Marine Memorial at Mount Rainier National Park
HIKE DESCRIPTION: Mount Rainier National Park’s Westside Road offers visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors and pay tribute to military veterans on Memorial Day weekend.
A 3.7-mile hike on the stretch of Westside Road closed to motorists takes visitors uphill to the Marine Memorial.
The memorial is a boulder with a large plaque inscribed with the names of 32 Marines killed in 1946 when their plane crashed into Mount Rainier. The crew was traveling from San Diego to Seattle.
On clear days, the South Tahoma Glacier where the plane crashed is visible from the memorial.
While the hike climbs most of the way to the memorial at 3,900 feet above sea level, the grade isn’t steep compared to many of the park’s trails. The road was closed to vehicles after storm damage in 1990.
Bikes are permitted on the road, but not on the trails that branch off from the road. The way may currently be impassable for cyclists, according to the park.
The park in late April also cautioned visitors that the road suffered major damage between Dry Creek, the end of the maintained road, and the former Tahoma Creek Trailhead. Tahoma Creek flooded last fall and washed out the old roadbed. The washout makes it a challenge to hike because of steep banks. Riding a bike through the area, the park said, would require carrying a bike around the washout, which would be extremely difficult. At this time, there is no maintained route around the washout. Conditions beyond the washout are unknown, but park officials say visitors on Westside Road should expect patches of snow, downed trees and more washouts.
Many of the side trails offer tempting side trips to places such as the Gobbler’s Knob lookout and the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge, but these trails are usually covered with snow this early in the season.
DIRECTIONS: Enter Mount Rainier National Park at the Nisqually Entrance via state Route 706. Turn left on Westside Road and continue for 3 miles and park near the end of the driving section of the road.
DIFFICULTY RATING: 3 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
MILES ROUND TRIP: 7.4.
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,000 feet.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: Year-round. (Skis or snowshoes may be needed in colder months.)
MAP: Green Trails 269: Mount Rainier West.
PASS: $25 per vehicle good for seven days.
ALSO: The entry fee to Mount Rainier National Park increases to $25 from $20 on Friday (May 27). It is the second $5 increase in as many years for many national parks. A basic map of the park is available at the Nisqually entrance. More detailed maps are available at stores in Ashford and at Longmire. Dogs are not permitted on trails at Mount Rainier National Park. There are no geocaches hidden along this route.