We entered Mt. Rainier under their unconventional entrance sign Friday afternoon, becoming the fourth National Park Austin and I have visited on the trip. The view, was spectacular, getting to see the mountain so close up. We ended up quickly exiting the park, to make it to our dispersed camping destination, only a handful of miles away.
My buddy Chris, a new Seattle resident, drove in to join us for the day and hang out at our campsite until heading to the Sunrise part of the park. (Mt. Rainier’s two major areas are Paradise and Sunrise…not the time of the day, haha.)
Into Mt. Rainier National Park
An Evening at Fremont Lookout
The gang packed up and headed to Sunrise to hike the 5.5-mile round trip hike to Fremont Lookout. As the only lookout in the park, it’s a popular destination, but on this Friday, it was surprisingly dead. We also lucked out as there was an inversion, meaning that Mt. Rainier looked like it was floating above the clouds.
Quick Sunrise stroll to Tipsoo Lake
Even though we didn’t get back to the car until nearing midnight, we woke up at 5 am and drove the 20 minutes to Tipsoo Lake. We were crossing our fingers the lake would be glassed over, but a slight wind kept us from a perfect reflection. Still, it was beautiful and worth the early wake-up call. We headed back to camp and went back to sleep for some much-needed snooze time.
Perfect Night on Burroughs Mountain
The 9-mile loop of Burroughs Mountain is the longest “normal” hike out of the Sunrise location. It is also the trail that takes you closest to Mt. Rainier and really shows you the immensity of the mountain. We planned appropriately for the longer hike and began our way up earlier than the night before. The squad ended up going to the second Burroughs, with stunning views of the Tahoma to the south and Mt. Baker, Fremont Lookout, and Glacier Peak to the north. The layers were amaaaaazing.
On the way down, we briefly stopped to shoot some night photos of Rainier and saw a few climbers doing a night summit push.
“Summit” of Dege Peak
To cap off the weekend, we did another sunset hike, this time to Dege Peak. At only 4 miles round trip, it’s a pretty easy walk with outstanding views. This time, the layers were amazing and we were treated to a wild sunset. We added another to the crew and then met some fellow PNW photographers up there also. All in all, it was a perfect end to that side of the park.
Austin and I would then trek south to Paradise, for the next three days.
We had a quiet day on Monday, July 20, as we packed up camp, and drove the 3 hours towards Paradise and our new campsite at Cougar Rock Campground. Our legs needed some rest, but we still wanted to see the sights. Reflection Lakes, right off the road, seemed like the perfect spot to do both.
Hiking to Mt. Rainier Base Camp (Camp Muir)
4.5 miles 4,500 of elevation gain. Those are the stats for the hike to Camp Muir and we 100% felt it. Neither Austin nor I planned to hike to basecamp…it just sort of happened. We ended up at Panorama Point, about 2 miles up and figured, ‘why not go all the way?’ So we did. It was a slow trek up, all in snow, but once we arrived, it was fabulous. We even met a Univerity of Arizona grad who was planning to summit in a couple of days.
Heading down was especially quick, as we were able to basically job and glissade down the mountain. Yes, we got a bit wet, but it was well worth it.
Viewing Mt. Rainier from the “sky” at High Rock Lookout
To cap off our trip, Austin and I headed to High Rock Lookout, just outside of the park’s southern boundary, for sunset. The road up is 10-15 miles or so on a groomed dirt road. The hike up was a bit brutal after doing Camp Muir the day before, but we toughed it out and had our minds blown at the views.
It was also our first opportunity to fly our drones (there are illegal inside the park) and gave us a cool view of the lookout and the mountain from above.
In all, exploring Mt. Rainier was everything I could have hoped for. We had incredible conditions that allowed us to hit every photography spot we attempted. There’s a reason this park is one of the tops in the country and I finally got to see it with my own to eyes!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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