rainier. With a population of fewer than fifty residents, Elbe is a small town with a big history in trains and timber. The town was once home to the Mt. Rainier Railroad. Currently, visitors can dine at a diner in a converted train car, stay in a roadside motel made entirely out of cabooses, and enjoy pizza by the slice (or the pie) at a pizzeria in a train car!
Fondly referred to as the “Little White Church,” when you come upon this quaint (18 x 24ft) roadside treasure, you immediately recognize the special quality that has graced this location since 1906. Henry Lutkens, an early homesteader donated the property and materials along with land and logs for the first schoolhouse in Elbe. Today, services are held from March through November. The church is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is an extension of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Day retreats and weddings are held for small groups of no more than 43 people.
The Mt. Rainier Railroad & Museum once offered excursions on tour trains. Closed now for the foreseeable future. No longer can you hear the sound of the steam engines chuffing or the piercing cry of the steam whistle as it blew through the Nisqually Valley.
Guided trail rides are available year-round at EZ Times Outfitter along the forest and river, rain or shine. The Nisqually River goes through the heart of town and empties into Alder Lake, a popular boating and fishing destination. Seasonal boating and stand up paddle boarding can take place on Alder Lake when water levels permit.
Originally known as Brown’s Junction after the Tacoma & Eastern Railway was built in the region, the town of Elbe was founded in the 1890s. The town is named in honor of the pioneer settler, Henry C. Lutken, who came from the valley of Elbe in Germany. In 1904, the Tacoma Eastern Railroad laid tracks through the area and created a logging boomtown. The town once boasted a hotel, hospital, school, and store. When a post office was requested a shorter name was demanded. A meeting of settlers decided to honor the pioneer settler Henry C. Lutkens who had come from the valley of the Elbe in Germany. In 1924 the Tacoma Eastern Railroad ended passenger service from Tacoma to nearby Ashford; Elbe began losing residents and shrunk to a shadow of its former self. Click here for more information on the history of the Elbe area.
Elbe is located 13 miles from the Nisqually Entrance (open year-round) to Mt. Rainier National Park. Depending on which route you take it’s approximately 72-miles from Seattle to Elbe which typically requires just over a 90-minute drive. It’s approximately 123 miles over a 2-hour drive from Portland, Oregon.
Visitors will find casual dining ranging from a humble burger shack, local tavern, a pizzeria, a seasonal food truck, and a diner. Eateries are typically open daily during the summer months. Operating hours will vary during the spring, fall, and winter seasons.