When talking about mountains in Seattle, Mount Rainier definitely takes the cake. For people who grew up here it may be considered another bigger bump on the horizon; but there are those of us who take the moment to glance away from our paper as we commute across 520 or 90 to see if it peaks out from behind the clouds.
Summer is on its way and that’s when it is prime time to get a little closer to our big friend, to discover its trails and to just say “wow, that’s a big mountain.”
Although Rainier seems close when viewed from the Seattle Central area, it is a good two hours drive just to the beginning of the park. From there about another hour or two winding up to the most popular visitor center, Paradise. It is possible to visit Mount Rainier in a day, as long as you are prepared for a long day.
My first visit to Rainier was on a late summer weekend last year. We stayed two nights at Crystal Mountain. The first day we took the gondola to the top of Crystal Mountain, it is worth the ride to the top as the view is breathtaking. I’d highly recommended taking a wind breaker to the top, because even on a warm day it can be windy and cold at the top. Prices for the gondola can be found here: http://crystalmountainresort.com/mt-rainier-gondola/
There is a restaurant and souvenir shop at the top, I’d advise booking ahead if you wish to dine there. You can book here: http://crystalmountainresort.com/services/dining/summit-house-restaurant/
After Crystal Mountain we headed around Mount Rainier, stopping along the way at different parks and trails. If your camera senses a possibility that Mount Rainier might be in the area, it’s impossible to take a bad picture. It’s amazing to see how Mount Rainier changes as you circle the mountain. It really takes on a different look from every angle.
A trail I would definitely recommend would be the Grove of the Patriarchs. It is home to some beautiful 1,000 year old trees, and is a great short walk in the forest. Check out this site for the location: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/grove-of-the-patriarchs
On the way home we spotted this amazing natural hexagon formation by the side of the road. I just loved seeing these, it ended the Mount Rainier trip on a high!