Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier June 2021

Old Oct 3rd, 2020, 06:40 AM
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Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier June 2021

I am at the beginning stages of planning a long round trip road trip to Washington from the Nashville area. Our first stop in the state will be a few days in the Palouse to photograph Steptoe Butte and surrounding area then heading west toward the coast before heading south into Oregon for Columbia River Gorge and Crater Lake.

We would like to include Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier. We do short hikes and would like to keep them 3-4 miles round trip or under. With this in mind, what would you suggest for these two locations to get the most scenic views.

Should we plan on an overnight in or near these parks or would a day visit be enough to see the highlights?
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Old Oct 3rd, 2020, 07:04 AM
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While currently climate conditions are anything but predictable, in MOST years there's still quite a lot of snow on the ground at elevation on Mt. Rainier throughout June; often there's 3-6 feet on the ground (not the parking areas and roads) on the first of July. The famous wildflowers generally don't show up until August, and some/most of the trails can be covered or muddy well into July. Like I say, however, with climate change there's no telling how a given spring will go. Equally important to know is that June can still be very cloudy and damp in the mountains, again, some years different than others, so the odds of not seeing much can be high.

Anyway, you'd probably want to focus on the Paradise area on Mt. Rainier; access to the Sunrise area (the other main destination) is often unavailable until late June. I'd look at the Park Service's website and see what hikes or views you'd like, and see how they fare historically. Mt. Rainier is too beautiful to miss if changing your plans by a day or two is possible. As for Mt. St. Helens, the road to the Johnston Ridge observatory is also closed by snow throughout the winter, but generally is open before Memorial Day, so shouldn't be a problem with a June visit. However, the same caveat goes for clouds obstructing the views; in general, the later in the summer the better. By the way, the same goes for Crater Lake; parts of the rim road don't even open until July some years.

Depending on how much time you have, if you want to see the Palouse in its green phase (which is certainly worthwhile) give a thought to spending a day or two in the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, perhaps as a second stop after the Palouse. In the spring there are few more beautiful places in the USA. Here's a conceptual route map that includes the various spots in what I would say is the proper order. https://goo.gl/maps/ajdNJyevq8aQRi4B8

Joseph, Oregon -





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Old Oct 3rd, 2020, 07:09 AM
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Mt St Helens is easily done as a day trip, including hiking. There really isn't anywhere to stay except at a motel along I-5 which is 50 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory. So do that on your way into Oregon.


Mt Rainier definitely deserves more time and there is some great lodging on the mountain. Most visitors head to the Paradise side vs the Sunrise side of the mountain, but both are great. If you can get a room at Paradise Inn, or down the mountain a bit at Longmire at the National Park Inn, that will put you right on the mountain. A tad further down in the town of Ashford there are loads of options such as the Nisqually Lodge as well as numerous cabins. There are also campgrounds if that interests you. As for hikes, I won't make any suggestions until you decide which side of the mountain looks best to you. There are so many. I will say that if you check out www.wta.org that is our go to site for any hikes here in WA. There are all sorts of filters you can use, so you should be able to narrow it down a bit and then be able to ask more questions. We do a lot of hiking in this area, so feel free to ask.

I just noticed the date. Sunrise will not work as the road will not be open. Paradise will still have snow, but you can still get to the easy trails in June.

Last edited by mms; Oct 3rd, 2020 at 07:17 AM. Reason: noticed the date
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Old Oct 3rd, 2020, 08:14 AM
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We had planned the trip in June so as to photograph the Palouse while it still had some green. If we can do this by shifting to the last week in June, then on to Joseph and the Wallowa Mts for a couple of nights, a couple of nights in the Columbia Gorge area so this should push us to early July.

We were also considering a couple of nights at Olympic National Park. What is the weather like there the first of July? If we hit that prior to Mt St Helens and Rainier it would push it even further into July/

Is there a chance that Sunrise would be open by then?

