It’s surprisingly difficult to find a good place to photograph Mount Rainier from the west side. You’re either in the middle of trees or residential areas, and although the mountain is there, it’s rarely in clear view, without any houses or power lines in the way.
If you end up traveling on Washington Route 161 (a north-south route that connects the park entrance road, Route 706, with Puyallup and the Seattle/Tacoma metro area), you’ll find one very good viewpoint near the town of Eatonville:
This roadside picnic area and viewpoint is located at the intersection of 161 and Eatonville Cutoff Road (across the street from the gas station).
There’s a brief description of the mountain, along with a few places to sit.
During my 2004 visit to Washington, this is about as close to Rainier as I got (I did find another viewpoint near Elbe, probably at Alder Lake). It’s hard to believe it took me seven years to get back here. But at least this time, I got to see much more of Washington’s iconic mountain.
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, to the Puyallup area. It was shot at a bad time of day (late evening), so the video isn’t great, but it will still give you some idea of what to expect: