Drive to the highest mountain of the Cascades
|Mileage||100 miles (162 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||2 hours, 30 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||Summer, and Fall|
|Roadways||US Highway 12, and Washington Highway 123|
|Forest PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.||America the Beautiful Annual Pass|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Packwood, WA▼, and Longmire, WA▼|
4.9 average from 14 votes
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Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.
At 14,411 feet of elevation, Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the state of Washington and of the Cascade Mountains and it is the most glaciated mountain in the continental United States. Mount Rainier National Park has three developed areas and this drive will bring you to both Sunrise and Paradise.
Our drive starts in Randle on US-12. You can reach it by taking exit 68 off I-5, however, if you are closer to Seattle or Tacoma, you can take WA-161, which will join WA-7 and at the end, turn onto US-12 East.
On US-12 East, you are now driving through a corridor between Gifford Pinchot National Forests and the drive gets more and more beautiful as you continue. Approximately twenty-three miles from Randle, you will reach a fork in the road where WA-123 and US-12 meet and our drive continues onto WA-123. If you were to continue onto US-12, you would be heading towards White Pass.
In about four miles on WA-123, the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center (A1) focuses on the interesting features of the Northwest forests. To experience it first hand, stop in the Grove of the Patriarchs (H1) in about two miles and is a fantastic trail with trees presumed to be more than one thousand years old.
In about a mile and a half, the Stevens Canyon Road is on the left and you will use this road to head up to the Paradise side of Mount Rainier. Shortly on Stevens Canyon Road, you will see reach the parking lot for the Grove of the Patriarchs (H1). This mountain scenic drive continues on this windy road through periods of dense forests and every once in a while, you get a peak at the magnificent Mount Rainier! There are a few turnouts to stop and enjoy the view.
On the nineteen miles to Paradise (H4), you will pass Box Canyon (H8), Lake Louise, and Reflection Lake. Just after Reflection Lake, the road turns right onto a breath-taking view of Mount Rainier. The Paradise Visitor Center (I1) and Inn are just ahead. The visitor center is a great place to get information on some of the more advanced hikes, but there are plenty of easy hikes that will bring you in what feels like an arm’s length away from the peak.
After enjoying Paradise, backtrack back down Stevens Canyon Road to WA-123. If you were so inclined, you could head east on Stevens Canyon road, which will bring you to the Longmire, Nisqually Entrance to the Rainier Park and back towards WA-7.
Once you are down Stevens Canyon Road, turn left onto WA-123. In ten miles, the WA-123 will intersect with the WA-410 and our drive continues North on WA-410. If you head South on WA-410, you would enjoy the Chinook Scenic Byway and more great views of Mount Rainier.
Heading North on WA-410 for about three miles, the road to Sunrise will be on your left. On your way up, there are many opportunities for hiking. The Fryingpan Creek (H10) is a very popular trail that takes you through the Park’s dense forest for three miles to a fantastic view of Mount Rainier. Sunrise (H5) will be sixteen miles from the WA-410 turnoff. Stop at the visitor center for more information. Even if you aren’t going to a hike, pack a picnic and enjoy it here.
Our drive officially ends here. From here, if you are interested in more mountain scenic drives, continue on either the Chinook Scenic Byway or the White Pass Scenic Byway, which form a nice loop that will bring you back to this location. For a more adventurous drive, head down to Mount Adams.