Monumental Getaway: Mount Rainier National Park
Towering trees and peaks in the evergreen state.
I have been a lot of places in the United States but this was my first time in the Pacific Northwest. If you are active on social media you are more than likely to be inundated with images from this region of the country. Stepping off the plane in Portland, Oregon I knew what was out there but I had no idea how accessible it would all be; as soon as you leave the terminal it's quite obvious; it is all around you. Fifteen minutes after landing I had already seen both Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens in the distance. I could tell that this trip would more than meet my expectations.
Driving through a thick morning fog and drizzle we headed north from Portland on our way to Mt. Rainier. Within 20 minutes we had already crossed into Washington state. If you've spent any time living in Texas crossing a state border is no small task so this was a foreign experience.
After driving for two hours over rivers and through forests like I hadn't seen in a long time I was already amazed with the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, and as we walked out of the gift shop at the entrance to the park I heard my friends yelling my name and pointing for me to turn around. I swung around and there through the clearing clouds I saw the peak of Mt. Rainier. My face lit up like a child's on Christmas morning. What stood before me was massive and I probably would have been just as excited if it was visible as soon as we rolled in, but the slow reveal was the icing on the cake.
After grabbing a map we headed to set up camp in the Cougar Rock Campground. We set up our tents and hammocks under a canopy of pine trees and then started a fire in one of the provided pits to cook up some lunch. This campground has a handful of sites that can be reserved ahead of time and the rest are first-come, first-served. Even on a holiday weekend it was not a problem to snag two sites right next to each other, but if you have the option it never hurts to go online and book one of the 173 sites beforehand. In addition to Cougar Rock, Mt. Rainier has two other campgrounds spread throughout the park. So take a look before you go and plan on staying at the one closest to the hikes that interest you.
Camping with a group of eight is much different than going alone. Assessing skill levels, willingness and even just getting everyone on the same schedule is almost impossible. Because of this we opted not to embark on any time consuming or strenuous hikes. Luckily this national park has a huge number of short 1-3 mile hikes which still offer amazing views. From rivers and streams to powerful waterfalls, even with small kids you can surely fill a day with sights that are easily accessible from a parking lot.
Here are a few short easy hikes that are an absolute must while in the park and two waterfalls that are a stones throw from the main road running through the park.
Bench and Snow Lake - 2.5 miles
Grove of the Patriarchs - 1.3 miles
Silver Falls - 3 miles
Narmada Falls & Christine Falls - Directly accessible from a parking lot!
Going to a national park for just a weekend can seem like a daunting task, but if you are living in Portland or Seattle, or visiting one of those cities, Mt. Rainier is the perfect weekend getaway for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.