When touring the southern end of Mt Rainier National Park it becomes easy to wish the trip would never end! Mt Rainier is the definition of what touring the Pacific Northwest is all about, so a tour of this park is intriguing to do. Towering jagged mountain peaks, gigantic dormant volcanoes, glaciers and deep ancient rainforests rich with flora and fauna is what this formidable terrain is like to experience. If this does not get the adrenaline flowing, then nothing likely will!
Mt Rainier is a great hiking and camping park in the lower elevations around the base of the big volcano mountain. Uphill the trails are quite a bit more challenging and mountain climbing through rough terrain becomes the name of the game near the glaciers. Between the rainforest and rugged glacier terrain there are a few pocket valleys with grassy meadows and lakes. Creeks and rivers run down the slopes too, so as can be imagined, a wide variety of micro environments await to be explored in this park.
One of the most famous high elevation micro environment valleys at Mt Rainier is Paradise, which is located south of the volcano cone. When coming from the west, Washington State Road 706 and Paradise Valley Road go directly to this destination. When coming from the south or the east, Stevens Canyon Road is the one to look for. Stevens Canyon Road actually is convenient for campers because both the Gifford Pinchot National Forest La Wis Wis Campground and the Mt Rainier National Park Ohanapecosh Campground are located at the start of this touring route. There is so much to see and do in this end of the park that booking a campsite here for a few days is highly recommended.
Stevens Canyon Road is one of the most picturesque scenic drives in the entire west! This road weaves its way through ancient old growth rainforests with cedar, fir, hemlock and pine trees that tower overhead. Thick moss hangs from the trees, colorful mushrooms pop up everywhere and the sound of water running downhill fills the air. The clouds drape the mountain and occasionally sunlight bursts through just long enough to catch some majestic views views.
There are several great hiking trails, a magnificent box canyon overlook and a few roadside picnic areas along Stevens Canyon Road, so there is plenty to experience along the way. When heading up into the higher elevations near Paradise, there are a few lake overlooks that offer good photo opportunities and Reflection Lake is the most popular spot. The crest of Mt Rainier also comes into view, although it may take some patience when waiting for the clouds to clear. This is an area where the panoramic views are guaranteed to be memorable!
Stevens Canyon Road eventually intersects with Paradise Road and Paradise Valley Road way up in the high elevations. Paradise is simply a must to tour and by heading west on Paradise Valley Road, the deep forested terrain in the western half of Mt Rainier can be experienced on the way to the neighboring Olympic National Park, which presents even more touring opportunities. Mt Rainier is a popular place to be during the late summer season when the ancient rainforests are lush with life. Stevens Canyon Road is the gateway to it all!
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