On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late July the parking lot at Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park – elevation 6,400 feet – is full of visitors speaking German, Spanish, and Japanese. Dozens of hikers are setting off in different directions, often in large groups and led by guides. The cafe and gift shop are thronged, and latecomers must park a quarter mile back from the lot aside the main road.
Dollars Flow to Washington From Mount Rainier National Park Visitors
The stunning close-up views of the mountain and abundant trail network at Sunrise are a world-class attraction and one big reason that Mount Rainier visitors generate an annual economic impact estimated in a 2013 report at $33 million.
It’s part of a broader annual direct economic impact from U.S. national parks visitors of $13 billion, in communities within 60 miles of the sites. That grows to $30 billion nationwide when induced economic benefits are calculated. The peer-reviewed report was done by researchers at Michigan State University.
Washington’s Natural Assets Also Attract Top Talent To Businesses
For Washington state such natural assets not only add to gross state product but to quality of life and well-being, helping to draw top-tier talent to the state for jobs in technology, other business sectors, and academia – which in turn add to opportunity and employment for a wide array of service workers.
“Mount Rainier National Park is a stunning example of the grandeur and influence of the forces of nature, and the deep relationship that people have had with these lands and waters for centuries. A park undergoing constant physical change, Mount Rainier is also home to nationally significant set of historic places that tell an important park of the National Park story in the United States,” said park Deputy Superintendent Tracy Swartout in a statement issued when the study was released.
Swartout added, “The mountain attracts visitors from across the U.S. and around the world. While their destination may be the National Park, they also spend time and money in our neighboring communities. The National Park Service is proud to have been entrusted with the care of America’s most treasured places and delighted that the visitors we welcome generate significant contributions to the local, state, and national economy.”
Sunrise – A Gem in Mount Rainier National Park
Sunrise is different from many other parts of the park and elsewhere in the Northwest’s stellar network of public hiking lands – because the pay-off starts from the get-go. Even teens who groan at the prospect of a weekend hike with their parents are singing a different tune shortly after starting out from Sunrise, which is best accessed between late July and late September.
A great showcase of the park’s grandeur and accessibility is the hike to Burroughs Mountain from the Sunrise base. It’s broken into three segments, called First, Second and Third Burroughs. The 7.4-mile round trip to Second Burroughs has a modest elevation gain of 1,000 feet on the “out” leg. Toddlers, teens, adults and seniors enjoy the sweeping views which include not only Mount Rainier straight ahead but Mount Baker to the north. You’ll also catch glimpses of Seattle and Bellevue and quite possibly, a dozen-plus mountain goats chilling out a patch of snow. Entering Sunrise, Mount Adams looms to the south.
- From the outset, it’s clear your hike from Sunrise to Second Burroughs is a journey into sweeping vistas. Photo: Matt Rosenberg
Anyone in moderately good physical condition can do the Second Burroughs hike.
- On final approach, a reminder of your place in the scheme of things. Photo: Matt Rosenberg
The Second Burroughs destination is a wide-open viewpoint of Rainier with plenty of natural rest spots.
- There’s plenty of seating to dine al fresco at Second Burroughs. Photo: Matt Rosenberg
If you’re driving northwest from Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park toward Seattle, the Eastside or Kent Valley, stop at the Pie Goddess in downtown Enumclaw for a delectable fruit or cream pie.
- A sweet reward for your labors on the trail. Photo: Matt Rosenberg
Closer to Sunrise, ride the gondola at Crystal Mountain, or explore the town of Greenwater. There, get a seat in the outdoor beer garden at the Naches Tavern, a venerable dive with a horseshoes pit, a good chicken caesar Cobb salad, chili, milkshakes and burgers.
Make Washington a Magnet for Tourism, Investment and International Trade – PLAN Washington Economic Development Strategy #3