When we booked a 12-hour day trip from Seattle, Washington, to Mount Rainier National Park, it didn’t occur to us that we might not actually get to see the mountain.
For us Midwesterners, we figured that the massive, 14,410-foot-tall active volcano would stick out like a sore thumb. That was not the case.
The mountain remained in hiding for the better part of our entire trip, shrouded by fog and clouds that made it difficult to see anything beyond 15 feet in front of us.
You’d never guess it, but the location pictured below – Reflection Lake – offers one of the most breathtaking views of Mount Rainier, as the majestic mountain stands in all its glory just behind the treeline, creating a mirror image off the lake on a perfect day (hence, the lake’s name).
When our tour guide pulled over for us to hop out and take photos, he said, “This is going to be a tough sell, but this is the most photographed view of Mount Rainier.” Indeed, it is – when the weather cooperates.
But of the 140+ tours he’s led this year, only four groups were able to capture this shot. So we weren’t the only ones who had stood there squinting at the evergreens and wishing the mountain would magically appear.
Still, we carried on, sending up a few desperate prayers that sounded something like, “Please, please, don’t let this trip be wasted!”.
As our tour guide continued to navigate through changing weather conditions – rain, then sun, then snow and lots of fog – we ascended to our highest elevation (~6,100 feet) and stopped at another popular overlook: Sunrise, the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park.
As we pulled into the parking lot of the closed visitor center, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The clouds were parting and there she stood. Mount Rainier.
We couldn’t take our eyes off of it, snapping picture after picture for fear it would disappear as quickly as it emerged.
We hurried off the bus so fast we didn’t even have time to zip our coats! And, sure enough, just as we were getting our picture taken, the clouds returned to close off the main attraction like curtains closing at the end of a play.
That was it. During our 12-hour day trip to Mount Rainier National Park, we saw the mountain for no more than 20 minutes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
The mountain’s overwhelming beauty is beyond words, beyond comprehension. It truly took our breath away and was every bit worth the cold, wet and long journey to see it.
As a bonus, we got to see Mount Rainier again (from the sky) as we flew out and headed home – a fitting farewell from the elusive mountain.
We traveled to Mount Rainier National Park on Oct. 9, 2018, and booked our day trip through Viator.