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It’s inevitable, isn’t it? You make a plan to see something you think will be amazing, and then…well…it just doesn’t go your way. That’s what happened to us. I was up in Washington State taking care of my mom after a hip replacement and had planned a bunch of ‘field trips’ to keep us busy, engaged, and moving. Daniel had come up for a visit and I thought, ‘what a perfect time to go see Mt Rainier National Park!’ The weather guessers were predicting marginal weather but it was the only day we had to go, so we took a chance. I figured, why not? Maybe Her Majesty would show herself and we’d get a nice view, despite the predictions. In the end, we didn’t see the mountain, but I think our visit turned out even better than if we had.
Here are 5 things to see in Mt. Rainier besides Mt. Rainier…
- Fall foliage. Or spring foliage or winter or summer foliage….whatever season you’re in, the surroundings are beautiful. We happened to be visiting in late September when the colors were beginning to peak. We’d had a light dusting of snow the night before and flurries while we were there added to the contrast of the already spectacular scenery.
When Mt. Rainier is ‘out,’ as Washingtonians like to say, it’s difficult to draw your eyes away. She is larger than life; she dominates all in nearby view. Because she was not ‘out’ for gawking that day, we were forced to find beauty in other places on our way up to Paradise.
It’s almost as though we have blinders on, focusing our eyes intently on the mountain and only the mountain – and there’s reason for this – she truly is epic! But because she was shrouded in low clouds, our blinders dropped and our field of view expanded. The rivers, the glacially carved valleys, the fall colors, might not have been as greatly noticed or appreciated with the mountain looming.
We were treated with views of frosted forests punctuated by the occasional pop of fall colors as we made our way up towards Paradise.
2. Christine Falls. This is a lovely little stop on the drive up to Paradise. The falls are quite close to a roadside pull out, only a short walk from the parking area, and drop 69 feet under a beautiful stone bridge.
A short walk downhill rewards you with this Instagram worthy sight. I loved the way the water had carved the rock out behind it. The blue pool below combined with the crisp autumn air and occasional snow flurries were simply mesmerizing. I think I took a million pictures standing at this idyllic spot.
3. Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. This is a wonderful stop once you reach Paradise. Built about ten years ago, the exhibits are all modern and interesting. The architecture of the visitor center blends in to the surroundings and is a pleasant place to warm up and learn more about this incredible ecosystem. There is also a small gift shop for perusing as well as a snack bar. We got our National Park Passport stamped here.
4. Paradise Inn. Paradise Inn was built in 1916 on the south slope of Mt Rainier at 5,400′ elevation. The Inn is registered on the National Register of Historic Places and is definitely worth a visit. We love all the lodges of the National Parks so this was on our wish list to see. Check out the amazing book Great Lodges of the National Parks for more even more places to add to your bucket list.
We visited on the last day of the season, lucky us! Pro tip: bring a picnic to enjoy in the lobby by the raging fireplaces. There are large tables and chairs and comfy couches scattered throughout the great hall to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
5. Narada Falls. When visiting Paradise, don’t miss Narada Falls. Said to be the most popular waterfall on Mt Rainier, the falls drops 188 feet in a horsetail configuration. Sometimes a rainbow can be seen at the base of the falls and in winter, this falls attracts ice climbers. No climbers the day we were there, but the views did not disappoint.
The hike is a short downhill about 0.3 miles from the parking area. There are some slippery spots, good shoes are recommended.
Have you ever visited a place and found beauty in something other than the main attraction? Tell us about it in the comments below! Thank you for sharing, liking, and subscribing!