I’m a sucker when it comes to beautiful nature landscapes, lush forests, waterfalls, and, in general, Pacific Northwest vibes. Don’t believe me? Just check out my Instagram! When I received a recent invite for an InstaFam trip in Washington, including Mt. Rainier National Park, I said yes immediately.
I had heard about the magic of Mt. Rainier for awhile and I’d been wanting to visit the national park for myself before I left Portland. Life gets in the way sometimes though, and I thought I had missed my opportunity to visit the park, at least this time stateside. When I realized I would not only get to finally see the mountain up close, but to see it with a guide from Visit Rainier, I was beyond excited for the trip ahead.
I had many incredible experiences throughout my trip in Washington, but these would have to be some of the best highlights at Mt. Rainier. There’s something about mountainous landscapes that make my heart sing.
Get Lost in the Shadows
The perfect introduction to Mt. Rainier is the short but stunning hike called Trail of the Shadows in the Longmire area. If it’s sunny and the mountain is out, you’ll start with an impressive view of Mt. Rainier, before heading into the forest and getting lost in the shadows. I love feeling small in a forest with trees towering above me, it must be due to my California redwood upbringing.
This trail has a little bit of everything that represents how special Mt. Rainier is. There are a variety of mineral springs and the Longmire cabin that you can walk into along the trail, in addition to the bountiful trees that provide shade.
Go Hiking in Paradise
My favorite spot in the park, Paradise is exactly what you would think it would be according to the name. Especially if your kind of paradise is singing The Sound of Music in a place that looks very similar to Switzerland.
At 5,400 feet you have plenty of options for hiking trails and grand views no matter where you decide to explore. There were wildflowers, small waterfalls, and vibrant green meadows aplenty. There was even snow! It was what I’m sure many people think of as the epitome of paradise. The fresh mountain air only made it that much better.
Feel the Mist of Narada Falls
I’ve had my fair share of waterfalls since I moved to Portland last year and started tackling hikes in the Columbia River Gorge regularly. And although I found some beautiful waterfalls there, Narada Falls held its own in terms of grace, grandeur, and accessibility.
You can either choose to hike to Narada Falls or drive pretty much right up to them. If I have a weakness as a photographer, it’s trying to capture the essence of what makes waterfalls special. There’s something about the way the water falls, the consistency, and the beautiful nature that tends to surround them. The Narada Falls stand at 188 feet high. Go down the path to face them head on, close your eyes, and truly take in the feeling of the cool mist
Catch a Reflection at Tipsoo Lake
Reflections can make certain scenery even more phenomenal and that was the case when I stopped by Tipsoo Lake one morning. It was a new view of the mountain with an alpine lake beneath it, and again, plenty of wildflowers. There’s not much more you can ask for. I wanted to just spend the whole morning and afternoon there watching the reflections, reading a book, eating ice cream, you name it. Okay, can I just move here already?
Enjoy the Best Lunch View Ever
One of the most incredible experiences I had at Mt. Rainier was having lunch at the Summit House Restaurant. You have to take the gondola up to the restaurant and when you get off, the view takes your breath away. It’s the closest you’ll find yourself to the mountain and it’s potentially the best lunch view I’ve come across in my travels.
They even had lounge chairs just outside the restaurant in case you wanted to savor your moments at the top longer. I only wish I would’ve had the time. And as an added bonus, the food was great at the restaurant too, although it’s not like I was paying all that much attention to it with a view like this.
Have you been to Mt. Rainier National Park? What are some incredible experiences you’ve had at US National Parks? Happy 100th Anniversary to the National Park Service!
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