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DestinationsMount RainierNational Parks U.S.A.United StatesWashington

Mount Rainier National Park Highlights


We traveled to Mount Rainier from eastern Washington after visiting Palouse Falls State Park. One of our first clear glimpses of Rainier was from a pull off on US 12.


Mount Rainier


Grove Of The Patriarchs

After driving for a few hours to reach the park we decided a short walk to stretch our legs was in order. We stopped at the Grove of the Patriarchs located in the Ohanapecosh Area off of Highway 123 on Stevens Canyon Road. It’s an island of old growth trees in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River. The trailhead parking lot is located to the right as you enter just after crossing the bridge over the Ohanapecosh River. Note that parking is quite limited with room for only a couple dozen vehicles although many decide to park along side the road. Because this area is so popular you will want to plan on arriving early or later in the day to avoid crowds.

The Grove of the Patriarchs trail is appropriate for the entire family, it follows the stream until you reach a suspension bridge which crosses over the Ohanapecosh River to the island.


Grove of the Patriarchs

Grove of the Patriarchs


Once across the trail continues until you come to a fork, this part of the trail is a loop so you can take your pick which direction to turn. Follow the interpretive trail on the wooden boardwalk that meanders through the forest canopy of old growth cedar, douglas fir and hemlocks.


Grove of the Patriarchs

Grove of the Patriarchs


A Day In Paradise

It was already late afternoon when we arrived at the Paradise area on Day 1. There you’ll find a ranger station and visitor center with brochures and maps, a gift shop and public restrooms and exhibits. Be sure to check the Park Service Paradise Visitor Guide website for hours, current trail status and alerts. You can also spend the night at the Paradise Inn which would allow you to get an early morning start exploring the trails before the park fills with visitors.

Paradise Meadows Trails:

Some of the more relatively easy trails offer great views of Mount Rainier and subalpine meadows.

  • The Nisqually Vista Trail leads to views of the Nisqually Glacier (1.2 mi).
  • Deadhorse Creek and the Morraine Trail offer Glacier views (2.5 mi).
  • Take the Alta Vista Trail to view Wildflowers (1.7 mi).
  • The Skyline Trail takes you to Myrtle Falls (1 mi).

For additional information on Paradise area trails visit the National Park Service site.


Myrtle Falls:

Myrtle Falls is accessed on a short (.4 mile) paved portion of the Skyline Trail from the Paradise parking lot.



You’ll walk through meadows filled with wildflowers and incredible views until you reach a short path with stairs that leads down to the Myrtle Falls viewpoint.


Myrtle Falls


Continuing on the main path you will arrive at the bridge above the falls. From there you can return the way you came or keep walking beyond the bridge to where the trail forks to either the Skyline Trail or the Golden Gate Trail.



Reflection Lake

One of the most recognizable and picturesque views of Mount Rainier is from Reflection Lake. Located 3 miles east of Paradise on Stevens Canyon Road. The first day we visited it was overcast and breezy with limited reflection due to the ripples in the lake. We had better success with sunshine and less of a breeze on a follow up visit. If you are into photography then this is sure to be one of the top stops on your list. Take the path down to the waters edge for best viewing. Parking can be limited during busy seasons and time of day, best opportunity for both parking and less wind is in the morning.


Reflection Lake Reflection Lake


Narada Falls

There is a well signed pullout on Paradise Valley Rd (between Longmire and Paradise) just one mile west of the Paradise Area entrance offering a views of Narada Falls. This popular waterfall is easily accessible by car and can be viewed from the overlook at the parking lot. The best views however are from below via a short trail on the other side of the bridge. Do exercise caution as the trail can be wet and slippery especially during snow covered months.


Narada Falls

Narada Falls

Narada Falls

Narada Falls




On Day 2 we got an early start on our way to the Sunrise area. The morning fog and mist was really thick, we pressed on even though it seemed to get worse the closer and higher up we drove. With just a couple of miles to go we began to see breaks in the clouds with patches of blue which raised our expectations. When we arrived at the Sunrise visitor parking the sky was clear blue and all we could see below us was a blanket of clouds.


Mount Rainier


There are plenty of trails to choose from at Sunrise, check out the National Park Service web site for planning information and for trail info & maps.

Sunrise Trail SignOn our visit we started out on the Sunrise Rim Trail which starts on the left side of the parking area opposite the lodge. You quickly come to a fork, turning left leads to the Emmons Vista Nature trail, take a right to stay on the Sunrise Rim trail toward Sunrise Camp and Shadow Lake.

In route to Shadow Lake you will come to another fork where the trail connects to the Wonderland Trail, we continued straight toward Shadow Lake. The trails meander through forest and meadows with fields filled with wild flowers along the way with views of the White River Valley below and Mount Rainier in the distance.


Sunrise Rim Trail Mount Rainier Sunrise Rim Trail


Arriving near Sunrise camp you’ll find a comfort station which makes for a nice spot for a short rest and hydrate before making the hike back up.


Sunrise Comfort Stations


We continued up the Wonderland Trail to the junction with the old roadway where you can optionally head back to the Sunrise area. All the time the views were magnificent.


Mt Rainier Wonderland Trail Mt Rainier Wonderland Trail


We continued to make our way up toward Frozen Lake where the trail connects to the Sourdough Ridge and Mt Fremont trails. Note that the last portion of the trail up to Frozen Lake is a moderate hike up the moraine hill trail. Needless to say that at this point in our trek together with the thin air we took more than a few stops to catch our breath.


Wonderland Trail Mount Rainier


A little tuckered out but feeling good about our accomplishment as we reached the trail junction at Frozen Lake. There are trails leading in all directions at this point, including the Mt Fremont Lookout trail which is about 1.25 miles further. After taking in the views we opted to return to the Sunrise Visitor Center via the Sourdough Ridge trail.


Mount Rainier Mount Rainier


The winds started picking up and you can see the Lenticular clouds forming near the top of the mountain which usually means high winds and rough weather on top of the mountain. The cloud continued to form and you can see the difference below when we reached the parking area.


Mount Rainier


Strava Sunrise Hike




Where We Stayed

If you were looking for a larger chain motel you won’t find any in the area surrounding Mount Rainier. There were a number of places we had looked at however we chose to stay at the Nisqually Lodge in Ashford for 3 nights at the end of August 2020.


Nisqually Lodge

Nisqually Lodge


The lobby has a nice lodge vibe with a large stone fireplace. We had a room with a Queen bed facing the rear of the property on the 2nd floor. Note that there is no elevator on the property so be sure to reserve a first floor room if that is an issue for you. The room was clean and good size, though the carpeting was a little tired & worn and could use an update. Because of covid breakfast was not being served although breakfast bags containing fruit and bars were available each morning which we took advantage of for later in the day. We enjoyed the close proximity to the Paradise Village restaurant within walking distance next door. We enjoyed dinner there one evening as well as breakfast each morning. The restaurant service was a bit slow however the food was great!



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