Area: Ohanapecosh Hike Type: Family-friendly Pass: Natl. Park Pass
Distance: 1.5 mi RT Duration: 1 hr Difficulty Level: Easy
Elevation Start: 2,200 Elevation End: 2,200 Elevation Gain: 0
Snow-Free: June – Oct  

This is, perhaps, one of the easiest hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, but one of the most memorable because it’s like entering a magical kingdom. This is rare, even in a region with so many really big trees. Think about it. Doesn’t “the grove of the patriarchs” have that special ring to it? Like a Tolkien ring? You’ll walk through a forest of old growth trees, some a thousand years old, onto an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River. Better than some new world created for a virtual reality game, it’s all there for you to enjoy again and again.

How do you get to this special place? On the east side of Mt. Rainier, drive to the Stevens Canyon entrance on Highway 123. Proceed about 1/4 of a mile on the Stevens Canyon Road across the Ohanapecosh River bridge to the trailhead parking area on the right, elevation about 2,200 ft. The parking lot, which accommodates about two dozen cars, generally is full during the summer. The trail goes upstream through a stand of old, tall, exquisite red cedars, erect like guards, protecting what lies ahead. The path leads to a crossing of the Ohanapecosh River on a suspension bridge at just less than 1/2 of a mile. Go over the bridge in single file, following directions on a sign suggesting one person at a time. Upon crossing the bridge, you reach the island. After passing through smaller trees, the path forks. Go either way. It’s a loop.

Signs identify plants and describe features of this habitat. Isolated on the island, these regal giants have been protected from fire, thus, allowing them to grow to enormous size. So, in this small area, you have many trees that are more than 25 ft in circumference, at least one approaching 50 ft, and some over 1,000 years old.

One thing is clear. This is a sacred place. A place to be humble. These ancient Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and western red cedars deserve respect and reverence. After all, by human measure, many of these on the island were on earth when the Normans conquered England in the 11th century. Walk, don’t run, and show proper esteem. Take your time walking through this island paradise. You don’t have to worry about being voted off this island. The survivors are REALLY the massive trees that have literally stood the test of time. They’re timeless warriors. Admire them; take pictures of your family by them. Have someone take pictures of you by the trees and cherish the memory of your visit.

Starting Point: 46.758056, -121.5575
Notable Waypoints:

Trailhead: N 46° 45′ 29, W 121° 33′ 27

Grove: N 46° 45′ 45, W 121° 33′ 11

About The Author

Karen Sykes

Karen (1943-2014) was a Washington native, born in Shelton and lived in Washington most of her life. She started to hike in 1979 and joined The Mountaineers the following year. By the 1980s she was leading hikes for the Seattle branch of The Mountaineers. Around the same time, she began writing articles for Signpost Magazine (Pack and Paddle) and contributed to so many hiking reports that her name became familiar to other hikers. She was contacted by The Seattle Post Intelligencer to write the “Hike of the Week” which turned into years of writing this weekly column, until The Seattle Post Intelligencer stopped their printing presses in 2009.

Two of Karen’s books have been published by Mountaineer Books – Hidden Hikes (out of print) and Best Wildflower Hikes with Al Kruckeberg and Craig Romano. Karen was as passionate about photography as she was about hiking and both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post Intelligencer have published her photographs.