The second half of our trip took us to the south end of Mt. Rainier. We went to the newly opened visitor center at Paradise. We viewed the informative new park film that emphasizes the scale and impact of Mount Rainier. Some of the trails are under construction. We thought we were going to stroll on a easy trail and found ourselves on a very steep trail.
The Alta Vista trail is one mile long with an elevation climb of approximately 1200 ft. This trail had a bit of a roller coaster feel to it. It took us through beautiful meadows and hillsides of wildflowers. As we climbed higher the view of the mountain, lower valley and mountain range behind us just kept getting more breath taking.
The trail was paved part of the way and then turned into a dirt step up path and the last leg was a beautiful laid stone staircase up to a spectacular vista at the base of the mountain. Well worth the steep climb! The return trip we took a different path down the mountain. It was pretty much straight down. We saw a very healthy marmot coming and going. That was the bonus of the hike for me! As we hiked down the mountain at about 6:30 pm, we enjoyed the evening lighting on the Tatoosh Mountain Range. We could even see Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens to the south in the distance.
As we left the park on Hwy 706 west, the Nisqually River follows the road. It starts at the upper area of Mt. Rainier. We stood on the bridge and were in awe of the amount of water that must run through there in the spring. We then took Hwy 161 up the west side of the mountain and enjoyed the late evening scenery through this area. It took us almost 2 3/4 hours to get home. It was a long day, but so worth the drive.
You won't be disappointed with the drive around Mt. Rainier. Both highways were in great condition and offer breath taking views, not only of the mountain but the surrounding areas are just as special. The great thing about Mt. Rainier is that it has a different look from all sides. I can't believe that this was my first trip. How special though to get to share it with Len. A must see when visiting the Seattle area!