Catching a few dramatic views of a world famous mountain peak can definitely be the highlight of the day or even the entire summer vacation as far as it goes. There are several majestic mountain peaks that have unforgettably beautiful features and when recognized in person, the first impression can be larger than life. "Breathtaking" is the appropriate word in this case and one of the most recognizable peaks in the entire west can be found in the State Of Washington. When Mt Rainier is first seen while passing through the deep rain forests, an onlooker will be guaranteed to fall into a state of sheer awe!
Back when I toured Mt Rainier, it was early in the autumn season, so it was easy to find an empty campsite in the rain forest within the National Park. The same cannot be said about the busy summer tourist season, when Mt Rainier National Park campsites reservations have to be made well ahead of time. As every experienced National Park enthusiast knows, when the park campgrounds are full, there are always more options in the neighboring BLM or National Forest public lands. The neighboring Gifford Pinchot National Forest has plenty of alternative campsites to offer and some of the best panoramic views of Mt Rainier can be found there too.
Just a little bit east of the Mt Rainier National Park Ohanapecosh Campground is the exit gate on Highway 12 and this is where the Gifford Pinchot National Forest property begins. This is a very deep forested area and wildlife is all around, so it pays top take is slow on this section of road. There are dirt side roads in this section that go to back country campsites and there are a couple of roadside overlooks to keep an eye out for. The Palisades Viewpoint and the Goat Rocks-Mt Rainier Observation Site are well worth checking out, because they offer unobstructed wide angle views of one of the most stunning volcanic mountain peaks on earth!
Taking the time to smell the roses is what driving on a highway through a National Forest is all about. The points of interest signs are easy to miss, so it pays to not be in a hurry. The Goat Rocks-Mt Rainier Observation Site offers one of the best photo opportunities in this region, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride. Those who know what Washington weather is like will realize that it will be short odds of getting a clear photo of this majestic mountain with no rain or thick overcast to obstruct the view. This is the nature of the mountains in this state, where the rainy weather can seem to be endless.
To be quite honest, the roadside overlook in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest was the only clear view of Mt Rainier that I found during my two day visit. Patience is a virtue when photographing Mt Rainier and knowing when a window of opportunity for clear skies might occur does make it worth sticking around. As far as it goes, some of the best views can be found just outside the east entrance on Highway 12 and catching one good look at Mt Rainier will brighten up a rainy day!
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