Visit this Washington wonder

Most often, I write about destinations in faraway places.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t write about one of the most spectacular and scenic places the world has to offer right here in our own backyard. This is a trip you can easily do in a day and one that makes you appreciate the incredible beauty of this great state.

Now, many of you have probably done this trip many times over, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. For many, we tend to take for granted the place we live in and often don’t take advantage of the things that tourists pay thousands of dollars to come here and see and do.

The trip I am referring to is a circle of Mount Rainer. This is one of my favorites, and unfortunately, we don’t do it except when we have company from out of state. It is a great place to take out-of-towners and will definitely dazzle them, particularly if you are blessed with a nice clear sunny day.

My preference for this trip is the east to west route. You can leave Federal Way and head down Highway 18 to Highway 167. You will take the Highway 410 exit and go through Sumner and on out to Enumclaw.

Along the way, you will start to get the spectacular views of one of the highest peaks in the continental United States at 14,411 feet. As you travel southbound on Highway 410 toward Mount Rainer, the scenery just gets better and better. After you pass the cutoff to the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort and pass under the rustic Mount Rainer National Park sign, the highlights begin. The heavily wooded area serves as a prism for sunlight to come through and create beautiful and interesting views.

Your first side trip will be to cut off at the White River entrance and head up to the Sunrise Visitors Center. The views of the mountain from there are breathtaking. If your guests happen to be from the flatlands of the Midwest, I guarantee you they will be swept off their feet with this stop.

After enjoying this view, you will backtrack to Highway 410 and proceed southbound over Cayuse Pass connecting to Highway 123. As you travel this stretch, there are scenic overviews to take advantage of that are nothing short of incredible and are a photographer’s utopia.

Stay on Highway 123 until you reach the Stevens Canyon Entrance (east entrance to Mount Rainer National Park). Take your time and just meander along, stopping to take in the beautiful views, waterfalls and the Avenue of the Patriarchs.

You will have the opportunity to visit Paradise and the Scoop Jackson Visitors Center. The views from here are moving and impressive.

After a little lunch in the visitors center, you are ready to continue westbound down through Longmire and out the west Nisqually entrance of the park. You will follow Highway 706 either to I-5 and back to Seattle. My preference, though, is to go through Eatonville and follow Highway 161 through Puyallup and all the way back to Federal Way. The views are exceptional and while a little slower, if time permits, it will give you the opportunity to stop for a visit to Northwest Trek.

Your visitors will have seen the incredible scenery — and also had the chance to see a unique view of native wildlife in this natural environment.

This trip is one of my favorite, and in having traveled a good part of the world, I can tell you the beauty is unmatched.

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way and can be reached at E-mail Vaughn to be included on a mailing list of travel destination reports.

CORRECTION: Jerry Vaughn’s Travel Talk column on Aug. 18 (“Visit this Washington wonder”) regarding a trek to Mount Rainier National Park should have noted that the Cayuse Pass is closed for the season due to slide damage.

From the Washington Department of Transportation: “Cayuse Pass remains closed due to road damage that occurred late last fall and additional damage that occurred through the winter. Due to the work needed to repair this damage, opening SR 123 Cayuse Pass will be delayed and may not occur this summer. Those desiring to access the National Park can do so by accessing the south end of SR 123 from US 12.”

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