Hiking on Mount Rainier and Camping at Ohanapecosh

After living in the Seattle area for almost two years, we finally got to visit the majestic Mount Rainier. We always point the mountain out to our 6.5 year old when we're driving around town. It's seems so close but we never had the chance to go. Campgrounds book up quickly for weekend trips in the summer and walk-in sites are such a gamble. We tried getting a reservation last year but couldn't and so I promised my son we would go this year. I booked us a campground at Ohanapecosh back at the end of April. Even back then, there were only a couple of decent choices left for us.

Ohanapecosh: display by the visitor center.

Ohanapecosh river right by our campsite.

From what I read online, Ohanapecosh on Mt. Rainier is regarded as one of the best campgrounds to visit in Washington State. It is lower in altitude than some of the others like White River so I figured it wouldn't be so cold at night in July. We actually went at the perfect time because the west coast was having a heat wave that weekend. There has been a drought this year as well with higher than normal temperatures so there was no evidence of snow or mud where we hiked. That was something I was worried about when I booked the trip back in April. In fact, it would have been nicer to see more streams in the valley. The rivers and creek still flowed with plenty of water but there were many areas of dried up water beds and streams. So sad. Thanks to the weather, the wild flowers bloomed early this year so that was beautiful to see.

I think every family should go tent camping every once in awhile. When we got back home, we appreciated all the every day luxuries we had in our city life so much more. My husband doesn't like camping. He's more of a hotel and resort kind of guy. He whined a lot even though it was way more uncomfortable for me to be there than him. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant and all. There was no WIFI or cell service in the area. That alone got to him. There was a gas station and small convenient store 10 miles away but no family type restaurant for 50 miles in every direction. Our campground had flush toilets but no soap or paper towels.

The day we had to check out, the water for the entire campground was shut off. Everyone woke up to quite a surprise. Then they locked all the bathrooms because people were going anyway even though they couldn't flush. Hello?!! Everyone has to do their business in the bathroom first thing in the morning! Come on. We drove 10 miles to the gas station in Packwood and I had my morning pee there. We wanted to get gas anyway so it wasn't a big deal. Since we couldn't get water to boil to make coffee or do dishes, I just grabbed us a hot coffee at the gas station and we drove back to the campground to eat breakfast. We quickly took down the tent and packed up for road. The whole experience made us realize how much we value just having cold water. After speaking to a ranger who came by our campsite later, we learned that one of the pipes had broke and that drained all the water we had in the reservoir. They were working to repair the pipe but the water had to be refilled from Tacoma and it could take days to have water up and running again. Omg. All those poor campers coming in that Sunday were in for a nasty surprise!

Luckily, the water outage at camp was only a minor inconvenience for us. We went to Mount Rainier mainly to hike and camping overnight was just a consequence of that. The camping experience was alright. We were in a good area and close to the Ohanapecosh river and visitor center but our campground was small and it had an irregular shape. It's just the three of us so we didn't need that much space anyway. We ate breakfast at the campsite but we took off hiking all day long and would only return to the campsite for a later than normal dinner. It was fine since it didn't get dark until after 9PM. A truck drove by selling firewood between 5 and 7PM and we bought enough wood to last two nights. We just wanted a small fire so that we could roast marshmallows and enjoy a warm fire in the evening.

I organized and packed for the camping trip two days before and only had a few hours to do it all. It was stressful and I went with a very simple meal plan for us.


Breakfast: at home

Instant udon noodles
Oatmeal banana cookies (homemade)
Guava juice

Sweet potato chips
Hummus sandwich
Green bean/egg/lettuce salad
Guava juice

Roasted marshmallows & hot chocolate
Earl grey tea


Bread with honey sunflower butter
Oatmeal banana cookies
Coffee & milk & guava juice

Carrot sticks, bell peppers & mixed nuts trail mix
Oatmeal banana cookies

Maui chips
Chicken ravioli pasta w tomato sauce
Steamed broccoli/cauliflower/green beans

Roasted marshmallows & hot chocolate
Earl grey tea


Bread with honey sunflower butter
Boiled eggs
Fig newton bars (store bought)
Coffee & milk

Bell peppers & mixed nuts trail mix
Oatmeal banana cookies
Fig newton bars

Dinner: at home
Tortilla soup w avocado (left to defrost in fridge when we left home)

This was definitely camping. None of the glamping or glamorous camping nonsense we experienced last time when our son was 4.5 years old. The campers across from us were barbecuing and we were drooling while we waited for water to boil for our instant noodles. Lol. It could have been worst so I'm thankful everything went as well as it did and we got home in one piece. We were certainly dirty from hiking so much and not showering but I didn't feel filthy. That first shower when we got back home was like heaven though!

Real camping: we used twigs nearby to roast our marshmallows.

Hiking on Mount Rainier was awesome. We're so glad our 6.5 year old is active like us and could do it. One day we hiked over 11 km and he only complained a bit but in the end he really enjoyed it. The following day we hiked just under 8 km and he was sad to leave too. Here were all the places we hiked and I would highly recommend many of them for families. It was really helpful talking to the rangers at the visitor center as well.

Hot Springs and Nature Trail (super short!)
Silver Falls
Grove of the Patriarchs

Notes: We hiked to Silver Falls from our campsite and then continued to the Grove of the Patriarchs. On the way back to the campsite, we hiked on the other side of the river of the Silver Falls loop trail for a different scenery. Easy hikes and beautiful!

Box Canyon (short!)
Reflection Lakes (Also short! Drive there and walk along the side for great pictures.)
Nisqually Vista Trail (< 1 hr to hike this but it's beautiful)

Notes: Paradise is higher up and therefore cooler, which was nice. If you want to see Mount Rainier and still be close to your Ohanapecosh campsite, you'll have to drive to Paradise. There were many great views of the mountain there.

Box Canyon

Reflection Lake

Sourdough Ridge (our favorite!)
Emmons Vista
Silver Forest Trail (short but beautiful also)

Notes: Sunrise is even higher up than Paradise so it's even cooler. We visited Sunrise on our way out of camp. If you are from the Seattle area or anywhere north of that, it makes sense to visit Sunrise on your way out too. Weather wise it was perfect for us because the temperature was climbing each day we were at camp and each day we would visit an area that was higher in altitude. For comparison, it was 23C at Sunrise when we hiked it. When we left and started to drive back home, it was 34C in Redmond. Wowzers! Sunrise is located at 6400 feet and because we started out climbing on our hike, I actually felt the effects of the altitude more and got a little dizzy. It was just me though. Blame the pregnancy?

Overall, the camping and hiking trip was a success. It only cost us $30 to stay two nights, $20 for the entrance and parking pass to visit the other parts of the mountain, and a full tank of gas. You can't beat that price for a family vacation! I would totally do it again in maybe two years and now we know how we can improve on it :) As an extra bonus, we brought our little telescope and drove out to an open area through Stevens Canyon to stargaze one night. Our son was delighted. We're still not quite sure how to operate our telescope but we were able to see one star and the planet Saturn using it. The sky was so clear and so many stars were visible. Amazing. It was like we were in Hawaii again. We really lucked out weather wise on our camping trip. The mountain was visible every day for us and there were only a few clouds. The nights were cool but comfortable for sleeping. Hopefully, we will be just as lucky next time.


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