Mount Rainier & Gingko Petrified Forest, Washington

We spent the next few days getting across the state of Washington. This included stops in both Mineral and Vantage, more places you’ve probably never heard of before. But both hold some special treasures.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mineral, WA is an unincorporated area located near Mount Rainier National Park. I may have totally forgotten my Passport to Your National Parks book so I couldn’t collect more stamps but that wasn’t going to stop me from visiting the parks.

Did you know Mount Rainier is the 16th most visited national park in the United States?

Breathtaking views and snow packed hikes make this a fun park to explore. In fact, there was a sign suggesting that route guidance and risk assessment skills were recommended. Would we have avoided the hike if we’d seen the sign on the way in instead of the way out? Probably not. We are always up for a challenge!

The Skyline Trail is 5.6 mile looping trail that takes you up into the Alpine Zone above the tree line. We read that there was still snow on the trail this time of year but didn’t expect the amount of snow there was! The trail is pretty busy, and pretty steep, until you get to Glacier Viewpoint (clockwise) where you can see the Nisqually Glacier.

Past this point the trail becomes almost deserted. The snowy hills become quite challenging to ascend without hiking boots and poles but we weren’t deterred and we did have the proper equipment. Past Panorama Point, the trail becomes difficult to identify. We got a bit off track at one point and were scrabbling across some pretty steep rocky cliffs. But, alas, we are still here to share the details so we must have made it…

It’s definitely possible that, without the Alltrails GPS map, we could have gotten totally lost because the trail was completely snow covered and often very few signs of other hikers.

We opted to take the shorter, Golden Gates Falls trail rather than go the entire way around Skyline. This trail, however, seemed even less traveled. At one point, we decided the safest way down was to SLIDE down. Who said you can’t have fun after 50?

Even the marmots were falling on the snow!

We also saw mountain goats. Just cross your eyes while squinting to make it out…

But don’t you just want to cuddle with one of these marmots?

Or how about the chipmunks that are happy to share your trail mix?

This hike was definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far!

Elkamp Eastcreek Campground in Mineral, WA

Our park was Elkamp Eastcreek Campground in Mineral. The campground was beautifully situated in some old growth moss covered forest right next to a creek and a meadow. The spaces were very large but not well organized. The meadow had some trails mowed into the tall grasses that Rizzo loved to explore off leash.

Gingko Petrified Forest

Next up is an overnight stay in Vantage, Washington. Here we took a late evening hike through the Gingko Petrified Forest. Having visited the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona as kids, we thought it would be fun to explore this one as well. However, since this one is totally open without a gated entry, all the examples are kept in well secured cages.

While most petrified wood is created when sediment or fallen ash settle on them, the Gingko Petrified Forest was created when water-soaked logs were protected from flowing lava until they were completed covered.

The 2 mile hike around the area crosses a very windy high desert but is a great evening walk.

The Wanapum State Park Campground in Vantage, WA

The campground is located on a water reservoir but surrounded by high desert and experiences extremely high winds. Tent camping is not recommended by the park and we’d whole-heartedly agree! This trailer was definitely rockin…, get your mind out of the gutter.

This was also our first taste of some really warm weather on the trip. Ugg, bring back the snow.

The Stats

Miles hiked at this stop – 16.75

Animal Sightings to date – Up to 17 and Yellowstone is yet to come…