There are two reasons why I haven’t shared our visit to Mt. Rainier National Park:
- We only took a handful of photos – like, a dozen
- By the time we made it to the park, we were kind of over being on vacation
You see, our trip to Washington started out in Olympic National Park and then we drove to Mt. Rainier National Park. We didn’t do much planning ahead of time, and we found out the hard way that Mt. Rainier NP is not necessarily a place for non-mountaineers to visit so early in the year. Most of the park was covered in snow, so we weren’t able to make it to the main visitor centers or to see most of the park. So don’t go visiting this park until you know the snow is melted enough for you to get around the park.
We were able to get out and walk around a bit, however, taking in a few short hikes that are directly off the road, and a longer hike that took us above Trail of Shadows meadow area but didn’t quite meet up with the Wonderland Trail, which skirts around the mountain/volcano. The only part of the park where we could really do anything was in Longmire, which has a restaurant, store, ranger station, museum, and flush toilets.
If you would like to stretch your legs while also learning a bit about the flora and fauna of this are of the park, I’m going to suggest doing the 0.7 mile loop called Trail of Shadows. It is an interpretive trail that goes around a meadow – there is plenty of wildlife in the area, too. You can’t go far without seeing deer, evidence of beavers, and possibly hearing frogs along the trail.
There is a trailhead off of the Trail of Shadows that will lead you up to the Rampart Ridge Trail, a 4.6 mile loop that is pretty step and contains more switchbacks than I care to remember. Alex and I only wanted to make it to the vista point, which isn’t far up the trail. the rangers promised amazing views but it doesn’t really have a view of the mountain at all. We spent a few minutes hanging out at the vista and Alex was really patient as I tried to recreate our photo from Rocky Mountain National Park but I wasn’t quick enough for the timer this time around, as you can see below. This was the best photo I took that day.
If you are planning a trip to Mt. Rainier National Park, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The first set of bathrooms as you enter the park are vault toilets…but they do have hand sanitizer, so choose your poison
- There aren’t “brand name” hotels in the area, so be ready to stay someplace a little new…we stayed at Jasmer’s, which is located at a good spot in a town nearby. Our ‘cabin’ was built by the owner and is in what used to be a carport and attached to another room on one side. We stayed in the “Birds Nest” room, which came with a few amenities like snacks and a toaster – perfect for eating on the cheap
- Don’t dawdle when it comes to getting food, the Base Camp Grill ran out of most of the food we could eat before 7:00 p.m. but the service was nice, the atmosphere was fun, and the beer was really good
- Stop at Wildberry Restaurant for a slice of boysenberry pie and a nice, hot meal. There are options for the non-adventurous eaters, but this place has great Himalayan/Nepalese food for those looking for a hearty meal and plenty of vegetarian options
- Bring your own water bottle(s) because the Longmire area doesn’t really have many (if any) water fountains. I was able to get some water from a low hose spigot outside the ranger station, but that may not be your jam
By the way, this is park #9 for me and park #8 for Alex.
Have you visited Mt. Rainier National Park?
What would you suggest first-time visitors see/do?