Summertime in WA – Part 3 Mount Rainier National Park

The final destination in our Summertime in Washington series took us to Mount Rainier National Park. Click to read the first two articles: Part 1 Mount Saint Helens and Part 2 Olympic National Park.

Camping Near Mount Rainier

A week stay at the very small Eastcreek Campground in Mineral, Washington was only 15 minutes from the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. The beautiful old-growth trees and huge ferns surrounding our campsite created an experience just like being right in the National Park.

The campground property consists of a 3 bedroom house, about 10 RV sites, lots of tent sites, and is for sale! We fantasized about buying it. Close to two lakes, the National Park, and only 2 hours from both Seattle and Portland, the location is awesome. A highlight is that it’s closed in Winter, like the Nisqually entrance of the National Park, so we could still follow the sun like we do now. As tempting as it is, we don’t want to be that far away from family. Nor do I want to work during the best months of Oregon summer.

Summer at Rainier is Crowded

Wildflower season is typically associated with Springtime but here in the mountains, July and August are prime wildflower season. Just like other National Parks, August is also targeted by many people for family vacations. As one of the oldest and most accessible parks, the parking at Mount Rainier is outdated and insufficient for the number of visitors, especially in Summer. We were advised to avoid the weekends when entrance gate lines are long and the visitor center parking lots are full.

Catching Rainier Out

The mountain is so high that it creates it’s own weather system and is frequently shrouded in mist or clouds. Spectacular views across fields of wildflowers are amazing, especially when Mount Rainier is ‘out’ meaning visible! When it’s out and the wildflowers are blooming, people get so excited that it’s a frenzy on the trails, even more so on weekends. An early start is required to see much of anything.

Despite our early morning weekday start, the popular stops were too full. I regret not waiting at Reflection Lakes for a space to open up. Later in the day, the sun was too high and the afternoon wind blew ripples across the water surface, obliterating the deep reflections!

Hiking

An easy hike at the Sunrise Visitors Center served up great views even in the afternoon. Wildflowers and spectacular views of the mountain dancing in and out of its shroud of clouds was amazing.

Many of the hikes are long and include large elevation changes which requires a bit more planning. I’m sure the views are incredible.

The mountain was the most beautiful that first day but the grandeur and power are always present. Seeing Mount Rainier brings me a feeling of awe and an instant connection to nature. Even when the clouds obscure the mountain itself, the surrounding forest and park features are really incredible.

 

Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park

Don’t miss the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park by Daniel Klennert near the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. These sculptures are amazingly fashioned from recycled iron parts with so much detail and creativity. I loved the use of horseshoes for the fish, horse and seahorse sculptures. Many are whimsical and playful like the band members and all are larger than they look in the photos.

NW Trek Photo Safari

A special treat was nearby at NW Trek Wildlife Park on their monthly ‘photo tram ride’.

The photographic opportunities are excellent on the tram anytime but especially on this tour. The tram windows are removed and the tour starts an hour before the park opens to other guests. The guide stops the tram whenever animals are present until guests have finished photographing and are ready to move on. For these reasons, the tour is a great North American safari experience.

Traveling through the open meadows and woods delivered sightings of bison, moose, caribou, elk, deer, mountain goats and mountain sheep.

After the tour, we visited the other animals on exhibit. Set in the gorgeous, natural-deep-woods of the Pacific Northwest, many animals of this region are on display. Most active on this cool, cloudy day were the bears, wolves, otters, raccoon, and eagles. The cougar, porcupine, skunk and beaver were mostly resting.

Back to Oregon

I’m so glad we spent this time in Washington, it definitely redefined my view of this neighboring state. Most of my memories of Washington are about the boring drive on the horrible I-5 roads back and forth to Seattle for business. I definitely want to return and spend more time in the deep woods and get out on the water. Maybe a ferry ride to Seattle or Victoria would be included in the plan next time.

Back to Oregon, West of Portland at L.L. Stubb Stuart State Park, it was back to business for us!

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