Eatonville to Paradise
Options include a stop at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville to get up close and personal with moose, elk, mountain goats and more ($9.25-$19.75, nwtrek.org). Along Highway 706, stop in Elbe for a steam-train ride on Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad ($29, mrsr.com) or dine in vintage railroad cars or even stay overnight in a caboose (rrdiner.com). Rub elbows with international climbers at the Whittaker Mountaineering compound in Ashford, and stop for blackberry pie at the Copper Creek Inn (coppercreekinn.com).
As the road twists uphill to Paradise, admire the vintage rock guardrails, in which every stone is carefully photographed, numbered and replaced in the same spot during renovation. Paradise access open year-round.
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Another twisty-turny uphill adventure, popular with masochistic cyclists (who get to breeze downhill as a reward). The big payoff here is Sunrise Point, a turnout with twirl-all-around vistas of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and the other Cascades, and nearby Sunrise Lake. Road usually open early July to early October.
The park’s eastern boundary at 5,432 feet offers another wildflower-lined, goatpath-like road as Highway 410 switchbacks up the final stretch from Cayuse Pass. Plan a picnic stop at lovely little Tipsoo Lake, where glacier lilies and Clark’s nutcrackers (aka “camp robbers”) abound.
From the top of the pass, walk down the road for a classic photo of Rainier reflected in the lake. Take a day hike on the popular 3.4-mile Naches Peak Loop Trail (clockwise for best views) or keep driving east for a weekend in Yakima Valley sunshine. Pass usually open late May to late November.