White River, at Mount Rainier
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If you're not camping, it may be easy to pass up a visit to a campground. But be sure you don't miss out on a drive out to White River. There are hiking opportunities here, and a great view of the mountain -- all of which you can enjoy, even without camping.
The White River Campground area is located on the road to Sunrise, on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park. Before the road starts climbing towards Sunrise, watch for a road that takes you to the left. The campground, and river, are about 6 miles from WA-410, and only a mile from Sunrise Park Road.
Drive out to the end of the road at White River, and you'll see some restrooms. Hike the trail that goes below the restrooms...
... and you'll end up here, crossing a couple of log-bridges...
... which take you over the rushing waters of the Inter Fork of the White River. From the middle of those bridges...
... you'll have a nice view upstream, looking at part of Mount Rainier. Much of this water comes from the melt-off of Inter Glacier, a small icefield on the northeast face of Steamboat Prow (elev. 9,680 feet/2,950 meters).
Take some time to build a cairn at the edge of the water...
... or admire the wildflowers blooming here. At this lower elevation (the campground is at 4,232 feet/1,290 meters), I'd suspect that the flowers here begin blooming earlier than at Sunrise. Fortunately, in late August, I hadn't missed them.
You can get a look at Inter Glacier by hiking the Glacier Basin Trail, which begins at White River. The 6 mile (round trip) trail was heavily damaged in the devastating 2006 floods, but has since been repaired -- and in many places, completely rebuilt with the help of the Washington Trails Association (which publishes a very helpful trail guidebook). On the way to Glacier Basin Camp, you can also take a steep side trail that heads up to Second Burroughs Mountain -- possibly avoiding the frozen patches that caused me to turn back on the Burroughs Trail.
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