After lunch we entered the Mount Rainier National Park and took the Trail of the Shadows hike across the road from the Longmire National Park Inn. It's a short hike, but with lots of quick changes of scenery to make it interesting to all ages. As you leave the inn, you get breathtaking views of Rainier and then you travel through swampy meadows and into the forest whose giant fir trees give the trail its name. There are also several springs along the trail, including the vibrantly colored and slightly poisonous Iron Mike spring, and even a restored homestead cabin from the 19th century.
Rainier Day 1: Elbe, Washington
Driving to Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at former logging and railroad town, Elbe, Washington. The tiny town is full of old rail cars to commemorate the industries that built the area in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Rainier Day 1: Narada Falls
Up the road from Longmire and the Trail of Shadows is spectacular Narada waterfalls on the Paradise River. There are two sections of the falls, with the larger just under 170 feet long. Impressive! You can pull right off the highway to see it. Additionally you can hike down a short trail to the Inspiration Point viewing area near the base for a better view; it's a little steep but well worth it.
Rainier Day 1: Hiking in Paradise
Near the end of Day 1 in the Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at the satisfyingly appropriately named Paradise, Washington, for some hiking and then a picnic dinner. The views were beyond description! And the weather for us was perfection, as the fog burned off Rainier just as we started on the trail. When you visit the park, Paradise is a must-see!
Rainier Day 1: Sunset Drive to Crystal Mountain
We ended a packed day of fun in the Mount Rainier National Forest by driving through incredible scenery to our hotel, the Alpine Inn at Crystal Mountain. The room was pretty small, but I had my own bathroom, and hey, we closed the bar that night. One thing that is for certain: the location is spectacular. Plus, we were a short walk to a host of ski runs. I'd love to return in the wintertime.
Rainier Day 2: Sunrise, Washington
After our stop at Eunice Lake, we traveled onward to Sunrise, Washington, which is the highest spot in the park you can drive to. From its lodge, hiking trails spider off in all directions for easy hikes that all offer truly breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and its surrounding foothills. Cascade beauty! As we drove up to the site, a thick layer of clouds sat around the mountain, but as we started hiking the cloud cover quickly burned off.