At 3am on a Sunday morning, I groggily hauled myself out of bed and stumbled to the family car. My dad and I had decided the afternoon before that we wanted to see the sunrise on Rainier before meeting up with our extended family for a hike. Even though we were tired, an hour long BBC special on the element tungsten made the two hour drive much more enjoyable. No seriously. Contact me if you have any questions about tungsten.
The sky had already started to light up as we entered Mount Rainier National Park at around 4am. The ridges were illuminated and Rainier practically glowed with the early light. We arrived at the Sunrise parking lot at 5am and began our hike toward the Boroughs. Pronounced like the Burrow from the Harry Potter series, the Boroughs are a trio of hills in the Sunrise area with views of Rainier. On our hike I had to stop frequently to take photos of the pink mountain.
The Sunrise area, specifically the Boroughs, is one of our family favorites. I asked my dad when was the first time I hiked to the Boroughs and he casually replied, “Probably when you were an infant”. Although I did not make that first trip on my own two legs, we visited almost yearly and slowly my endurance grew. The Sunrise area is great location to visit for people of all ages and experience levels. There are views of the mountain from the parking lot and along all of the trails. Just a mile away from the visitor center is a beautiful backcountry campground where I went on one of my first backpacking trips. I recommend exploring the Sunrise area if you are looking for stunning views, alpine meadows, and flexible hiking options.
We hiked out to Second Borough and experienced breathtaking panoramic views. By that point, the sun had risen above the ridge lines which meant that we had super long shadows. The mosquitos started to come out with the sun but the breeze kept them away for the most part. Looking to the northwest, we were treated with a view of the entire South Puget Sound including the city of Seattle. The Olympic Mountain range and Mount Baker loomed in the background. Using binoculars, we sighted large groups of climbers summiting Rainier. We didn’t need binoculars to see a herd of mountain goats roaming on the next hillside. Maintaining a safe distance, we observed that the herd consisted of around 60 goats, and about 20 of them were kids (a.k.a. baby mountain goats). It was hard to stop watching the goats bouncing around but eventually we continued our hike. We looped back through meadows of wildflowers and I saw a chubby marmot relaxing on a rock.
This trip to Sunrise was unique in the fact that we saw no more than 10 people our entire hike. The beauty of the area makes it a popular location and during the peak season (no pun intended) the trails can be crowded. Honestly the crowds don’t matter too much because you will be paying more attention to the views. However, if you want to beat the crowds and see the sunrise, then waking up early is a great option. You can camp at the White River Campground and reduce your drive to Sunrise to around half an hour if you don’t feel up to the big trek early in the morning.
After our dawn adventure at Sunrise, we drove to the Naches Peak trailhead for our second hike of the day. There I was greeted by my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Our significantly reduced pace, the result of young cousins, allowed me to spend more time taking photos and chatting with my relations. The Naches Peak loop another of my family’s go-to hikes because of its relatively flat terrain, the views of Rainier, and the small mountain lakes filled with tadpoles in late summer. As I got older, the hike became less intimidating and now I consider the 3.5 mile loop easy.
Even though I was pretty tired Monday, both hikes on Rainier were definitely worth it. The wildlife, scenery, and time with my family combined to make a five star trip.
– Sarah, SCA intern