With only three days to explore the Seattle area, we decided to take three different perspectives on the city. Day Two – Mt. Rainier.
(In case you missed it, check out Seattle in 3 Days: DAY ONE – The City)
Waking up extra early, we wanted to beat the crowds to Mt. Rainier. We decided to drive to the Sunrise / White River entrance, off Highway 410, as opposed to the more popular Paradise / Nisqually entrance in the south of the park. Sunrise is closer to the mountain, and the highest point that can be reached by a vehicle, so it is only accessible part of the year. Paradise has more facilities, and is open year-round, which makes it busier with tour groups and buses. Be sure to check the road status prior to departure on the NPS.gov website.
We stopped along the way for coffee at one of the many drive-up roadside espresso stands.
Entrance to Mt. Rainier is $25 per vehicle valid for up to 7 days. If you live within driving distance, or plan to visit again during the year, the annual pass is only $50. On the drive in, be sure to stop at Sunrise Point for views, and then continue along the road.
The end of the road leads to the Sunrise Day Lodge and Sunrise Visitor Center parking lot. The Day Lodge has a water refill station for your reusable water bottles, a gift shop, and some food options. Flush toilets can be found in building next to Visitor Center.
While waiting for the visitors center to open, we did a short trail originating on the left side of the parking lot (across from the Day Lodge) – Emmons Glacier Overlook. There are two viewing areas, 0.5 miles each way.
The main trailhead for the longer trails is found next to the flush toilets, in between the Visitors Center and the Day Lodge. We chose to combine the Sourdough Ridge Trail into the Dege Peak Trail.
Going up the path, take the right fork. It is a steep uphill climb of about 0.5 mile until it evens out. From there, you will have sweeping views of Mt. Rainier and Sunrise Lodge.
Sourdough Ridge connects to Dege Peak Trail (approx 2 miles each way), heading away from Mt. Rainier. It may seem like you should be going towards the mountain, but it actually affords better views from further away and higher up. Beware: this is a dirt trail. Your clothes and shoes will be very dirty!
There are a few benches and large rocks along Sourdough Ridge to sit for a break. Pack a lunch and stop halfway to enjoy the views!
Opposite side away from Rainier is views of tundra and rock cliffs. You may spot a mountain goat.
Keep your eye on the wildflower fields, known in this section of the park.
The final ascent to Dege Peak is very steep, and the altitude may bother some. While it is a fairly easy trail throughout, it does become steep again for the last 0.3 miles.
It is definitely worth it for the views! Don’t turn back yet! In the summertime, be weary of flying ants. It sounds worse than it is, just be prepared for some swatting.
On way back, you have the option to continue further (past the visitor center) to Frozen Lake, or turn down the fork road to end your journey.
*We stopped at Tipsoo Lake on the way out, and in my opinion, it is not worth a stop. However, I am told the Crystal Mountain gondola affords great views! We just ran short on time to do it.