Step away from the Instagram filters. Tucked in the drier, sunnier, southeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park, Ohanapecosh Campground is so chock full of color that not even Crayola can compete. From the crystal clear aquamarine of the Ohanapecosh River to the vibrant evergreens to the reddish hues of tall cedars, Mother Nature busted out her finest pigments at this campground – and you can park your RV right in the thick of it.
Fed by creeks high in the Cascade Mountains, the Ohanapecosh River maintains a bright blue color unseen anywhere else in the park. The one downside: its high-altitude H2O means that this rushing river is pretty frigid even in the hottest months. It’s definitely not swimmer-friendly, but that doesn’t stop some brave souls from taking a dip anyway.
Only a few campsites sit directly along the Ohanapecosh, so you’ll want to reserve yours early for the chance to nestle up right next to it. But procrastinators need not fret: even if you don’t snag a riverside spot, you’ll get to camp under rich green tree canopies made up of Douglas firs, western hemlocks and western red cedars.
Once a popular resort destination, much of Ohanapecosh’s hot springs are now gone, but a self-guided nature hike brings you through ultra-scenic forests to their bubbling remnants. Just beyond the hot springs, the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail travels to an island populate by ancient trees.
And if hot springs and mega-old hemlocks still don’t impress you, another 2.7-mile trails leads from the campground to Silver Falls, where the super-blue river makes its final tumble before heading out to the Pacific.
Or step back and take it all in from Inspiration Point, a large pullout where visitors stop to see the big picture. Here, it’s hard to ignore Mount Rainier jutting into the sky – and why would you? But if you take a short walk to the edge of the viewpoint, you’ll witness other surrounding canyons and summits joining together to form an entire glacial landscape.
But with all due respect to the rest of Mount Rainier’s breathtaking sights, Reflection Lakes truly takes the cake (we hope we can still be friends, Box Canyon). If Mount Rainier were into taking take a mirror selfies, it would take them here, at this set of subalpine lakes that reflects its snow-covered peak back at it somehow more beautifully than it appears in real life. Surrounded by wildflower meadows, Reflection Lakes is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of destination – one that makes you say “absolutely” if you ever start to question whether hitting the road in a home-on-wheels was a bright idea.
It’s a certain type of camper that will truly appreciate Ohanapecosh. One that’s willing to trade in adult swim for quiet nights under a star-studded Washington sky. One who’s willing to go without campground happy hour for a glimpse at the natural artwork done by age-old glaciers. Even if you’re not that type of camper, we recommend trying it just once.