Along Nisqually Vista Trail
Favorite thing: Snow still covers much of the trail as late as July 4th. The trail is paved though, and makes a nice easy loop through a forested area. Its another good place to stretch your legs for a bit while taking in the view of the mountain. You can get a good view of the Nisqually glacier on the face of Ranier. In the summer, you can also see and hear streams of glacial runoff which run down the mountain.
Next stop- Narada Falls
Favorite thing: Narada Falls is located 8 miles from Longmire. There is a steep but short trail leading to a view of the waterfall. The falls drop 168 feet from the Paradise River and are one of the most famous Mount Ranier sights.
The trail is a bit slippery but, other than that, its a short easy walk. There are a couple of viewpoints which allow you to get a good photo of the falls.
Favorite thing: This is the highest point that we hiked. You can go up further, but you will need specific equipment for the hike in the snow and ice.
This is the panoramic vista, where you can see Mt. Baker, Mt. Saint Helens, and Mt. Hood (i think these were the visible mountains standing out; i can't remember?). If you know which mountains are visible from that point, please let me know if I am listing the wrong ones!
It was chilly up there!
Update: Oops! It turns out I did have the wrong mountains listed as visible from this view; here are the correct ones, according to mark (mtncorg@VTmail.com):
On the horizon, you have the Goat Rocks - the snowy group on the left - and Mt Adams; Mts Hood maybe barely visible near the right edge and St Helens is off picture to the left. Nt Baker is to the north and not visible from the slopes around Paradise.
Rainier & Reflection Lake
Favorite thing: If you go to the souvenir shop, and see a black and white photo of Rainier reflected on a lake, this is supposed to be it -- Reflection Lake. I guess you need to observe the area for a whole day, and see what time reflection hits the water... We were there at the end of the day, and... there was no reflection. So, probably in the morning?
By the way, you can drive there... or hike too. =)
Continuation of Mount Fremont trail
Favorite thing: The trail to frozen lake is about a mile and a half. From this point, the Mount Fremont overlook is about 1.3 miles, but, from here, it looks as though its all uphill.
I wish I brought my trekking poles for this hike, along with a can of Red Bull. Unfortunately, the park rangers who were out on the trail had neither.
Hiking Mount Fremont
Favorite thing: It was mid afternoon by the time we reached Sunrise. We decided to take the Mount Fremont trail for a bit of a challenge on a short hike. Plus, Doug promised there would be some nice views from the top.
Favorite thing: About 8 miles past Paradise Visitors Center is the turnoff for Box Canyon. From the overlook, there's a good view of Mount Adams. Box Canyon is a 100 foot steep gorge whose walls were carved by the muddy fork of the Cowlitz River.
Favorite thing: Entering the park from the southwest Nisqually entrance, hwy 706 heads towards Paradise Visitor's Center. En route is the Longmire Museum and Longmire Wilderness Information center, and several displays, including one of a tree that is hundreds of years old.
Favorite thing: Nisqually Vista is located just outside the Paradise Visitors Center. From here, a 1.2 mile trail loops around and provides great views of Mt. Ranier and Nisqually glacier. The trail is paved an easy to follow. Not exactly a challenging hike, but a good one when time is limited, as ours was.
If your not short on time and are sane enough not to try and see Ranier NP in one day, there's the 5 mile Skyline Trail, which is steep but has even better views from Panorama Point.
Nisqually Vista Trail
Favorite thing: The Nisqually Vista Trail is a short one mile loop trail which begins outside the Paradise Visitor's Center. The trail is paved, but parts were still covered in snow on our July 4th visit. There are some nice views of Mount Ranier and Nisqually glacier from this route.
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
Favorite thing: The trail follows along Sourdough Ridge to Frozen Lake before it climbs to the fire lookout. From the lookout you will have a grand view of Mount Rainier, and the Cascade Range to the north and east. You will gain 1200 feet, and you will feel each and every one of them. It is 5.5 miles round trip from the starting point near Sunrise Visitor Center to the lookout.
The road to Ranier
Favorite thing: Mount Ranier is located in the central portion of the state. Its an easy drive from Seattle to one of Mount Ranier NP's three entrances. Nisqually, in the Southwest Corner, is about 2 hours away. To get there, take I-5 south to SR 512 (exit 127). Head east on SR 512 to SR 7, south on SR 7 to SR 706 in Elbe, and east on SR 706 through Ashford to the Nisqually entrance. White River and Sunrise are accessed via the northeastern entrance. To get there, take I-5 south to I 405 (exit 156). Head east on I 405 to SR 167, then south on SR 167 to SR 410, east on SR 410 to the White River Entrance, White River, and the Sunrise turnoff. From the northwest, the Carbon River entrance leads to Mowich Lake.
Sunrise and the entire hwy 410 and 123 sections of the road in Mount Ranier NP close in October after the first heavy snowfall and do not open until summer. The Nisqually entrance and the Paradise visitor's center are open year round.
Sunrise Visitor Center
Favorite thing: Sunrise, with its high elevation and great trail system, is the second most popular spot in the park. The road from White River to Sunrise is closed in the winter, so if you visit during that time, head to Paradise or bring snowshoes.
Stevens Canyon Road
Favorite thing: A short detour from Paradise along Stevens Canyon Road. Heading out of Paradise, the road enters the southeast portion of the park. This part of the park is dryer as it receives more sun and less rain and snow.
On to Paradise
Favorite thing: Paradise is 11 miles from Longmire and is the most popular stop in the park. I particularly enjoyed this one because it had been overcast up until this point and once we reached Paradise, the sun broke free and Mount Ranier came into view from behind its cirrus curtain.