Mount Rainier National Park in the fall is one of the beautiful wonders of this world. It’s located on the ring of fire and has the most famous Pacific Northwestern Volcano, Mount Rainier. It’s the tallest mountain in Washington State and makes for some pretty sky views during the sunny days. Being from Washington State, I’ve seen this mountain a hundred times every year, but I had never taken the time to visit. In 2017, I decided to stop procrastinating and make it happen, and I’m so glad I did it in October, the fall season made this place a trip to remember.
Finding Base Camp
Getting to Mount Rainier National Park isn’t too bad if you’re coming from the Seattle area. The drive is about three hours, and the roads there aren’t that bad to drive on. Most of the roads are a straight shot with few windy spots as you get closer to the mountain. As far as accommodation goes, there’s not a lot of options inside the park unless you decide to go camping. I ended up renting the Little Red Cabin off of Airbnb‘s site in Ashford and it was the perfect base camp for exploring the park. There was a little market and park in the city, so we had everything we needed. My favorite meal was at the Copper Creek Restaurant, they had the best breakfast.
My cabin was a one bedroom loft, with a bed upstairs and a futon in the main area. It had a spiral staircase that I was obsessed with it was so cute.
Getting to the Park
The park was a quick drive up hwy 706 to the Nisqually Entrance. The autumn foliage was absolutely gorgeous, all the trees were bright and colored with orange and yellow leaves. You do have to pay about $25 to get in (this may increase soon), and you can bring you dogs. I brought my two pups with me and they had such a fun time. Make sure to plan your trip if you do bring dogs, as you can’t bring them on any of the hiking trails and they can’t go past the parking lot for most areas. It definitely restricts your options for hiking if you have the pups with you. Luckily, I had my mom with me so she watched the pets while I hiked.
The first area I came to was Longmire. It’s almost seven miles past the Nisqually Entrance and has a few fun attractions to check out. My favorite view was Christine Falls. You can see the river from the road, but parking and taking the walk down is well worth it. You wind down around towards the falls and under the bridge that crosses the road. It’s a super easy stop and really easy to get to for the view.
Another four miles down will dump you at Narada Falls. This waterfall is much larger than Christine, and allows you to get a lot more hiking in to see the views. The parking lot is on the top of the falls, so you have to hike down to get a good view from below.
As I kept driving past Narada Falls, I came across Paradise. This is probably the most popular destination for visitors. If you come in the summer time, this is the spot to view all the pretty wild flowers. But I was here during the fall, so there were no flowers in site. Instead, I was constantly reminded of just how beautiful Washington State is with the vibrant fall colors located around every corner.
The road loops around Paradise with an endless supply of views and trails to explore. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center is a great place to stop and learn more about the mountain. My favorite trail in the area was the Nisqually Vista Trail. The trail head is located at the bottom parking lot, and takes you on mile long loop to an amazing view point. The trail is paved, so it’s pretty easy to hike. The viewpoint gives you a great view of the glacier.
Another gorgeous viewpoint near Paradise is Myrtle Falls. It’s a quick half mile hike and allows you to see some more beautiful water falling with Mount Rainier as the back drop. This entire area is just stunning, and really proves how fitting the name is.
Stevens Canyon Road
A lot of visitors make it to Paradise and then turn around for the day. But I kept going and I’m so glad I did. On the southeastern part of the Paradise loop, you’ll find Stevens Canyon Road. The
first stop worth noting is Reflection Lake. It’s right off the road and follows along part of the Wonderland Trail (a 93 mile long trail that completely circles Mount Rainier). The walk is pretty easy through the lake, but it allows for an awesome photo opportunity. The lake is right underneath the view of Mount Rainier, and gives you a cool reflection of the mountain in the water.
The last place I was able to visit on my trip was Tipsoo Lake. It has a huge parking lot a lot of hiking options. There’s a trail that intertwines around the lake and is so dang pretty. There’s not a lot of elevation gain, so this is a pretty low level trail that’s good for everyone. When I was there in October, it already had a bit of snow cover, so bring good boots if you come up here. Further up the road, you’ll come across the intersection of the Pacific Crest Trial. It crosses the highway with a bridge overhead.
The Highway 12 Fairy Tale
From the Tipsoo Lake area, I decided to head home to retreat back to the cabin before it got dark. Instead of taking 706 back through Paradise, I decided to head down to highway 12 and loop back around to Elbe, WA for a change of scenery. Highway 12 should be called the Fair Tale Highway. The entire drive felt like a scene from a story book. There was always a river along the road, the
trees were huge with bright leaves of yellow, red, and orange color. I was in amazement the entire ride home. I pulled out to stop at the Cowlitz River for some views, and it did not fail. The river bed was so pretty and I even came across some wolf foot prints. Wolves are my favorite animals, so this was super awesome.
Mount Rainier National Park is one of those places that you can’t forget. Everything is so beautiful, and the mountains are always looking at you. Between hiking, road trips, view points, and stellar views, this place did not fail me. Make sure to check out our blog posts about Crater Lake National Park and the Mount Baker area for more trips like this one!