It is over a 3 hour drive (probably closer to 4 hr) from Mt. Rainier to Cannon Beach once you get out of the park at Ashford. Have you considered a visit to Mt. St. Helens, our resident volcano? You could spend the night in either Castle Rock or Kelso/Longview and drive up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory the next day (about a 3 hr round trip from I-5) and still have plenty of time to get to Cannon Beach by late afternoon.Edited: 15 July 2012, 17:42
Would you recommend Mt. St. Helen over Mt. Rainier? We are looking for mountain views and waterfalls.
Mt. Rainier is definitely the one for views and waterfalls.
Mt. St. Helens, however, is worth an extra 3 hour detour, if you have the time. It is still considered an active volcano, the only one in the lower 48 states, although it has not done any steaming for several years. In May of 1980 when the mountain erupted, it blew the entire top of the mountain off one side, caused unbelievable amounts of ash to travel around the world, and 57 people who were working or camping in the area of the eruption lost their lives. The 3 visitor centers along the road to Johnston Ridge offer some great views and some very interesting history of the mountain.
The Johnston Ridge Observatory has some wonderful interactive displays that give you an insight into what caused the mountain to erupt with such a horrific blast.
From the observatory you can view the crater that was left when the top/side of the mountain blew away and see some of the lava dome that has grown inside the crater. The recovery of that area that 30 years ago looked like a moonscape is just fascinating.Edited: 15 July 2012, 23:48
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