If you’re looking to beat the summer heat, one cool spot is to head up to Paradise, at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State; but, be aware that major road reconstruction is ongoing this summer, from the Nisqually Entrance to the its National Park Lodge, at Longmire. The park website states that you may have 30 minute delays in this area of the park during weekdays only. This likely means that weekend traffic will be a bear. I found that out quickly this past weekend! I went up there on Sunday, hoping it would be a bit quieter than a Saturday, but no such luck! I arrived by 11am and found double lines of traffic at the entrance gate. I would have arrived earlier, but I made a last minute decision that day to make a trip to the park. I always tell everyone to get to the park during the high tourist season as early as possible; otherwise, you may not find a parking space at Paradise. The lots fill up quickly during the summer. And, weekends are the worst!
The above photos were taken of the mountain below the Paradise area, at the viewing area along the road to Reflection Lakes. This was the only time I got to view the whole mountain. By the time I arrived at Paradise, thick white clouds had blanketed its view. I always feel sorry for the tourists who come this far to see the mountain and then have it disappear from viewing. But, such is the nature of the mountain. Clouds come and go. Sometimes they stay.
Here are some fabulous views of the Nisqually Valley as seen from a popular viewpoint along the Reflection Lakes road. One can also see the top of Narada Falls from this area, another very popular area of the park. I had planned on visiting this spot on the way back down, but the parking area was full.
I came across some large patches of Bear Grass that make their appearance during early summer. They always make for some nice photographs. Why is it called Bear Grass? Because their flowers resemble the stubby, club tails of bears.
Another flower I always look for early on in the season is the bright pink Rock Penstemon. You’ll find them clinging to the most unlikely places along steep rock cliffs.
Another very pictureque spot is of the Paradise River, as viewed from the road to Reflection Lakes (Stevens Canyon Road). There is a small pull-0ver area where the road meets the main road to Paradise and Longmire. It is a rushing torrent this time of year while the snow is still melting.
As stated earlier, by the time I reached the Paradise area, the mountain had hid itself behind thick clouds. I circled the main lot several times and waited a long time for a parking spot. There are two main lots, upper and lower. The lower lot is larger, but requires a bit of a walk to the visitor center and lodge. This is a very congested and bustling area of vehicles and people. There is still plenty of snow here and on the meadow trails. I do not expect the snow on the meadows to last much longer, as the warm days are pretty much here to stay. Here’s an example of what you may encounter this week.
If you plan to visit the park this summer, remember … road construction will cause up to 30 minute delays, arrive early, bring sunscreen and have fun!