Cycling Mt. Rainier, Stevens Canyon
Ride 7.3 miles gaining 1,851’ at 4.7% average grade.
Ride summary by PJAMM Cycling’s Steve Jones of Olympia, Washington
Photos by Dennis Peck:
Stevens Canyon is a 7.3 mile, 2,000’ climb on the southeast shoulder of Mt. Rainier in Washington State. The canyon is named for Hazard Stevens, who made the first ascent of Mt. Rainier in 1870 with Philemon Van Trump, 29 years before its establishment by President William McKinley as the nation's fourth national park (after Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Yosemite).
The Stevens Canyon climb begins at Box Canyon of the Cowlitz River (3,019’).
The climb begins at Box Canyon (3,019 ft.) on State Route 706 (Stevens Canyon Road), 10 miles west of the Stevens Canyon Entrance to the National Park (intersection with State Route 123), near the Ohanapecosh Visitors Center. Stevens Canyon is typically one of the last roads in the park to be cleared of snow, usually in early July each year.
The Stevens Canyon Road is exposed to the sun. Bring your sunscreen.
Streams feeding the Cowlitz River produce numerous waterfalls.
The Stevens Canyon climb ends at Reflection Lakes.
The climb is a relatively straight road up the side of the Cowlitz River valley, with plenty of sun exposure. There are a few short tunnels and some storm grates, as well as a few small waterfalls, to keep your attention. Two large switchbacks lead the cyclist to the top of the climb as the road passes Bench Lake, Louise Lake, and Reflection Lakes at 4,865 feet at the top of the climb. After Reflection Lakes, the climb is over, and the road flattens for about a mile before its intersection with the Paradise Road in the Nisqually River valley (two miles below the Paradise Visitors Center).
Just past Reflection Lakes are views of Pinnacle Peak and the Tatoosh Range.