Gardyloo, your map is pretty close to the one I have been toying around with except we want to incorporate John Day Fossil Beds and Sawtooth Mts on the way back to Nashville.

Thanks for all the help so far. Any comments on the proposed changes would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2020, 08:24 AM
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That would work. Sunrise usually opens the end of June or early July. The weather at ONP is typically very good in early July. Great hiking there too! The John Day Fossil beds are great, but don't take much time themselves unless you want to hike. If you do, do it early in the morning as it gets scorching hot there. We were there again in August and even just about 30 minutes in one area we could see how much sun our skin got. The Wallowa's are great, more so since you want to hike. We have only done overnight/multi day backpacking trips there so I can't help with short hikes but take a look at www.oregonhikers.org for that area. Also, Joseph is fine, but it is tiny and one day is more than ample to see the little town. For Oregon hiking and places to visit, take a look at William Sullivan's book Trips n Trails Oregon. I was born and raised in OR and have lived there for many years off and on and find that to be the best book.
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Old Oct 4th, 2020, 05:42 AM
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Originally Posted by mms View Post

. As for hikes, I won't make any suggestions until you decide which side of the mountain looks best to you. There are so many.

I just noticed the date. Sunrise will not work as the road will not be open. Paradise will still have snow, but you can still get to the easy trails in June.
We have revised our itinerary and will now be arriving Mt Rainer first week in July. We would like to do Sunrise entrance if possible. Can you suggest easy hikes there that would be 3 miles round trip or under. I think the altitude will also be a factor for us considering we are flatlanders.

Where and how many nights to best see Mt Rainier from the Sunrise entrance?
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Old Oct 4th, 2020, 06:10 AM
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Altitude will definitely be a factor then. For some easy hikes at Sunrise, I would first start with a ranger led hike. That will give you information on the mountain itself as well. Also take a look at Silver Forest/Emmons Vista, Naches Peak, Silver Falls, Grove of the Patriarchs, Sourdough Ridge, and just go Burroughs until you decide you want to turn around. Not all of these are right at Sunrise, but there are on that side of the mountain and are along the main road you would be driving anyway.
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Old Oct 4th, 2020, 10:43 AM
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Any feedback on which side of Mt Rainier offers the best views and easiest hikes 3 mi or under round trip? We are open to either Paradise or Sunrise.
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Old Oct 5th, 2020, 05:39 AM
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IMO the Sunrise side is more impressive of views of the actual mountain. I have found the easier hikes are on the Paradise side.
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Old Oct 5th, 2020, 06:22 AM
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I think we will try to position ourselves for the two nights somewhere we can reach both Paradise and Sunrise. Thanks for the help.
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Old Oct 7th, 2020, 05:31 PM
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For Mount St Helens, the eastern overlook is probably the best bet.


And on the way or leaving the area, you'll get views of Mt. Rainier


And Mt Adams from the visitor's center overlooking Mt Saint Helens:

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Old Oct 7th, 2020, 05:37 PM
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Thanks for the information. The photos are beautiful.
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Old Oct 19th, 2020, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by louky52 View Post
We had planned the trip in June so as to photograph the Palouse while it still had some green. If we can do this by shifting to the last week in June, then on to Joseph and the Wallowa Mts for a couple of nights, a couple of nights in the Columbia Gorge area so this should push us to early July.

We were also considering a couple of nights at Olympic National Park. What is the weather like there the first of July? If we hit that prior to Mt St Helens and Rainier it would push it even further into July/

Is there a chance that Sunrise would be open by then?

Gardyloo, your map is pretty close to the one I have been toying around with except we want to incorporate John Day Fossil Beds and Sawtooth Mts on the way back to Nashville.

Thanks for all the help so far. Any comments on the proposed changes would be greatly appreciated.

Just some random semi-local chiming to applaud your effort/interest re: the Sawtooth Mountains... (it's funny to see them, and 'get it' immediately)

The pleasant town of Stanley, Idaho is quite often mentioned in the paper as the coldest spot in the contiguous 48 states on various (random) days throughout a typical year. Plenty of nearby scenery.

