The beautiful snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier is elusive, and weather is tricky. If you’re hoping to see the mountain top during a summer visit to Mount Rainier National Park, luck is everything. Choose when you’d like to visit, then hope for the best!
Our trip to the park started as a clear blue-sky day en route from Seattle, but with no sight of Mount Rainier in the distance. Hmmm. Fog cover. Might lift? With this mountain, you never know what you’re going get! When we reached the park’s Paradise Entrance amid towering pines, our hopes were still high. We were a couple on their 49th wedding anniversary armed with a lifetime National Park Senior Pass!
Traffic through the park to the Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitors Center at Paradise was light, and even though parking was quite limited when we arrived close to noon, we quickly found a spot close by. Luck!
After stamping our National Park Passport at the Ranger’s stand, and buying a couple postcards, we grabbed a quick hands-free lunch of pre-packed fruit, cheese & crackers. We ate at the picnic tables behind the building, usually offering a spectacular view of the peak. Not today! But dozens of people chatted happily, talking about their afternoon hike plans for the mountain, took smiling photos and trekked off in different directions. Clearly, there is still joy in a peak-less park adventure!
We enjoyed the beauty that surrounds the Paradise area – expanses of meadow filled with summer blooms. A giant alpine garden!
We chose the short 1.2 mile “Easy” Nisqually Vista Trail – a loop that began just to the rear of the Visitors Center. The lookout over the Nisqually River was breathtaking. The river is fed from the Nisqually Glacier on the southern slope of Mount Rainier. For most of our walk, the temperature was mild, the sun was shining & the clouds were white and fluffy. Luck!
By the time we were completing the loop, a front was moving in, the wind picked up, and the clouds became dark and heavy. Time to check in to our hotel! We stayed at Alexander’s Lodge, just outside the Paradise park entrance, and had dinner at Copper Creek Inn’s restaurant. Dessert of blackberry pie a la mode was a real treat!
The next morning we headed out early, skirting the southern edge of the park and going through part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In search of coffee , we stopped in the town of Packwood before turning north toward Crystal Mountain near the northeast corner of Mount Ranier National Park. Score! We found not only delicious coffee, but awesome blueberry muffins and savory scones at The Mountain Goat Coffee Roaster & Bakery. Luck!
Morning weather was cool and damp, and fog was heavy as we drove north for our appointed Mount Ranier Gondola Ride at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. We were pretty sure the mountain peak would be hiding from us again… Sure enough!
We’d never taken a gondola ride, and judging by the incredible summer promo pictures, we hoped to be thrilled by the ride and the eventual panoramic view of the major peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range. OK, no view. Nothing but intense fog. Gotta say, fairly disappointed. Funny pic comparison, though!
The ride up the mountain was an adventure! I don’t know that squinting one eye and grabbing the edge of the seat helped my nerves any on the way up, but it felt like it might have? Eyes forward! Just after the gondola in front of us became lost in the fog, the terminus station appeared. LUCK!
Due to Covid, the acclaimed Summit House Restaurant could only offer outdoor patio dining. Ordinarily, I’d have jumped at the chance for an alfresco mountain view lunch, but chilly temps and a gray-screen view changed our minds about that. Back down the mountain!
We ended our Mount Ranier National Park trip with lunch at Il Siciliano, a locally owned Italian restaurant in Enumclaw, just outside the northeast park entrance. Luck! The ambiance was great, conversations were lively, and the food was awesome. The chicken parm was so huge, we were glad we shared it!
Our Mount Rainier trip was a great kickoff to the start of our 50th married year. Like the last 49 years, it was 99% fun & adventure and 1% disappointment. And that is more than luck. It’s love. ❤️