The Backyard Overlander

Tinkham Road in the Winter


Departure Time: Earlier is better for photos, fresh snow, and less 4x4 traffic, but you can take this road any time of the day or night. 

Car Checklist:

  • Tires in excellent condition
  • Decent suspension travel - potholes on this road and can destroy a stock height car. Don't say I didn't warn you. 
  • A tow strap and a way to attach it
  • Emergency gear for cold weather
  • An air compressor for airing up after airing down your tires for traction. 

Dan's Notes:

This is my go-to local drive when I want to test something on the Land Cruiser or just go play in the snow with friends. It's busy enough that you don't have to worry about getting in too much trouble and remote enough that you're not stuck in too much traffic. That said, don't skimp on the list above and if you get stuck you can expect to get very stuck most of the time. Ditches on both sides of the road and some narrow points will leave you searching for traction if you need to yield to oncoming traffic. It's also mandatory to air down low in deep snow like this or you will in fact get very stuck. Alright, onto the drive! 

The Drive:

Head East on I-90 and take the time to stop and fill up in North Bend. There's a Safeway, Starbucks, McDonald's, etc all right off the exit so you'll have plenty of opportunity to get any supplies you'll need. NEVER head up into the mountains without a full tank of gas... and drinks.. and coffee.. and probably some jerky or something. 

Get back on 90 until you reach exit 42, Tinkham Road. Use caution in the winter exiting here as it's a downhill offramp that's almost never plowed or de-iced and you get into quite the pucker factor moment if you're not ready. Ask me how I know! 

Take a right at the bottom and you'll be on Tinkham. Just cross the small bridge to the parking lot and you'll have time to air down if needed. Keep going down until you reach NF-5510; it's not marked, but you'll likely still have cell service being close to I90 and it will show on your GPS... but let's discuss before you decide what to do now. 

In the winter, NF-5510 is not plowed and I genuinely DO NOT recommend going up it unless you're with a group and someone in that group has a winch, not just a tow strap. Even if you do make it all the way up to the turn around at the top, the downhill section gets heavily packed by 4x4s and will turn to a solid sheet of ice. Go very, very, very slow when coming down the hill and don't panic when you start sliding forward. I actually drove down this section in reverse while going forward, using reverse as a brake. The only option to stop is to ditch it to the right going down, left will take you off an embankment. 

Toward the top of NF-5510 in late December of 2016

There were 6 Jeeps in this group, 4 of 6 got stuck and required hours of winching to get out... I did not. 

So now that you know, you might want to just keep going, or if you're feeling brave take that right and get to the lower parking lot. It's a flat drive in to that, so momentum will be your friend in deep snow. 

Once you've had your fill keep going and look for the fun little water crossing. It's nothing challenging, but how often do you get to drive across a flowing river with pavement under it so you know you won't get stuck? It makes for some fun photos and videos, so enjoy it! 

As you exit Tinkham there is sometimes a built up snowbank used not to block the road, but just to keep less capable vehicles out. It also makes a great little jump or so I hear. Take a left off of Tinkham and get back on I90 and keep going East! You're just a few miles from Snoqualmie Pass, so may as well stop at Dru Bru for some lunch and good beer. Cheers! 

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