Mount Rainier National Park

Shadows of the Past Tour at Mt. Rainier

The National Park Service announced today it’s Shadows of the Past program, to be held at the Trail of the Shadows near Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park.  The program is a ~90 minute tour along the half-mile trail that will lead families and individuals of all ages into a journey into the past to visit characters such as John Muir, P.B. Van Trump and Fay Fuller among others.  As the walk continues the characters will come to life and share their stories of Mount Rainier.

The program will run 4 nights during the summer: July 10th, July 24th, August 7th, and August 21st.  Ranger-led lantern tours depart every 20 minutes between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The program will be held rain or shine. Bring a warm jacket, insect repellant, a flashlight, and wear sturdy shoes. The program is free with the National Park admission fee.

If you have questions or you are interested in becoming involved in the program as a character or lantern bearer, please contact Lee Snook at (360) 569-2211  *6043

Take a look at this video produced by the National Park Service to see what’s in store:

“Shadows of the Past” – Mount Rainier National Park from Three Moon Bay on Vimeo.


Featured Hike: Bench Lake to Snow Lake

by Three Bears Lodge on June 17, 2010 Category: Hikes

View of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake
Bench Lake to Snow Lake Hike Map - Click for Larger Map

Click for Larger Map

Hike: Bench Lake to Snow Lake
Distance: Approx. 2.5 Miles Round-Trip
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Elevation Gain: Approx. 700 feet
Time: About 1 Hour
Season: Mid-June to October

We received some great comments from last month’s Rampart Ridge Hike, and several requests that we include some hikes near the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier. This week we thought we’d feature the hike to Bench Lake and Snow Lake, an easier and family-friendly trail that has lots of great scenery everyone can enjoy. This 2.5 mile hike offers rolling meadows, beautiful lakes and an amazing uninterrupted view of Mount Rainier.

Though these lakes are located just off the road a few minutes past the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, you’ll feel like you’re miles from everyone after dropping into the basin surrounding the lakes.

The parking area is on the right side of Stevens Canyon Road, about 2 miles from Paradise. The trailhead will lead you South from the parking area and  you’ll wind your way through the meadow area known as The Bench. As you approach Bench Lake, approximately ¾ of a mile into your hike, you’ll get an uninterrupted view of Mt. Rainier and its reflection upon the lake.

As you continue your hike you’ll follow the trail another ½ mile to reach Snow Lake. Snow Lake is formed by Unicorn Creek, which in turn is formed by ice and melting snow from Unicorn Peak just above the lake. The lake sits surrounded on the East, South, and West by a tall ridge, blocking most sunlight and leaving the lake almost as cold as the ice and snow above it. You can usually find blocks of ice floating in the lake throughout the year, leaving no doubt as to how the lake earned its name.

The trail features rolling hills and a relatively short distance, so this hike is recommended for families with children and those looking for a quick day hike and some amazing photo opportunities in the National Park.  This hike is a great addition to a stop at Ohanapecosh in the Southeast end of the park to hike the Grove of the Patriarchs path featuring old-growth forest and some of the largest trees in the region.

View of Bench Lake from the Trail

View of Bench Lake from the Trail

Photo Credits: View of Mt. Rainier from Bench Lake & View of Bench Lake from the Trail.


New Henry Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

If you’re planning a trip to Mount Rainier National Park, the drive to Paradise should be at the top of your “must-see” list. Famous for its beautiful meadows covered in wildflowers during the summer and its close proximity to the glaciers of Mount Rainier, Paradise is the most visited area of the park throughout the year. It’s also the location of the main visitor center for the National Park, known as the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center.

Located at an elevation of 5,400 feet, the Paradise area surrounding the visitor center receives an average of 680 inches of snowfall (nearly 57 feet) every year, making it the “snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly.”  Despite the impressive amount of snow that accumulates here each winter, the Jackson Visitor Center is open year-round.

Originally known as the Paradise Visitor Center, the building was renamed in 1987 to commemorate the life of Henry M. Jackson. Jackson was a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator for the state of Washington from 1941 until his passing on September 1st, 1983.  He was instrumental in the creation of the first Paradise Visitor Center in 1966 as part of the National Park Service’s “Mission 66″ park renewal program.

Old Henry Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park

The Old Jackson Visitor Center

The original visitor center, seen to the right, was frequently criticized for both its appearance as well as its functionality. The building was said by many to look like a flying saucer, and local residents likened it to a sunken version of Seattle’s Space Needle. Furthermore the building was not properly engineered to handle the snowfall at Paradise. The building’s structure was so inadequate that the Park Service spent 300 to 500 gallons of diesel fuel per day during the snow season – which lasts more than 6 months of the year – just to melt the snow on the building to prevent the roof from collapsing.  This amounted to an annual power bill of nearly $190,000 for the building.

Recognizing this inefficiency, the Park Service began construction of a new visitor center in 2006. Still known as the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, the new building opened to the public on October 10, 2008, and was followed by demolition of the original visitor center in spring of 2009. Inspired by the traditional style of the historic buildings found throughout the rest of the park, the new visitor center was designed to withstand the heavy snowfall that occurs throughout the winter.

Interior of the New Jackson Visitor Center

Interior of the New Jackson Visitor Center

Heating for the new energy-efficient building costs 77% less than the original building.  The savings are largely due to a pitched metal roof designed to shed snow, energy-efficient windows, and a reduction in the new building’s size of 70% to 18,000 square feet.  These energy savings will amount to an estimated $7 million during the life of the building, which cost $21.2 million to build.

With almost 2 million visitors each year at Mount Rainier National Park, the new visitor center receives a lot of traffic.  The updated interior of the visitor center features informative displays on local wildlife, mountain climbing at Mt. Rainier, diagrams on how the inside of the volcano works, and even a theater that plays a movie about the National Park’s history (On a side note, the film crew stayed at our cabins during filming!).  The traditional style of the new building may not draw the same attention as the former “flying saucer,” but it will certainly create just as many memories for Paradise visitors for years to come.

Photo Credits:



National Parks vs. National Forests: What’s the Difference?

by Three Bears Lodge on May 26, 2010 Category: Did You Know?

Mount Rainier National Park Entrance

For the average person, there’s a little-known distinction between our National Parks and our National Forests. Many believe them to be more or less the same thing, and in many ways, they can be! Both are large, natural areas owned and managed by the Federal government, both are devoted to the protection of America’s natural heritage, and both are intended to educate and entertain us when we feel that urge to reconnect with the world around us.

America’s First National Park

National Park Service Logo

Logo of the National Park Service

In 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Act establishing Yellowstone as the country’s first National Park. Yellowstone, home to Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful, was the first in a legacy of National Parks that stretches nearly a century and a half into the future.

Created in 1916, the primary purpose of the National Park Service is to manage the 84.9 million acres of land in the National Park System. The Park Service has a minimal impact policy when it comes to protecting the National Parks. Most people have heard this policy in the form of slogans, such as “Leave only footprints, take only pictures.”

Here’s some quick facts about the National Park Service:

  • Of the 84.9 million acres under management, Alaska has 55 million acres
  • 3.6% of all land in the U.S. is in the National Park System!
  • Hunting, fishing, and logging are not allowed on National Park land
  • There are 26,830 campsites, located in a total of 776 campgrounds!
  • There are a total of 55 National Parks
  • The National Park Service also manages 24 historic National Battlefields, 74 National Monuments, 10 National Seashores, and 54 Wilderness Areas
  • There were 272 million visits to National Park Service lands in 2007
  • 154,000 volunteers donated 5.1 million hours of time in 2007, saving the Park Service over 92 million dollars

Here at Three Bears Lodge, we’re lucky to be located near a protected natural haven of our own. Our cabins are located just moments outside Mount Rainier National Park, and provide an inspiring opportunity to spend the day discovering the Northwest’s richest arboreal treasures. You can explore it almost any way you like, from ranger-guided tours to motorcycle or the seat of a car, on two wheels for biking the trails or two feet for hiking them. While hunting and fishing are prohibited, feel free to capture as many wild animals on film as you like (or mountain meadows, blossoming flowers, bubbling streams, and alpine lakes)!

