Page Contributor(s): Kyle Stanton-Wyman, North Bend, WA; Steve Jones, Olympia, WA;
Steepest Gradient (%)
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Mount Rainier National Park – Nisqually River Entrance
Ride 22 miles gaining 3,635’ at 3.1% average grade
to the Henry Jackson Visitor Center (western approach).
Mt. Rainier is located in the Cascade subrange of the Pacific Coast Mountain Range and is the highest point in Washington at 14,417’.
Mt. Rainier as seen from Kerry Park in Seattle.
Climb report from PJAMM’s Steve Jones of Olympia, Washington.
Mount Rainier, at 14,411 feet, is the highest peak in Washington State and the fifth highest in the contiguous United States. It is also the highest concentration of glaciers in the lower 48.
Two roads allow cyclists to travel high on the mountain: Sunrise Road (6,400 ft.) on the eastern side of the peak, and Paradise Road (5,416 ft.) on the southern slopes. The latter is the most popular destination for tourists (and cyclists) because of its accessibility from the population centers of Puget Sound. Paradise is also the highest point achieved on the annual 156-mile RAMROD cycling event (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day).
The Paradise Visitors Center (full services) is an 18-mile, 3,400-foot climb from the park’s Nisqually River Entrance. Logical places to start the ride include the Ashford County Park (water, restrooms, parking) on the west edge of the small town of Ashford (full services), six miles outside the park entrance, or the Kautz Creek pull-out, three miles inside the park (parking, restrooms, no water).
Nisqually River Bridge.
Starting from the park entrance (2,003 ft.), the park headquarters at Longmire (2,757 ft., full services) is reached after five miles, the gradient increases notably, and the switchbacks begin, as do scenic vistas of the mountain, the Nisqually River, and Christine and Narada Falls. From Paradise, cyclists can traverse one mile to aptly named Reflection Lakes (often snow-covered) and continue to descend Stevens Canyon to the eastern edge of the park at Ohanapecosh (1,914 ft.), or descend back to the Nisqually entrance.
The Paradise Road.
Narada Falls and the Paradise Road.
The interior of the Paradise Inn, a 1916 guest lodge listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is worth viewing.
Due to recent repaving, the descent from Paradise is fast and smooth. The park has a single-file rule for cyclists; please observe.
Mt. Rainier was first ascended in 1870 by Hazard Stevens and Philemon Van Trump. The fourth ascent was made in 1888 by John Muir.
Paradise (5,416 ft.).
Dennis Peck, Rick Peterson, and Steve Jones at Reflection Lakes.