Flickr album link: Highway 123 & 410 To White River
Touring the Sunrise region of Mt Rainier National Park is best done during the mid to late summer season for one good reason. The park roads to Sunrise are usually closed well into late June or July because of the heavy snow pack, so planning accordingly is the only way to go. A quick reference to the national park website will ensure that time is not wasted, while on the other hand, those who seek solitude may want to do a partial tour before the big crowds show up after Sunrise officially opens. The White River Campground is just about as far as a visitor can go if Sunrise is still closed and this area definitely is worthwhile to check out, even when high elevation snow melt is still going strong well into summer.
Coming from the south on Highway 12, Highway 123 heads north to Highway 410, which is also known as the Mather Memorial Highway. Highway 12 is the main tourism corridor through the southern end of the park, while Highway 410 loops around the northern slopes of the big volcano west to Seattle. In between, the scenic drive on Hwy 123 is like no other and there are several overlooks along the way that truly are a landscape artist's dream come true. The roadside parking areas at these viewpoints can be crowded during the peak tourism season, but the turnover ratio is rapid and all it takes is a little patience to find an empty spot.
Those who arrive early during the snow melt will also have an opportunity to view many seasonal waterfalls and roaring whitewater rapids that cascade downhill. These attractions are a feast for the eyes and the pictures will certainly be worth sharing back home. At the end of the line is the White River, unless the road gate to Sunrise is finally open for the warm weather season. The White River Bridge offers spectacular views and there plenty of foot trails that offer more to experience in this alpine environment. The hiking trail system is extensive in the Sunrise region, so setting up a basecamp at the White River Campground definitely is the way to go. The east end of this park has an entirely different weather system than the western slopes, so packing the appropriate gear will be necessary. For those who seek the Northern Cascades wilderness experience, the Sunrise region of Mt Rainier surely will not disappoint!
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