Blog & Photos by Guest Blogger: Douglas Scott of The Outdoor Society
On sunny days with clear skies, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful destination than the Olympia region. Surrounded by water and trees, lakes and mountains, we are spoiled with natural wonders. Standing large to the east, rising from the prairie like a glaciated giant, Mount Rainier is part of the soul and spirit of the Olympia region. Known simply as “The Mountain” or “Rainier,” the massive mountain stands just 55 miles as the crow flies from Olympia, giving residents and visitors amazing views, incredible sunrises and sunsets and a constant reminder that we are surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Mount Rainier is the most visible National Park in America and while trees and forests block some of the majesty of the magnificent mountain, every resident and visitor to the region has their favorite Mount Rainier viewing location that leaves them awestruck. With hundreds of great places to catch a glimpse of the iconic peak, we have seven locations that can’t be missed, whetting your appetite to discover your own favorite view.
Capitol Lake and West Bay
For many residents, the view of Mount Rainier from Capitol Lake is a pleasant and gorgeous way to enjoy the natural beauty of the region. Sticking up above the buildings, the top of Rainier’s glaciers shine and shimmer in the distance as ducks, geese and blue herons enjoy the lake. Your best view of Rainier from the lake will be found looking east along the walkway, from Marathon Park toward the Puget Sound. For an extended view of Rainier, head down West Bay Drive to West Bay Park. You won’t be disappointed.
Just south of Olympia, one of Tumwater’s more stunning Mount Rainier views can be found and experienced. On the west side of the Olympia airport, where ball fields meet warehouses, a picturesque view of Mount Rainier is waiting for you. While many will enjoy the view near the control tower at the airport, one of the most underrated views can be experienced while hitting balls at the drive range, or playing a few holes of golf at the Airport Golf Course and Batting Center. This is also an amazing sunrise and sunset location.
Since the Olympia region is surrounded by trees, finding an unobstructed view of Mount Rainier can be tough. That is why, when in doubt, hit the high-ground. Just a short drive from downtown Olympia, Tumwater Hill offers a fantastic view of the entire South Puget Sound, including great views of the Capitol and Mount Rainier. Your best bet here will be to walk from Tumwater Hill Park to Overlook Point Park, where you can enjoy one of the best elevated views. For a more remote and rugged view similar to this, head up to the trails and gravel roads that wind up to the top of Capitol Peak in the Capitol State Forest.
Lacey and Rainier Vista Park
The views of Mount Rainier from the city of Lacey are amazing and can be witnessed all over town. One of the best views is found at Rainier Vista Park. The park, close to two small lakes, offers a stunning view of the mountain and a great place to walk and enjoy the cities parks. Another amazing view of Mount Rainier can also be seen while driving in Hawks Prairie. On a sunny day, getting off of northbound Interstate-5 will have you looking right at the majestic volcano, appearing to be within arms-reach.
Tolmie State Park
North of Lacey and located along Puget Sound, Tolmie State Park is one of the hidden places to spot the state’s iconic mountain. Known for amazing hiking trails, great beach access and fun fall colors, Tolmie State Park also greets visitors with a spectacular view of Mount Rainier. From a short trail that starts to the left of the parking area, Rainier appears to rise from the waters of the Sound, posing perfectly in the distance as blue herons and eagles rest in the foreground. This view from Tolmie of Mount Rainier is hard to beat and is considered by many to be one of the best places to see the mountain in the region.
Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
It is hard to have a bad day at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the views of Mount Rainier from the boardwalk make this even more incredible. Known for migratory birds, wildflowers, eagles, owls and fun, family-friendly hiking trails, Nisqually is a can’t-miss destination in any weather or season. On sunny days, the already gorgeous region becomes even more breathtaking, giving a view of Mount Rainier unlike anywhere else in the area. To see Rainier at Nisqually, you’ll need to walk out to the boardwalk that juts out across the mudflats. Here, as you stand over the seals, birds and fish swimming below, you’ll see Rainier rising above a nearby hill, posing perfectly.
Seeing Mount Rainier from Yelm will inspire you to drive to Mount Rainier National Park. Close enough to the mountain to feel like you can touch it, views of Mount Rainier from the city of Yelm can be found around almost every corner. Yelm is closer to the glaciated volcano than Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, making places like Longmire Community Park a perfect place to see a stunning view of the mountain. Nearby, Lake Lawrence also has some underrated views of the mountain.
Bonus: Chehalis Western Trail
Stretching for more than 20 miles, the Chehalis Western Trail is a rails to trails success, reconnecting the communities of Thurston County along the old rail lines. Today, the mostly flat path is perfect for joggers and bike riders of all ages and abilities, giving a perfect taste of the natural beauty of the region. The trail is also home to numerous views of Mount Rainier, including some pretty spectacular ones along the southern portions of the trail.