We’ve been excited to visit Mt. Rainier National Park as such an iconic volcano definitely needed a wander. Unfortunately, the perfect storm of off-season, incomplete planning, and, well, RAIN, landed us in a possibly less than ideal situation.
When We Visited: September 23-24, 2014
Ages of Kids: 9, 7, 4
Where We Stayed: Ohanapecosh Campground
From Puyallup, we drove north on the 410, and then State route 123 down the east side of the park. Our target was the Ohanapecosh Campground, situated conveniently close to the Ohanapecosh Visitors Center since we planned to earn another Junior Ranger badge during our stay. This situation seemed ideal. It rained on us a bit on the way out of town, but as traffic cleared, the rain did too, and we had an enjoyable drive all the way to the campground.
Compared to our drive, our arrival was less the ideal. As we pulled up to the campground registration, we realized that the conveniently located visitors center was closed. Not only was the center closed for the DAY, it was closed for the SEASON. No Junior Ranger Badges here, folks. After finding the dump station (which made the Most Scenic Dump Station Ever list) and a site, we talked over our options. We could drive down the crazy, windy road to the other campground (didn’t sound fun), or just camp here and drive the truck in on a day trip the following morning. The latter option won out and we settled in with our hot chocolate for a night full of rain.
It rained. And rained some more.
We woke up to some German Pancakes, then packed a lunch and headed out in the truck for a day of adventure. Since there was no internet signal available, we turned a Thursday into a Saturday and I took the day off work. Some quick investigation after we arrived confirmed that the only visitor centers still open were on the other side of the park, so we drove the Stevens Canyon Road to the Paradise Visitor’s Center. Along the way, we paused for pictures in Stevens Canyon, which treated us to beautiful views of the landscape decorated with clouds low in the valley and wonderful fall colors.
As we drove along, we noticed two soggy backpackers along the side of the road. They looked at us so hopefully that we just had to stop and pick them up. They had traveled from Idaho to hike in the back country, and had enjoyed it up till last night’s constant rain. I couldn’t resist helping, and we managed to squeeze them in the truck by having both Cara and Andrew buckled in the front bench with us. Luckily there were no rangers in sight. We dropped them off where the road forked and wished them well on their journey!
The Visitors Center at Paradise is a beautiful building. Built like a lodge, there are exposed beams and iron work. The entire lobby is pretty open with huge windows that (I assume) provide majestic views on sunny days. We picked up our Junior Ranger Books, and then sat down in the theater for a quick movie about the park. The plus side of an overcast, rainy day was the lack of crowds so we spread out in the lobby and worked on the kids’ Jr. Ranger Books. We managed to time a short hike during a brief respite of the rain up to Myrtle Falls and then ate lunch inside on the picnic tables (you can tell they have inclement weather often). Overall, we managed to have a pretty good day!
On the way out, we managed a quick hike along the Nisqually Glacier overlook trail for some great views of the blue ice.
And, of course, the puddle jumping.
Unfortunately, the clouds never broke, and we didn’t get a view of the mountain top. Despite our visit to the park, the best view of the mountain we had was from Tacoma, a few days earlier. Even with the rain, we had a great time. We discovered that there are quite a few activities in the park for kids, so we’ll be sure and return.