If you are like me, you do a lot of research before travelling to a new location for photography. Usually by the time I finish searching Google, Flickr and the local library, I have a comprehensive list of the ‘best’ spots. Which is why I’m delighted when find a ‘new’ location.
Mt. Rainier has a long list of outstanding photo vistas: the wildflower fields at Paradise, Myrtle Falls, Reflection Lakes, the view at Tipsoo Lake, etc. Plus a lot of photographers have spilled gallons of ink about this wonderful National Park so I didn’t truly expect to find anything new.
I had been at Reflection Lake trying to get a sunset shot of Mt. Rainier, but the summit was clouded over (even though the rest of the sky was clear). I finally decided to start heading back on Stevens Canyon road and try a spot I had seen earlier: Inspiration Point.
Inspiration Point is an overlook with a large pull-out about a half mile before Stevens Canyon Rd ends at Paradise Valley Road. The main attraction there is the magnificent in your face view of Mt. Rainier. But when I had stopped there earlier, I had also noticed a pretty little valley you could see from southern end of the parking lot (see black and white photo).
The sun had already set when I got there and a large group of frustrated photographers were standing in a line on the northern edge of the parking lot trying to get a shot of Rainier which was still stubbornly lurking behind a bank of clouds.
Then I glanced to the east and immediately forgot all about Rainier.
The view was mesmerizing. I could have sworn I was standing at Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies: Layers of overlapping blue mountains stretched out to the orange horizon. I set up my tripod and got to work.
A few minutes later, the orange glow faded and the moon popped out. I continued shooting for a while, then just sat down and enjoyed the view as the sky slowly darkened and the stars began their nightly show.
As I drove back to my room, I thought about Inspiration Point and was more than a bit surprised: It seemed to be a wonderful vista (obviously that’s how it got its name) but I couldn’t ever remember seeing a photo taken from here during my research. On the other hand, who travels to Mt Rainier, stands right in front of it, then turns around and takes a photo in the opposite direction?
Now, don’t get me wrong. This will never be an iconic location. I mean if you find yourself near Paradise and Rainier is visible, by all means head to one of the well known spots for your sunset shot. But if the mountain is obscured by clouds, take a drive up to Inspiration Point, the view may not be famous but it is memorable nonetheless….plus you would have to drive another 2,500 miles to see a similar view at Clingman’s Dome!
Here is a map to show you the exact spot.
Here’s to surprises and new vistas!
Inspiration Point: A “new” location for Photography at Mt. Rainier NP
New Mt. Rainier Photo Location