With the weather forecast to be exceptional last weekend, James and I decided to take a drive up to Mount Rainier. I had never been! Looking at our options, we decided to head up to Sunrise Park in the Northeast corner of the park, and roughly two hours from our house. Being a National Park, we had to leave the dogs at day care, though I’m sure they would have loved to hike around on the trail with us!
We somehow managed to get to the park entrance around 10am. Tip: Get there as early as you can. By noon the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center was completely full and there were screaming kids running amok everywhere. (I know we’re having a baby, but I still can’t stand kids.)
We bought an annual pass to Mount Rainier NP for $30 at the little automated kiosk next to the ranger station. This way we can return to any part of the park and two trips pays for itself!
The drive up to the Visitor’s Center climbs to 6400 feet via a winding but well kept road. Part way up is a look out where you can view the surrounding mountains, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Sunrise Lake.
At the end of the road is the Sunrise Visitor’s Center. It has exhibits pertaining to the area and Mount Rainier as a volcano. There is even a little gift/book shop inside where were bought a Northwest baby animal book for the kid!
I saw a sign for docent-lead hikes in the afternoon, but at 6400 feet and being 7 1/2 months pregnant, I was out of breath before we even got there! I didn’t need to hold everyone up.
In a most romantic maneuver, James packed a delightful picnic lunch that he had shopped for at Trader Joe‘s. Yum! There is a large picnic area behind the visitor’s center with plenty of tables and spectacular views of Rainier and Little Tahoma.
It was so sunny and pleasant that day and the bugs barely bothered us. I think we may have chosen the absolute best day to head up there. I even got a tan which was heavenly! James filled our little ice chest with left over snow from under a tree and we chilled our pink lemonade. He’s a genius I tell ya!
After lunch and enjoying the sunshine, we stashed our food-stuffs in the car and headed up the main hiking trail. The trails are well maintained and wide, with steps cut into the hillside. There were wildflowers popping up all around us and I bet if we returned in a couple of weeks the meadows would be carpeted in them.
By this time there were tons of people but no one complained that I was moving like a turtle. James, who normally hikes at the speed of light, was exceedingly patient and kept me steady going over snow and slush. Like a goob I was only wearing Chucks, which aren’t given to much traction. We were rewarded with wonderful views and a great breeze. We definitely want to go back once I can truly hike and once the snow is completely gone. Much of the trail at the top was blocked by giant hills of snow which I didn’t care to climb.
I am so glad that we went. It was such fun and nice to be outside enjoying the Northwest. Being accessible and having fairly easy trails, I’m sure we’ll return with the small one.