A Day Trip to Paradise
By Kath Dedon
I have no recipes for you today. This post is all about a fantastic day trip for those of you living in or visiting the Pacific Northwest.
How many people can say that they can take a day trip to Paradise? Last weekend Bob and I did just that. Paradise is the main, and most popular, visitors area in Mt. Rainier National Park.
Knowing that Mt. Rainier National Park is wildly popular in July and August, we knew we should probably get an early start. We left the house at 8:00am and headed south via highway 161 through Puyallup, South Hill, Graham and Eatonville. We learned that the traffic is pretty horrible through Puyallup and South Hill, not because there is so much traffic, but because the numerous traffic lights are not coordinated to keep the traffic moving. We’d take a different route next time.
We reached our first destination, the Copper Creek Inn and Restaurant, at about 10:00 and stopped for breakfast. The restaurant is just 2 miles from the Nisqually entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park and has been popular since 1946. We felt lucky to get a table right away because it was full of people who were obviously on their way to the Park.
Breakfast was fantastic! The eggs and hash browns were perfect. Bob’s ham was delicious. The toast was made with homemade bread and served with blackberry jam and raspberry butter. As we were getting ready to leave, we got a glimpse of a big tray of homemade dough for hoagie rolls ready to be baked for the lunch menu’s French dip sandwiches. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t miss it if you have the opportunity to eat there.
Copper Creek Inn and Restaurant
After breakfast we continued on to the Park. It costs $15 a day for a car and its occupants to enter the park, but if you are over 62 you can get a lifetime pass for all of the National Parks in the whole country for just $10. Such a bargain! I told Bob that we should perhaps get an RV and travel from park to park. (Just kidding!!)
It took 30 or 40 minutes driving on a winding road to reach Paradise. When we were about halfway there, we began seeing signs that said the parking lots were full. “Be prepared to drive through.” We remained optimistic that we would find some place to park.
As we got closer to the parking lots, we noticed people parking on the shoulder and hiking in the rest of the way. We got to the main parking lot at about 11:40 and, sure enough, it was full with cars circling around. We noticed a family getting ready to leave, and parked behind them waiting to pull in when they left.
The view of “The Mountain” from the parking lot at Paradise (#18 on the map below). See the man heading towards us in the biking outfit? He and his family were about to leave their parking space which they bequeathed to us. He and his son(?) prepared their bikes to ride down the mountain and the rest of the family took the car.
Read more about the map and the other points of interest here.
It was so crowded around the parking lots and visitor center (#18 on the map). There were people from all over the world, as evidenced by all of the different languages we heard. We were amazed, though, that once we got out on the trails, there weren’t that many people.
We hiked around the trails for about an hour and a half and were delighted to see that we were not too late for the wildflowers. They were beautiful!
Love the Indian Paintbrush!
We especially enjoyed the Nisqually Vista Trail (#21) which took us through meadows of wildflowers and then led us to the Trail to the Nisqually Glacier View (#19.) It went along a ridge with a fabulous view of the Nisqually Glacier and a roaring glacial river.
Tadpoles in a little pool!
The Nisqually Glacier
Roaring glacial river – wish my photo could have captured the sound
When we found our way back to the parking lot, we went in to the Paradise Inn, which was built in 1916. It’s a rustic, but beautiful, building. There’s a lovely dining room available. I don’t know how it is, but they say they use organic and local ingredients.
Inside Paradise Inn – bustling with activity….and nappers
After viewing the lodge we went back to our car and continued east to the Grove of the Patriarchs (#8). Once again, the small parking lot was full, but we have a small car and Bob managed to squeeze it into a spot.
At the Grove of the Patriarchs we went on the 1.5 mile loop trail to see an amazing forest of some of the largest and oldest trees in the area. Over the years, many of them have fallen over the trail, so they were cut where they fell to clear the path.
In order to get to the “grove” with the most amazing trees, you have to cross a wobbly bridge over a creek. It’s suggested that you go one person at a time.
A LARGE fallen tree
Leaving the “grove” and getting ready to cross back over the bridge, Bob observed that the creek looked like a very promising fly fishing creek. I know he made a mental note to check it out in the future.
There were picnic tables available, so we pulled out our picnic lunch. Bob was so excited to have fried chicken, even though it was from the deli and not homemade. I was happy with leftover roast chicken.
After lunch we headed north on 410 to take a different route home. We decided to take the 6-mile side trip up to Crystal Mountain just to see what it looks like in the summer. We were amazed at how busy it was! They have really developed a popular summer destination. Once more, there was NO PARKING in the main lot. We parked illegally since we were only going to take a quick look. There were a lot of people like us, just up to visit. There was a also wedding party getting ready to take the gondola up to the restaurant for a wedding.
A slope at Crystal Mountain Ski Area in the summer
We quickly looked around, and then returned to 410 and continued north and west to Enumclaw and then north on 169 through Maple Valley to head home. The drive home was really much prettier than the morning drive and it was nice to see different sights.
We arrived home at about 6:30 and felt like we had had a full day. It turned out to be more of an expedition than I was expecting, but it was so much fun to be out in the mountain air on a beautiful summer day. There’s a reason the visitor center and the Inn were named Paradise. It is really beautiful and I highly recommend it!