It is hard to ignore the beauty that is Mt. Rainier when you live in Seattle. Everyday people turn to the south east to get a glimpse of the mountain that completes the powerful skyline. But this massive volcano, which is the second largest mountain in North America, is not easy to get to from Seattle. Luckily for me, I was able to get out to the mountain while my parents were still here with a car. What better way to do things on a budget than to have others pay for it?
It was our first full day in Seattle and we already had plans for the day. We knew we wanted to head up to Mt. Rainier National Park, where this seemingly untouchable mountain becomes a playground for hikers, campers, and photographers. We set out for the mountain early on a beautiful clear and sunny day. The temperature was mid 50’s as we travelled out of the urban Seattle area and into more rural towns. Once off the major highway, there were several ten mile stretches of road where not a car nor house was encountered, something my family isn’t used to coming from New Jersey. As we turned up the heat in our vehicle and watched as we lost service on satellite radio, we were uncertain of what we had gotten ourselves into, even as experienced hikers.
We reached the gates of Mt. Rainier National Park and soon after caught our first real breathtaking glimpse of the mountain. It is hard to put into words the size and power the mountain eludes. Feeling like ants, we sat as our car climbed up the switchbacks with no guard rails. Higher and higher. We reached a parking lot a little more than halfway up to the base of the trails we were going to hike, and the views did not disappoint. 360 degrees of mountains and scenic Washington. It felt great. This is what I love. This is part of why I wanted to live in Seattle. Giddy, and a little warmed up, we hopped back in the car to start our hike.
My mother selected the hike that was described as “getting as close to the mountain without being on it.” The hike, which is called Burroughs Mountain trail, takes a 5+ mile loop up and close to Mt. Rainier with over 1,000 feet of elevation change. Not wanting to spend 3 days ascending the 14,000 feet of Mt. Rainier, we were proud of these stats.
The hike starts out relatively easy with nice views of ponds and lakes below with mountain ranges in the distance, all while Mt. Rainier looms large over your head. As we slowly made our way up the mountain we found one group that was making similar pace. Striking up conversation like the friendly New Jerseyians we are, we realize we are not the only ones hailing from the garden state. The couple with a 3 year old on the dad’s shoulders were also making the climb to the top of Burroughs mountain, but they clearly deserve more credit than us.
The journey was long, but we steadily climbed, taking in the scenery and stopping occasionally for water and snacks. After about 2 hours of hiking through barren tundra, we finally reached the highest and closest part to Mt. Rainier and it didn’t disappoint. The top was exposed to heavy winds but it made for a refreshing break after hiking. Visibility was not the clearest, and many were saying we needed some rain to come in and clear out the haze. Seattle needs rain? Strange.
After relaxing and taking in the scenery we will not soon forget, we descended the mountain and head back to the car. The climb down was not much easier than the climb up, and we were now exposed to the sun. When I decided to move to Seattle, sunburn never really crossed my mind. We were relieved to reach the bottom after a full day of hiking, but I must say going up that high with those views was more than worth it.
I am willing to go again if the opportunity presents itself and definitely think everyone needs to experience it. If you are in the Seattle area, this is a must for your personal bucket list. People of all ages and fitness level can get to the top if you take your time and be sure to bring some snacks and plenty of water. Get out there soon before they close the trail due to snow!
Date Achieved: Sept 14st, 2012