Best Rookie Trails at Mount Rainier 3: Grove of the Patriarchs

This easy, 1.3 mile walk winds along the aquamarine waters of the Ohanapecosh River, ending in a splendid loop of soaring conifers that unhinge any jaw. Think Emerald City. Times ten.

Begin at the parking area northwest of the Stevens Canyon Entrance Station. Trail signs lead hikers through an old growth forest of conifer skyscrapers. Some reach 300 feet tall and are 1,000 years old. White quad-petaled bunchberry dogwoods, yellow glacier lilies, and red huckleberries hug the forest floor. Countless cascades sparkle and splash. Purple-blue lupine mirror clear skies.

You cross the Ohanapecosh over a suspension bridge just prior to entering the grove, which is on an island. Go one at a time. If you have an aversion to crossing a rickety, swaying suspension bridge, dash across lickety-split. On second thought, belay that. Running will just make the bridge bounce more. So take deep breaths, hold tight and take your time. I’ve crossed that sucker like a zillion times. So far, so good.

The Grove of the Patriarchs is one of the easiest and most crowded trails in the entire park. Arrive early to avoid trail traffic jams, particularly on busy summer weekends. You can complete the loop in under an hour, but a hike through this “green cathedral” is worth much more. You can combine this hike with the Silver Falls hike along the Eastside Trail mentioned earlier. Follow the signs and cross Stevens Canyon Road until you hit the Grove’s parking lot.

Note: The Grove of the Patriarchs parking lot is small. It fills up early on bright, sunny weekends in summer. Plan accordingly. Or just do what we do: hit this trail on a week day, or during off-season. That leaves out late June through Labor Day.

Bathrooms, a drinking fountain and a picnic table or two are located at the parking lot, a short drive from the Steven’s Canyon entrance. Sometimes that’s good to know.

Getting there: From Packwood, drive east on HWY 12, cross the Ohanapecosh River and turn left onto SR 123. Follow the road past the Ohanapecosh Visitors Center and turn left onto Stevens Canyon Rd. Parking is available in the first area on the right, intersecting the Eastside Trail.