Rainier Mountain Highway Loop

Trip Date: 6-20-2008


  • White River
  • Skoocum Falls
  • Ghost Lake
  • Chinook Pass (Hyw 410)
  • Cayuse Pass (SR-123)
  • Chinook Creek Falls
  • Stevens Canyon
  • Marsh Lakes
  • Bench Lake
  • Louise Lake
  • Reflection Lakes
  • Paradise
  • Nisqually River
  • Longmire
  • Many Road Side Falls
  • Copper Creek Inn (Best Hot Blackberry Pie)
  • Alder Lake
  • Falling Rock (Passes and Stevens Canyon)
  • Deer


Rainier Mountain Highway Loop Video

16:9 Widescreen (400 Kbps 18.8 MB)

Photo Show


Trip Details:

After a very successful and relaxing ride the previous day, I couldn't muster up the drive to go into work on a day that was to deliver temps in the mid to upper 70's and clear skies. Another day of vacation was in order and the icing on the cake would be a ride around  MT. Rainier. Garmin's Map Source application mad it easy to plot out my route and in 15 minutes I had the routes uploaded to my GPS. This was followed by the pre ride day prepping such as charging camera batteries and wiping the flash cards to make room for new content. I always get my gear ready the night before so when it's time to head out the amount of time spent getting ready is minimal.

With my Wing loaded up with gear and my step son on board we departed the driveway heading towards Rainier. We started the trip off with a stop at my favorite local Espresso stand to get my favorite Mint Mocha on ice. Once I had my caffeine in cup holder, we rode along Tacoma's water front. The bay was extremely calm and the sun was warm.  I could tell this was going to be a great day for riding. We made our way past the Tacoma Dome and up through Fife to Federal Way via I-5. Highway 18 was our next right and took us a short distance down in to Auburn where we turned off on to Auburn Way. A very boring ride through Auburn soon brought us to the Enumclaw Highway  which becomes Highway 410. We followed this road for approximately 31 Road-Quest.com WA motorcycle rides roads destinations ride video White River SR 410 Washingtonmiles to the beginning of the MT. Rainier national Forest. We made several stops along the way to take in the sites and get some photos. A couple great places to stop are Green Water along the White River and the vista view point over looking Skoocum Falls. I have found I enjoy making a few more stops then less. I look at it this way. I'm in no hurry and have all day. This isn't an Iron Butt ride. I have also found the rides to be far more enjoyable when I do make these types of stops. A bonus is the opportunity to meet other people along the way.

As we approached the Sunrise Road turn off I wasn't sure if it was open yet but I figured why not try it. I paid to get in but didn't ask if the gates were open yet. They were not open and I had to turn around and head back to Highway 410. This was ok because we got to see our first signs of snow and Matt was really jazzed. We headed up 410 and came up on the SR-123 turn off. I made a last minute change in route to include a ride up to Chinook Pass. This was a very good choice as the roads were dry and the snow banks were high. Rhyme un-intentional! :-) As we navigated the turns we had, in some cases, 5 foot tall snow banks on each side. It seemed like the road was just plowed through the snow this very day. It was nothing short of amazing. Great road conditions, warm weather and just enough cold air coming off the snow banks to feel like air conditioning. Once we arrived at the summit of Chinook Pass we spent some time snapping photos and Matt carved his name in the snow so others would know he was there. He was a bit amazed at the fact it was so warm and there was so much snow. To be honest, I was too. You never get used to this kind of beauty.

Road-Quest.com WA motorcycle rides roads destinations ride video MT Rainier National Forest Chinook Pass WashingtonOnce back on the road we made our way back down highway 410 to the SR-123 turn off. SR-123 or Cayuse Pass is a very relaxing 10 mile ride around the back side of MT. Rainier and soon intersected Stevens Canyon. We stopped off to see a couple road side falls. This trip was a treat because due to the delay in warmer weather, the run off from snow melt was heavy. The road side falls were flowing with force to say the least. You have to bring a camera! And don't forget spare batteries. The ride up Stevens Canyon was about 19 miles. Initially the ground was free of that nice white stuff. As we rode on and climbed in elevation we were soon riding with snow on the ground at the road sides. In a couple areas there were sheer rock faces with water falling on to the road side like a shower. This was amazing and really added to the ride. This usually only occurs during the spring melt. As the snow melts these will dry up and fade away until next spring.

As we climbed in elevation the snow became deeper and whiter. Our next stop would be Louise Lake. We had to stop because the lake was frozen over but had several large areas where the ice had thawed. The holes were a deep blue in color. The view was amazing! As we pushed on we came up on Reflection Lakes. These are a set of small lakes with Rainier in the background. On a calm  day with the right sunlight the mountain bares its reflection in the water. This is a must see and a great opportunity for photos. In our case, the lakes were completely frozen over. Still a nice photo opportunity. Soon we came up on our next right turn on to Paradise Rd. This is a 2 mile winding road that leads up to Paradise. Riding through the snow banks were even better then Chinook Pass. Once at Paradise we spent some time checking out the new lodge and Inn. It's still under construction but is way better then last year.

Road-Quest.com WA motorcycle rides roads destinations ride video MT Rainier Ashford Copper Creek Inn WashingtonOur ride down the mountain was an enjoyable 18 miles to the park exit. We rode across the Nisqually River and past several road side falls. The camp grounds are no longer present as they fell victim to the massive floods a couple years ago. As we exited the park we were extremely hungry and had our sights on the Copper Creek Inn. For those of you who have not stopped in there you should. They have great food and shakes. They are also known for their Black Berry pie. The pie is served hot and has a great mix of tart and sweet berries. I have heard it said they have the best Blackberry pie in Washington. This pie is from an old family recipe and that recipe delivers! My favorite is the Turkey Bacon Club with Garlic Red Potatoes.

Road-Quest.com WA motorcycle rides roads destinations ride video  Copper Creek Inn Ashford Black Berry pie.Once fed, we rode 13.6 miles east on highway 706 to the intersection of highway 7 in Elbe. This section of 706 is mostly straight as an arrow but the country side is quite relaxing. As we rode through Ashford we slowed to enjoy the metal art works on display in the yard of one of the locals. I have see this guy and his work on TV before. He has all kinds of metal animals, dinosaurs etc. My favorite is the Skeleton riding the chopper. As we road through Elbe we past a bikers burger stop called Scale Burgers. I have yet to try there burgers but will do so this summer. The last lake we past on this ride was Alder Lake which was to our left as we rode by. After the lake we entered a section of twisties the wound through a canopy of green leaves. I won't go on from here as the rest is just Highway 7 in to Tacoma. This is were biker meets traffic. All in all today's ride was stellar to say the least. This ride is great any time weather permits but riding it during the initial melt off on a sunny day takes it from great to spectacular. 

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