One of the more popular visits to Mt Rainier National Park is via the White River Entrance located in the northeastern part of the park. The popular Sunrise Visitor Center and Sunrise Day Lodge is located here at 6400 ft above sea level, the highest point that you can drive to inside the park. Because of its altitude and weather, access to Sunrise is limited to the summer months. There is also a campground available at the White River site. If you enjoy a real cliffhanger of a drive, hang on. The drive up to Sunrise is challenging as you climb, twist and turn on hair-pin curves. Please pay attention to the road. There are fantastic panoramic views along the way. Here is a suggestion. If you have a passenger or two with you, let he/she take in the views. Perhaps on the way back down, you can take a turn at being a passenger and let someone else drive. Be safe and enjoy this beautiful national park.
Getting to the White River Entrance at Mt Rainier National Park is a great experience in itself. It is located on the east side of the park just off Hwy 410 making it accessible from both sides of Washington State. Chinook Pass (Hwy 410) can be used by those living in the Yakima Valley area. This is a beautiful mountain pass that I highly recommend driving. Just make sure that you fuel up at either end of the pass before starting out since it crosses a lot of remote forest area. If you are starting out from the Puget Sound Metropolitan Area traveling to the White River Entrance, merge onto Hwy 410 from either Hwy 167 or Hwy 512. Once you are past the city of Enumclaw, you will start climbing higher in altitude and traveling on some beautiful forested highway. I always like to top off my gas tank in Enumclaw. It is the last large urban community along this highway until you get to the other side of the highway pass, and that’s a long way!
Deep into the forested areas along Hwy 410, Mather Memorial Parkway, you will pass the turnoff to the popular Crystal Mt Ski Area and Resort. Soon afterwards, you will enter into the Mt Rainier National Park area. The highway also follows the White River for quite some distance. You will have a few opportunities to pull off the side of the road for some fantastic views of the mountain. Watch for the sign to Sunrise along the highway. You will be veering off to the right. It’s about 14 miles to Sunrise. Follow the road to the park entrance gate where a park fee is required. As stated before, this is a very exciting drive to the top with fantastic views. Just before getting to Sunrise, there is a pull-off parking area with some great views and a trail if you care to do some hiking. On a clear day, one can see Mt Adams in the distance. There is also a beautiful, teal colored lake (Sunrise Lake) to take photos of just steps away from the parking area.
As you leave the parking area at Sunrise Lake, you will notice this large mountain directly in front of you. Surprise! It’s Mt Rainier!
The road to Sunrise
Once at the top, or end of the road, there is a large parking area for the Sunrise Visitor Center and Sunrise Day Lodge where you can find exhibits, book sales, park souvenirs, and refreshments. There are also restroom facilities nearby. Perhaps you feel up to taking a hike. Take your pick of trails, including the popular Emmons Vista Trail. Photographers have plenty opportunity to get close up photos of the mountain.
Sunrise Day Lodge
After your wonderful trip to Mt Rainier National Park, if you are driving back to the Puget Sound Area on Hwy 410, you may want to stop in the little mountain pass community of Greenwater to freshen up. There are a few really nice small gift shops and diners located here. Visiting Sunrise in the national park makes for a great day trip. I’ll be back again to blog about other entrances to the park that I have not covered yet. It’s a park as big as a mountain!