What To Do in Mt Rainier When You Can't See The Mountain #70dayroadtrip #travel6:00 AM
Mt. Rainier was another of the stops I was looking forward to the most on our 70 day road trip. Sadly, the forecast called for high chances of rain each day. Rain I can work around, but little did I know, that much of the year, the incredible giant that is Mt. Rainier is covered in cloud cover and fog so thick that it isn't even visible. Our visit here was cut to only two days because of car repairs, but during those two days, none of the mountain itself was visible. Luckily, there is still plenty to do and many gorgeous things that can be seen if you take the time to explore the park's lower elevations.
One of the trails my oldest had selected to do early on was the Grove of Patriarchs hike. Entranced with the giant sequoias at Yosemite, the boys were itching to delve deep into this old growth forest and see the giants that live here as well. Rumor of a swinging suspension bridge didn't hurt either.
This hike can be taken from a few different areas, but we found the easiest place to start was in the B loop of the Ohanapecosh Campground near the entry of the park. This is about a 2.2 mile loop trail. It first winds through a Hot Springs area which used to be a developed area with cabins that first drew visitors to the park. It then wanders through forest growth and past small trickling creeks with miniature waterfalls. Things get a bit steep and moderately strenuous when you reach the Silver Falls overlook, but trust me, it's worth it.
The Falls are an incredible deluge of water that cascades in a roaring tumult to the rocky bed below. I have always loved the sound of rushing water, and could stand and listen to this waterfall forever. At this point, you can return to the campground back the way you came, or continue on to complete the loop that also leads back to the campground. We chose the former as it was getting late, and we wanted to get back to cook dinner.
The drive up to Paradise is littered with a variety of scenic overlooks. At higher elevations, you can imagine how breathtaking the view would be, but if it is covered in thick cloud cover, your imagination is all that is going to be put to use. At lower elevations though, even with a slight drizzle in the air, these scenic overlooks are worth a stop.
We stopped along the Narada Falls and Box Canyon overlooks, and took in a fraction of the beauty this park has to offer guests. There are no shortage of deep gorges carved out by the rushing river below, or silky waterfalls that flow over the cliff-sides, so take your camera and enjoy a ride through the park, even if the weather isn't ideal.
Explore the Campground
During our visit to Mt. Rainier National Park, we stayed in the Ohanapecosh Campground located at the entrance of the park. Some of the loops were still closed, but there were still spots available. At this time of the year, the spots are first come first served, so try to arrive early to secure your spot. Sites do not include electric, although potable water is nearby, and there are flush toilets with sinks in the bathrooms.
The campground itself has a lot of great views to offer those who take the time to explore. The ??? River rushes through the middle of the campground, and you can often spot an animal or two walking its banks. We were able to see deer and a spotted owl while wandering the campground. Campsites are $12 a night and are payable at the fee booth when you arrive.
Tour the Visitor's Center
The mountain may not be visible during your stay, but you can still tour the Visitor's Center in Paradise at the base of Mt. Rainier. Here, you can learn about the history of the park, as well as get an idea of the geological makeup and structure of the mountain. Information on the mountain's harsh climates and the animals that have adapted to live there are available too. Plus, you can get a hot bite to eat or pick up a souvenir in their gift shop.
Although most visitors arrive in Mt. Rainier National Park hoping to see the mountain itself, there is no way to predict what the weather will be like during your stay. If Mt. Rainier is not visible and you want to make the most of your visit, the activities above are great alternatives to the trails and overlooks at higher elevations, and are plenty to fill a few days of fun.