And I've been to a couple of the John Day Fossil Beds sites in recent years... (though I shudder to imagine my mid-August walking tour of the Painted Hills straddling high noon had the solar eclipse not first stalled the evolution of the mid-day heat there, which was still considerable) For the Painted Hills you definitely need to do some walking... the other one I went to, not so much walking, as things were in the sides of nearby cliffs/mountains.

For ONP... the weather should be fine in every regard in the first week of July.

St. Helens is still awesome to visit after all of these decades.

Just went there this Covid year and even with Covid impacting everything (visitor's center was closed, etc.)... it was still every bit the spectacle that it has been for 40 years now.

(something odd-seeming... as a NON-photographer (me) speaking writing to a photographer (you): )

Near to St. Helens, in areas where trees were energetically re-planted very soon after the blast... today's 30-40-year-old trees are in some spots SO DENSELY PLANTED that your photos might appear to be BLURRY when capturing just green forest perhaps with the mountain (partial) dome peeking up from the background.

I never knew/thought of it until I got there and kept re-taking cell phone photos because they seemed blurry.

BUT I think my pictures were as sharp as can typically be expected, and yet the thick forest looked blurry.




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Old Oct 20th, 2020, 05:37 AM
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I agree the views from the eastern side of Mt St Helens are great, for first time visitors I always recommend the west side, at Johnston Ridge Observatory. The information you get there and at the other visitors centers on that side is priceless, and the views are not bad either

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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 04:44 AM
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We have decided we want to see both Paradise and Sunrise and will have 2 nights devoted to this. Our arrival will be July 13th, so weather should not prohibit this. Would it be best to stay in one location and drive to the other point, or should try to get someplace in each area? We will be coming from Mt Hood and traveling to a friends house in Sammamish when leaving Mt Rainier.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 05:46 AM
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Are you going to stop at Mt St Helens on your way? That would make a difference in recommendations. The problem with Sunrise is there are fewer options for lodging, and places like Alta Crystal Resort which is the main one on that said, often require 2 night minimums in the summer. You can stay in one place, but the problem with that is that both Paradise and Sunrise get packed in the summer, so you need to enter the park early, often by 7am, to even get a parking spot. Otherwise you need to wait until late in the day. It is very common for cars to be lined up for miles waiting to get in as they only let cars in as cars leave. Even with staying in one place for 2 nights it doesn't leave much time to see much, especially if you are trying to do both sides. You really need another night or scale back, IME.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 06:41 AM
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We won't be stopping at Mt St Helens. We have saved that for when we go back down the Oregon coast. I think 2 nights is all we can allot for Mt Rainier this trip, so we will just have to see as much as possible in that time frame. With that in mind, what would you recommend for accomodations?
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 07:14 AM
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There are National Forest Roads including NF 30 and NF 25 from Carson WA (WA 14) to Randle WA (US12) that go on the east side of Mt. St. Helens. Total driving time from Carson through Northwoods to Randle is nearly 4 hours in July. The snow should be gone by July 1. If you want a night between Mt St. Helens and the south end of Mt. Rainier, look for lodging in Packwood.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 07:33 AM
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Thanks for all the replies.
I am figuring the drive time from Hood River to Paradise Inn is nearing 4 hours. We are early risers, so we should be at Mt Rainier shortly after noon on day 1. If we use Paradise Inn for the base for the 2 nights, we would have half the day left on the 12th, then spend the 13th on the Paradise side and make an early drive up to Sunrise on the trip to Sammamish. According to google maps, it is only a little over 2 hours to Sammamish from Sunrise visitor center.

Does this sound insane, or doable?
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Old Oct 23rd, 2020, 09:07 AM
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That sounds fine, but you will want to get a very early start on your Sunrise day. You are lucky that midweek is a bit better, but I would still aim to be at Sunrise by 7am. From Sunrise to Sammammish, it is an easy drive.
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