Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunrise, Mount Rainier NP, 7/11/2016

Despite the cloudy conditions, there was one more area we wanted to visit in Mount Rainier National Park, Sunrise.  It is located on the northern side of the mountain and an hour or longer drive (through beautiful scenery!) from Packwood. We took Highway 123 to Highway 410 West to the left turn to the White River Entrance to the park and then turned right on Sunrise Park Road (open between July and early October). It is 14 miles from the White River Entrance and is the highest point (6,400') that can be reached by car at the park. 

There is a large parking lot as many visit this area to hike the many trails that are accessible from here. The meadows are beautiful (with flowers beginning to bloom during the short growing season), but Mount Rainier remains shrouded in clouds. I don't think we are ever going to see the summit of this mountain!

The structures in this historic village were designed to blend into the environment and are examples of the National Park Service rustic style architecture. The Sunrise Visitor Center was inspired by the blockhouse forts and fur trading posts built by the Hudson Bay Company in the mid-1800s. There are exhibits about the geology of the area and the park's natural and cultural history; ranger-guided interpretive programs; books and other gift items. A large picnic area is located nearby where we saw black-tailed deer.

This topographical map is a view of the Mount Rainier from the east. 

A common type of lava on Mount Rainier, andesite, forms these hexagonal columns when the lava cools. Rate of cooling determines the size and thickness of the columns. 

We also spoke with a ranger about the many hiking options in the area (from easy to extremely strenuous). Because our doggy, Sadie, cannot accompany us on the trails, we opted for the a 2-mile hike on the Sunrise Nature Trail and some of the Sourdough Ridge Trail

Views of Sunrise from the Sunrise Nature Trail were beautiful and reminded us of a scene you might see in the Alps (although we have never been there!) The Emmons Glacier can be seen and can be reached by trails in the area. 

Some of the trail along the ridge is still snow-covered. There are stunning views of the area north of Mount Rainier. 

Many of the subalpine flowers are not yet in bloom here but we did see these.

Phlox and Glacier Lily

Mountain Yarrow and Cliff Paintbrush

From this part of the trail we were able to see 5 mountain goats in the distance (on the mountain on the left of the first photo). It's always a thrill to see these animals in the wild!

Before descending back to Sunrise, we continued on the Sourdough Ridge Trail to enjoy the views. But those pesky clouds never cleared. Trust me, there is a huge mountain hiding in those clouds!

We met these lovely young ladies from St. Louis hiking on the Sourdough Ridge. They were leaving Mount Rainier for a stay at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park the next day. We enjoyed talking with them. We returned to the village and they continued hiking to more strenuous trails. 

The Sunrise Day Lodge remains open even though there is repair work underway on the exterior. There is food service and large gift shop in the lodge, but no overnight accommodations.

When visiting Sunrise, be sure to dress appropriately for the colder weather at higher elevations. The hiking trails here are great and there is something suitable for every type of hiker, from casual to serious. A $25/vehicle (for 7-days) admission fee is collected at the White River Entrance. For additional information about Sunrise in particular or Mount Rainier National Park in general, check out the National Park Service website at


  1. We made it into the blog! We enjoyed meeting you and the rest of our hike was one of the highlights of our trip. We hiked to the frozen lake and then down to shadow lake and then back to the lodge. At the end of our hike, the clouds parted and Mt. Rainier made a very brief appearance.

  2. Sounds like a fantastic hike. Those clouds must have parted just for you...we never saw the entire mountain during the week were there. Hope your trip to Olympic NP was fun. We really enjoy meeting park enthusiasts like ourselves on the trail. Take care.