70 Hours in Mount Rainier National Park
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For the third time in as many years, we’ve visited Mount Rainier. Because we had visited so much recently, this park wasn’t on our original agenda. But Kelly technically snuck a trip in during our February west coast travels and we decided the two of us needed to visit together in 2019. It was a bit out of the way, but we made a hotel room reservation for one night in Packwood, Washington. We’d get in late, take a hike, and then hike somewhere on our way out the next day.

Then our plans changed. The AirBnB we had booked for 8 nights in Marblemount (outside of North Cascades) flooded, leaving us without a plan for that park and no options in the area. Some quick scheming and we extended our stay in Mount Rainier while finding a place to stay sort of near Cascades (more about that later).

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With four days ahead of us and trail legs building, we were ready to explore some new trails as well as some old favorites. Here’s how our adventures played out:

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Tuesday, July 23: We headed into the park and hiked the Silver Falls loop. It took a few laps around the campground to find parking but the trail was not too crowded. A friendly ranger gave us some hiking recommendations for new places to explore over the next few days. The day was fading so we headed up to Paradise for an evening hike on Skyline. The greasy burgers from Packwood hit us each hard at different points in the hike but fog and wildflowers in one of our favorite places made even the worst of the stomach cramps barely noticeable.

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Wednesday, July 24: Summerland—a region of the Wonderland trail—was on our agenda for the day. We got our typical early morning start. The mountain was not quite out but she popped in and out of the fog as we hiked out to Panhandle Gap and back. We had a chilly but quiet morning to ourselves on the whole way out and then passed tons and tons of hikers on our way to the car. We headed up to Sunrise to get updated trail conditions. Some lingering snow patches changed our mind to not do one favorite hike (Burroughs mountain) but we got a recommendation for Grand Park. After a meal from the cafe at Paradise, we headed down to hike Pinnacles Peak. The wildflowers on the hike were great but we opted to watch sunset from a patch along the road where we had seen the best paintbrush.

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Thursday, July 25: We started hiking just after sunrise in the Sunrise region of the park. We thought we’d be hiking in the alpine regions of the Sunrise area but our destination actually took us down and out to a meadow similar to Yellowstone scenery (at one point, we were sure we saw buffalo chips, but a ranger confirmed it was just summer elk poop). The hike back up to Sunrise was hot but we took it one step at a time and enjoyed the fact that everyone we saw in the Grand Park area was backpacking. A quick stop back at our hotel for some afternoon work and a nap and then we grabbed dinner at the Paradise cafe (the food in Packwood felt questionable after our first day’s experience). Another evening stroll through Skyline added four more miles to our day.

Friday, July 26: We still hadn’t made it around the entire Skyline to Panorama Point loop. Too much scenery to photograph had cut our first two attempts short. So we put this trail on our list for the last morning in the park. After exploring the Paradise Glacier Trail off the northwest corner of the loop, we finished the full circle past Panorama point. Kelly secured one final pudding parfait and we used the scant Visitor Center wifi to get directions to Concrete, WA.

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