I love Oregon and tend to be biased toward our many natural treasures. But an advantage to living in Portland is having easy access to not only everything Oregon has to offer, but also the abundance of natural wonders claimed by our neighbor to the north, Washington. The crown jewel is massive Mt. Rainier, one of the earliest national parks and the 2nd tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Topping out at 14,411 feet and capped by 26 major glaciers, the mountain is visible for hundreds of miles around on a clear day. However, you don’t really appreciate Mt. Rainier until you see it up close.
A great place to see the mountain and take a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park is at Sunrise Visitor Center, open early July through late September, weather permitting. Located high above the White River Valley on the east side of the mountain, the Sunrise is, at 6,400 feet, the highest point you can drive to in the park. Views from the visitor center (and even the parking lot) are amazing, but the best views are reserved for people willing to take a bit of a hike. I recommend the Burroughs Mountain Hike, which takes you another 1,000 feet above the visitor center area and about as close to the mountain as you can get without climbing it. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Portland, so it makes for an easy weekend overnight trip or, even better, a three-day weekend. As the least visited area of the park, you have a chance of having a little solitude, or at least not being trampled by other guests the entire time.
Word of warning: a successful trip to Mt. Rainier is very dependent on weather conditions. Even on the clearest of summer days, clouds can quickly popup and obscure the mountain. The best time to visit (i.e. the best chance of getting a clear, sunny day and avoiding the largest crowds) is early on a weekday in late July or early August.