Your luggage is packed. You’ve got enough camping gear to choke a mule. Your feet can’t wait to hit those Mount Rainier trails. But you haven’t quite decided on where you want to set up camp. Which Rainier campground is best?
That depends. Mount Rainier National Park offers three auto campgrounds – Ohanapecosh, White River, and Cougar Rock. So “best” is pretty subjective. But if you prefer rustic, peace and quiet, a beautiful setting on a rushing river surrounded by an incredible old-growth forest, check out Ohanapecosh. Been camping there for years. In fact, Ohanapecosh is our favorite campground at Mount Rainier National Park. Hands down.
Perched on the southeast flank of the park, Ohanapecosh is roughly twenty minutes and eleven miles up the road from the quaint mountain burgh of Packwood. It’s about three 3 miles north of the park boundary on highway 123. The campground inclues several loops, though only a few are open during the off-season. (A Loop is our favorite.)
The Ohanapecosh campground is rustic. It has flush toilets but no hot water. No showers. The road through the campground has been recently re-paved. A nice place for bicycling or walking with the fam. Each camp site has a picnic table and a fire grate.
The sprawling, 188-site Ohanapecosh campground at Mount Rainer often gives first-time visitors the impression that they’ve fallen into a vast vat of verdure. Lichen leaks from boughs and bower. Giant conifers litter the forest floor like fallen behemoths. Sunshine skips across so many shades of emerald that the landscape looks like Oz, especially near Silver Falls.
One of the park’s most popular trails, the Silver Falls Loop is a pleasant three-mile walk from the Ohanapecosh campground to a thundering gusher. It’s one of the first trails to melt out in the spring and is a favorite for families, seniors, youngsters, and pretty much anyone who’s vertical and breathing. It’s an easy hike to and from Ohanapecosh and a great introduction to the treasures and timelessness of an old-growth forest.
Tip: If you’re tent camping, be sure to select a campsite that’s fairly level rather than one in a divot or a downhill slant. If you don’t, you’re liable to wind up in a floating mattress if it rains during the night.
Ohanapecosh is usually open from late May to late September/early October, depending on weather. $20 a night. Reservations required during peak season. Otherwise, it’s first come, first-served.
Other tip: Avoid peak season (late summer through Labor Day) if you can, especially if you’re allergic to uber crowds. Every site in the campground will be packed during this time frame. Ditto any summer weekend when the forecast is for clear skies and sunshine. If you want to avoid crowds and soak up some solitude while decent weather is still likely, the best time visit Ohana is after Labor Day or during the week (don’t tell anyone).
For more information, click on Mount Rainier Campgrounds or call: (360) 569-2211.