I’ve always wanted to experience a high mountain meadow during the brief late-summer wildflower season. On our way home from San Juan Island, we decided to make a little detour off of I-5 to visit Mt. Rainier National Park. According to my calculations, it would take us a mere 40 miles out of our way. That, however, was a long, narrow, twisty 40 miles. Our trip from San Juan Island began at 7:00 a.m. in the ferry line to catch an 8:00 ferry and ended at 5:00 p.m. in our pretty campsite at Mt. Rainier.
But it was well worth the journey.
Peak Wildflower Season At Mt. Rainier
Not only was this the peak wildflower weekend of the season, but according to the rangers, it was the most spectacular wildflower show in recent years. Thousands of acres of deep purple lupine, fiery red paintbrush, lavender asters, pale pink phlox, bright yellow buttercups, magenta penstemon, and cobalt gentian carpeted the meadows. It looked as though enormous Oriental carpets had been unfurled at the base of the mountain. In the background, Mt. Rainier, robed in white against the cobalt sky, moved in and out of lenticular clouds (aka “flying saucer clouds”).
We spent two nights in Cougar Campground, the closest campground to Paradise (truly, that is the name of the area of the park where we hiked). Although we stumbled upon the most magnificent of the wildflower displays in the park, there are many more miles of hiking trails that we’d love to explore. Next time, we figure we need at least a week.