By Sara Graham
Ohanapecosh Campground is the best kept secret in Mount Rainier National Park. The campground is nestled halfway between Paradise and Sunrise in the southeast corner of the park near the Stevens Canyon entrance making it the perfect home base for exploring the mountain.
I can’t believe no one has ever told me about this place. Every summer I ride my bike around the mountain. This year being my 20th excursion I decided to change my course and turn right onto Highway 123 heading towards Packwood. I had seen Ohanapecosh on my green trails map of Mt. Rainier and wanted to see what it was. I was so surprised at the great forested campground with its own visitor center that it will no longer be a secret—I want everyone to know.
As you drive into the campground you will feel welcomed by the towering fir trees that make up the old growth forest. The green mossy carpet of ground cover makes everything seem so clean. The rushing Ohanapecosh river runs right through it inviting you to come stay and play. There are 188 spacious tent sites with no electrical hookups, multiple restrooms and trails galore to explore. I was excited to ride my bike on the newly paved loops to find a perfect camping spot.
It is a tongue twister just to pronounce Ohanapecosh which translates to “standing on the edge.” I went to the visitor center and talked to a ranger who explained a fun fact about Ohanapecosh. He told me that Native Americans had used the word to describe the deep pool formed 4 miles downstream where the river drops 500 feet almost coming to a complete stop creating a deep blue pool where they would “stand at the edge” to fish and enjoy its beauty. The pool is located just 5.5 miles from the campground. Be sure to take time to check it out.
There are several family friendly hikes with trailheads that start in the campground. The short Hot Springs Trail is located behind the visitor center and leads to a lush, green meadow where you can see hot springs bubbling out of the ground. Make sure to feel the water—it is so warm!
The Silver Falls loop is the main attraction hike. It is 2.7 miles on a well-trod trail suitable for families. There are wooden bridges to cross with giant rock walls and waterfalls to walk by. You can connect to the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail to add an extra mile to your hike. The grove is home to some of the oldest, biggest trees in the Pacific NW, a place where the infamous Big Foot would feel right at home.
The campground is open from May thru October. There are first come first serve sites as well as reservations at recreation.gov. Sites are $20 per night.
While you are there you can visit Packwood—10 miles down Highway 123 and enjoy great coffee and treats at the Mountain Goat Coffee Co. Make sure to take photos on the giant iron bicycle on the front lawn.
On the way home be sure to stop at Wapiti Outdoors in Greenwater, just south of Enumclaw for great souvenirs and ice cream.
Happy adventures to you!