Sunset at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

Sunset at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

Living in Seattle, it's impossible to overlook Mount Rainier on the southern horizon. Even as I drive into work on a clear day, I see the mountain towering OVER the skyscrapers downtown, despite being another 70 miles to the south.

With the days being so long as they are right now, it's tempting to try to make a trip down to Rainier even on a normal work day. This past week Seattle experienced a heat wave which lead to unusually clear skies. I decided this was the opportunity to take advantage of good conditions and long days, and I made a mid-week overnight trip to Mount Rainier on Thursday evening.

I left after work, and quickly set up my tent at the White River campground just below the Sunrise Visitor Center, which just opened up a week or so earlier. I arrived with enough time to do some location scouting where I found my ideal sunrise location. I continued to explore a bit as sunset approached and before I was ready sunset arrived and I had to make due with the location I was in. I ended up focusing on the Cowlitz Chimneys to the east, and Mount Rainier to the west, but my least obstructed views were about a quarter mile apart, and I found myself running back and forth between these two spots several times.

This was taken just after sunset, when the last of the alpenglow disappeared off the western face of Mount Rainier (being taken from the east, there was very little visible here). A few clouds lingered overhead and suddenly took on the beautiful pink colors that were hitting the mountain just before (which required me to run the quarter mile back to this spot again). To really emphasize the color and contrast, I shot this with a circular polarizer.

At 14,411ft in elevation, Mount Rainier is the 2nd highest peak in the continental U.S. (less than 100 feet shorter than Mount Whitney). From this perspective you are looking at about 10,000ft of that elevation gain. The views from the Sunrise Visitors Center are, so far, my favorite in the park. It was a great pleasure to visit the area on such a beautiful night, without another person around at the time - it was like my own private viewing.

I packed everything up and made it back to camp for about 4 sleepless hours in the tent before getting up to shoot the sunrise the next morning. At least now I've answered the question for myself as to whether or not it's possible to make it down to the park in time for sunset even on a normal workday - it is, and it's absolutely worth it.

Nikon D90 | Nikon 18-200VR@26mm | f/9 | 1/4s | ISO200 | Tripod | Polarizer

See more related images in my Mount Rainier National Park Gallery.

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