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Ride This! – Mt. Rainier – Stevens Canyon

This Rainier ride has a similar ride sensation to the Sunrise / Cayuse pass ride that I posted up a while ago. (link here) Mountain riding, high altitude, snowbanks, epic valley views, tree lines and killer pacific north-west tree canopy roads circumnavigation of Mt. Rainier with Stevens Canyon.

Four phases of the ride:

  1. a mellow warm up to the park entrance.
  2. a visually mind-blowing climb up Steven’s Canyon all the way to Paradise
  3. a killer descent down through curvy smooth fast roads of Longmire
  4. a tree-canopied roller filled river ride back to the start

One of the purposes of this trip was to explore/verify a bailout option, should the weather get bad, or you want to eliminate 17 miles there is a light gravel shortcut. Happy to report that this is a legitimate shortcut which goes from Longmire to the middle of Skate Creek Rd (NF52). We will be using this on future trips so that we can front-load the routes with more climbs like Sunrise and Chinook Point, making for some big days. Shortcut here.

June 5th 2018 – The start point is Packwood, WA. Which is about 2 and half hours from Portland, Oregon. We started the day at a coffee shop called The Mountain Goat. There’s tons of unrestricted street parking alongside the road, so probably don’t park in their lot. We navigate anticlockwise, this is the best way to go. Best views, best descent, best overall ride rhythm.

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For us, the day was perfect, started out a little cold but got into the high 50’s. The weather was cloudy and Rainier had a cloud cap all day, not making for the best photographs, but riding conditions were optimal, not too hot and not sun baked.

The Warm Up

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Out of Packwood, a mellow ride before entering the Park. Yep you have to pay $10 per bicycle to enter the park.

Stevens Canyon

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Stevens Canyon is the visual highlight of the trip, since we are ascending we have plenty of time to take in the valley views, deep ravines and rock formations. As you near the top the spectacular views of the switchbacks of Stephens Canyon.rainier_webs-14rainier_webs-15rainier_webs-16rainier_webs-17

If you are early enough in the season you will see snow off to the sides around the 4900ft elevation mark of Reflection Lake. rainier_webs-18rainier_webs-19

To your left are killer views of the Tatoosh Wilderness area and mountain range (Stevens, Unicorn and Pinnacle Peak)

Visitors Center @ Paradise

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Mid-ride is the top, Paradise visitors centre, up-close views of Rainier can be had here at 5500 ft. Food and water are available at the visitor’s centre at visitor centre prices! so take a ton of bills. Fuel up and the water and the bathrooms are free. Summer this place is gonna be chockablock, but that’s cool coz you don’t have to park your car.

Longmire Descent

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The roads have just been paved as of Sept 2017, yep that means amazing roads to ride down. They did not disappoint, flowing curves, scattered with stops for lookout stops. Ricksecker ViewPoint comes at mile 39 don’t blow past it. On the way down a couple of cool viewpoints and glacier ravines / Nisqually glacier that formed Nisqually river.

The Short Cut

Midway in this descent is the shortcut, left turn at Longmire (mile 44).

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It chops out 17miles, should the weather turn bad, or you just don’t have the ompf in your legs. Bailout here, the turn winds through what looks like a military barracks but is actually Rainier National Parks Facilities – this routes you over a cool looking bridge which crosses the Nisqually river, through a campsite area, Nisqually Indian Reservation area and down a short lightly gravelled road (NF012), cutting into the last leg of Skate Creek Rd. (NF52)

Skate Creek Rd (NF52)

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NF52 is a tree-canopied road that runs alongside Horse Creek, an offshoot of Nasqually River which puts you directly back to Packwood. 13miles with the shortcut option.

Summary

A good amount of climbing but all front loaded. Low traffic even in peak season with generally wide roads, which makes for a lower stress ride. Viewpoints everywhere to capture the mtn blowing feel of this area, and descending down towards Longmire on the second half is super fun while travelling at 30mph which means taking the lane with cars is not a problem.

Post ride we recommend going to a burger place called Cliff Droppers. For some reason, it was closed the day we were up there, but most times open till 7pm.

Details

Full Route – https://ridewithgps.com/routes/27726615

  • 77 miles – 6,500 ft Elevation Gain
  • Smooth pavement with the exception of  Skate Creek which can be a little rough.
  • $10 needed for park admission.
  • Road bike is fine
  • Water and food services
    • Paradise visitor center (mile 33)
    • Longmire (mile44)

Short Cut Route – https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28013506

  • 60 Miles – 5,900ft Elevation Gain
  • Mainly smooth pavement with the exception of  Skate Creek which can be a little rough.
  • 1mile of light gravel on NF012
  • $10 needed for park admission.
  • Road bike is fine
  • Water and food services
    • Paradise visitor center (mile 33)
    • Longmire (mile44)

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