National Forests: “The Greatest Amount of Good for The Greatest Amount of People”

US Forest Service Logo

Logo of the US Forest Service

Unlike the National Park Service, which defends and protects our National Parks, the US Forest Service acts more as a steward to our National Forests. Where the National Parks function somewhat like a forested museum, the National Forests operate as a natural resource to the public at large.

Though the land is owned by the government, commercial activities such as logging, grazing livestock, and recreational pastimes are all allowed and regulated. Many popular skiing and snowboarding destinations are located on National Forest land, and hunting, fishing, camping, water sports, and picnicking are all popular outdoor activities.

The first Chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, offered a simple and accurate summary of the National Forests’ purpose: “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.” The National Forests are a functional complement to the grandeur and treasured beauty of the National Parks.

Here’s some quick facts about the US Forest Service:

  • There are over 192 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands located in 42 states
  • 122,000 campsites located in 4,300 campgrounds
  • An average of 205 million visits to National Forests annually

National Parks and National Forests Working Together

Here in Ashford you get the best of both worlds. Though our cabins are located next to the National Park entrance, most of the land to the South of the park, including Mount St. Helens, is part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. One of our cabins even backs up to National Forest right in the back yard!

To the North of the National Park, you’ll find the beginning of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which winds its way North through the Cascades all the way to the Canadian border. Both forests offer a truly rugged outdoor experience and allow many activities that you might not be able to do in the National Park, not to mention allowing dogs.

Photo courtesy Kane Jamison


Featured Hike: Rampart Ridge Trail

by Three Bears Lodge on May 26, 2010 Category: Hikes

Rampart Ridge Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Rampart Ridge Map

Click for Large Map

Distance: Approximately 5 miles
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation Gain: Approximately 1400 feet
Time: About 2.5 Hours
Season: Mid-June to October
Dogs Allowed: No

As the snow in Mount Rainier National Park begins to melt in early summer, more and more great hiking opportunities present themselves. One trail that becomes hikeable in mid-June is the Rampart Ridge Trail. Created by ancient lava flow from Mount Rainier, Rampart Ridge is located near Longmire, just a few minutes inside the Southwest Ashford entrance to the park. You’ll find the trail just across the street from the National Park Inn. The nearly 5 mile loop offers beautiful scenery and a short but challenging climb to the top of Rampart Ridge.

View of Mt Rainier from Rampart Ridge

View of Mt Rainier from Rampart Ridge

For the best views of Mt. Rainier you should take the loop clockwise. To reach the Rampart Ridge Trail, start out along the 0.75 mile Trail of the Shadows, a quick loop and good day hike alternative for families with small children. At the back of the Trail of Shadows you’ll find the trailhead for Rampart Ridge. Once you begin the hike you’ll quickly ascend nearly 1400 feet. Switchbacks will lead you up and through douglas firs to reach the top of the ridge, where the path quickly levels off. The hike up is steep, but the payoff is quick once you reach the top of the ridge, since hikers are rewarded with gorgeous uninterrupted views of Mt. Rainier. Follow the ridge until you meet up with the Wonderland Trail to take you back down to Longmire, about 2 miles further.

The hike should take approximately 2.5 hours for the average hiker. Be sure to bring your camera for the wildlife and scenic views. Keep in mind that the trail may still have snow until late June, so come prepared for a little mud or cold wind at the top of the ridge.

For an awesome day trip through Mt. Rainier National Park try pairing this hike with a stop at Paradise to see the Henry Jackson Visitor Center, a quick 2.5 mile hike from Bench Lake to Snow Lake, and a short drive to Ohanapecosh to hike through Grove of the Patriarchs.

Rampart Ridge Hike Map

Click for larger map of Rampart Ridge Trail