As you drive deeper into old growth forest, drawing closer and closer to the Nisqually Entrance of Mt. Rainier, the message on AM 1610 reminds you that you’ll soon leave gas stations and cell service far behind.
Passing through the town of Ashford, you notice clusters of gray-blue rock that resemble mini mountain ranges. Then you see something like a little village. Welcome to Rainier Basecamp.
Discovering Rainier Basecamp
For nearly 30 years, the Basecamp has been a refuge for mountaineers and tourists alike. Located six miles west of the Nisqually Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park, it is one of the last links to civilization (and cell service) before heading into the park.
At one end of this Ashford village are the red-roofed BaseCamp Cottages. At the other end is the green-roofed Whittaker’s Bunkhouse where a rocker sits outside each door on a country-style porch. Whittaker’s Café and Espresso is attached to the roadside end of the Bunkhouse and offers all-day breakfast and specialty drinks.
Between these two lodging options is everything else an adventurer needs. An Old West-style building houses Whittaker Mountaineering, a destination for gear and rentals, and RMI Expeditions, a mountaineering guide service. Up the hill, a pea gravel patio features picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. The Basecamp Bar & Grill opens out onto the patio, offering fare like burgers and pizza.
The village even includes a yurt and a visitors center. Use the map below to explore Rainier Basecamp. Click markers to read more about each spot. Use the back arrow to collapse descriptions and return to the main map. Keep scrolling to read the rest of the article.
The Whittaker Family Legacy
Rainier BaseCamp is an important part of the mountaineering legacy of the Whittaker family.
Whittaker’s Bunkhouse is owned by Lou Whittaker, a Northwest mountaineering legend. He began climbing in his teens with his twin brother, Jim. In 1963, Jim became the first American to scale Mt. Everest. At the same time, Lou focused on learning Mount Rainier inside and out. In 1969, Lou co-founded Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., also known as RMI Expeditions. In the late 1990s, Lou passed RMI Expeditions onto his son, Peter.
Peter Whittaker took on the mountaineering mantle at a young age. He summitted Mt. Rainier for the first time at age 12 and started working as a guide at age 16. Considered “one of America’s most distinguished alpine guides,” Peter has summitted Mt. Rainier over 250 times. He has also summited the highest peak on every continent. He founded the company Whittaker Mountaineering and developed products for many major brands. Along with other Whittaker family members, Peter now manages the day-to-day operations of Rainier Basecamp.
Adding a Piece of the Mountain
The mini mountain ranges throughout Rainier Basecamp are recent additions. Peter worked with team members at Washington Rock to find pieces of rock that best resembled mountain peaks. Each piece of rock is a blue-gray color that resembles the flanks of Mt. Rainier.
The landscape rock is “beautiful,” Peter says. “It’s really pretty and solid.” He arranged the rock clusters at different points along Rainier Basecamp and added high-alpine trees to complete the mountain theme.
Rainier Mountain Festival
This year on Labor Day weekend, Rainier Basecamp will swarm with mountaineering enthusiasts and people looking for great deals on outdoor gear.
Rainier Mountain Festival, also known as Mountain Fest, offers a fun occasion for visiting Rainier Basecamp for the first time. The festival features Whittaker Mountaineering’s popular rental gear sale where outdoor enthusiasts can pick up used gear at great prices.
Festival attendees can try out Yoga in the Yurt, climb the outdoor rock wall for free, and listen to live music. 100% of the proceeds from the festival raffle benefit the nonprofit Mountain Tahoma Trails Association (MTTA).
During the day, mountaineering legends will talk about their adventures. At night, films will be showcased on an outdoor screen.
This year, Mountain Fest happens from Saturday, August 31 to Monday, September 2. Visit the festival website for more details.
Visit our Landscape Rock page for more information on the products mentioned in the article. Washington Rock is located in the Puget Sound region of Washington State.
For more information on businesses within Rainier Basecamp, click below to visit a website: