Under the Stars near Seattle

The Cascades: Sunrise Campground
  |  Gorp.com
Essentials

Directions: From I-5 south of Seattle, take Wash. 18 (exit 142) toward Auburn, and then take Wash. 164 east to Enumclaw, continuing southeast on Wash. 410 to the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park.
Travel Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Information: Mount Rainier National Park Hiker Information Line (360) 569-4453.
Reservations: Yes, taken up to 2 months in advance at above phone number.
Fee: Campsites free; reservation fee $20.
Open: From mid- to late July through October.

 


 

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Sunrise, on the northeast flanks of Mount Rainier, is the mountain's second most popular destination, after Paradise. Once upon a time, the road to Sunrise continued past the old log cabin visitor center to a campground amid subalpine forests. However, the National Park Service wisely decided to close the road down. However, they kept the campground open. Go figure. What this means for you as a solitude-seeking car camper is that if you're willing to schlepp your gear a mile up an abandoned road, you can camp right smack in the middle of some of the best day hiking in the park. In fact, this is one of the only places in the park where you can camp at elevation without having to backpack miles in to your site.

The only real drawback here is that the crowds of visitors who flock to Sunrise and wander around trampling the meadows also have a tendency to wander through this campground marveling at the fact that there are actually people camped here. Don't be surprised if you return from a hike and find a family of Japanese tourists having a picnic in your campsite. Oh well, it's a small price to pay. By late in the afternoon, most of the day-trippers are gone and you'll have the place to yourself.

Many miles of trails wander the alpine meadows in this area and you can easily spend several days exploring around Sunrise. Get in your car and drive just a few miles, and you'll find other trailheads.

 

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