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Mount Rainier rewards hikers on Glacier Basin Trail with this view.
MIKE SIEGEL/SEATTLE TIMES
Visit the Photo Place
BY TAN VINH
The Seattle Times
MOUNT RAINIER, Wash.--It was cloudy and drizzling on other parts of Mount Rainier, but the world was all sunscreen and sunglasses from where I stood, on the east face of the mountain.
Hikers were smearing on sunscreen, some sporting shorts. I was squinting.
A minute after pulling into the parking lot at the White River Campground, I discovered the first of many high points of hiking the nearby Glacier Basin Trail. The weather doesn't get any better around Mount Rainier than on the east side.
Clouds come in from the west, break around the mountain and head north and south, which explains why visitors were getting clouds and fog at Paradise while campers here were dressed like they were vacationing in Cabo.
Things were off to a good start.
I was here to check out a trail that took about four summers to rebuild after the flood of 2006. After Paradise, the Glacier Basin Trail is the second-most popular starting point for Rainier climbers.
My goal was less ambitious. I had out-of-town guests with children to entertain. They wanted to see Mount Rainier up close and hike around the park. Glacier Basin Trail made sense.
I checked the topography. It's an easy hike. You won't find another trail around Mount Rainier National Park that's this long (7 miles round-trip) with only 1,280 feet of elevation gain.
It's a good trail around which to build a family-friendly Mount Rainier itinerary. Within about a 25-minute drive, you can hit Sunrise, the park's highest point reachable by car; check out scenic Chinook Pass, with memorable views of the iconic mountain to the west, or visit the Tolkien-like landscape of the Grove of the Patriarchs, filled with ancient hemlocks, western red cedars and Douglas firs.
For an overnight, car-camp near the Glacier Basin trailhead in one of 112 campsites.
And the sunny weather. Have I mentioned the sunny weather? The wildflowers bloom and the snow melts here earlier than the other side of the mountain.
AN 'EASY' HIKE
On my hike, my guide was Alan Mortimer, of Washington Trails Association, who helped lead an army of volunteers to work on this trail's reconstruction.
WHERE: The newly rerouted Glacier Basin Trail (3.5 miles each way) is an easy-to-moderate hike on the east side of Mount Rainier, about a two-hour drive from Seattle. Take Highway 410 to Mount Rainier National Park and turn onto Sunrise Road. Look for signs to White River Campground, where this trail starts. Pay a $15 vehicle entry fee at the White River Entrance Station. MORE INFORMATION: White River Wilderness Information Center, 360/569-6670, or nps.gov/mora.