Day Trip to Mount Rainier National Park

Monday June 24th 2019

After breakfast this morning I set out to visit Mount Rainier National Park. It was about 80 miles northwest on Intestate 82 to Yakima WA then another 80 miles west on US 12 through the Cascade Mountains to get there.

Interstate 82 follows the Yakima River northwest. The valley is home to a lot of Washington States fruit crops. I drove through large grape vineyards, apple and cherry orchards. It was a nice drive. Along the way off in the distance to the northwest through the haze three snow topped mountains stood out from the rest. I believe I was looking at the three volcanic mountains Mount St Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. I never got a clear enough view to be more certain.

Mount Rainier framed in the distance from near White Pass.

The drive west from Yakima climbed steadily to White Pass. On the climb the grassy desert landscape gave way to tall green trees. The forest continued to thicken as I descended the west side of the pass. The change from the rain shadowed side to the rain forest side was very apparent. Along the way down from White Pass I got my first good view of Mount Rainier. Unlike many places I wanted to stop, this one even had a big turn out viewing area. The top and bottom of the mountain were visible above and below a layer of clouds.

The cloud layer was halfway down the mountain.

I entered the Mount Rainier National Park at the Stevens Canyon Entrance about 2000 feet lower in altitude from White Pass. The mountain was not visible through the dense tall old growth trees. It was at this point that my day trip started to go south. All of the parking areas and turnouts I came to were full. Several cars were hovering waiting for any available opening. I drove deeper into the park climbing all the way. Near the top of my climb I found a wide spot on the road to stop and consider what to do. To really see the park you need to hike in from the road, but all of the parking areas seem to be full. The road I was on was heading deeper into the park toward an eventual exit on the Seattle side of the mountain. I didn’t have enough gas to safely take that route and the last station I passed was fifty miles back. Combined with the fact that I was only prepared for a short hike, I decided to head back toward home.

The distance from my current location and Mount Rainier is to great to properly enjoy the park. It wasn’t a total failure. My drive was very scenic and enjoyable. To really explore Mount Rainier National Park, you need to be close enough to get an early start and be prepared to hike several of the trails. I don’t know what it takes to actually explore aspects of the mountain. While I didn’t expect to climb the mountain, I never saw it while in the park. Maybe that was further on the road I did not take.

This was tonight’s companion watching the sunset across the Snake River.

I got back to civilization and filled the gas tank before I ran out. It was after five before I got home. It took three plus hours to get there and another three plus to get home. All for less than an hour driving in the national park.

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