A hike to and around the Grove of the Patriarchs Loop is enjoyable and easy, so kids and old adults can take the trip. It is a short trail, so no one would get too tired to continue hiking.
They will have fun crossing the suspension bridge to the Grove, which teems with large-trunked trees. Common trees are the massive Western Red cedars, The Patriarchs, hemlock, to Douglas-firs. Some of these trees are as wide as 45 feet and as tall as 320 feet.
Because the island is isolated and so protected from fire, these trees have grown uninterrupted for ages, to their natural heights. Some trees are said to be as old as 1000 years.
A wooden boardwalk weaves through these giant trees so that you can effortlessly watch them at close range. Any hiker winding through this trailer would feel really tiny and inadequate walking among these ancient giants.
There are informative signs around to teach you more about the trees and plants and to point out some exciting details about the place
It is a fantastic 1.5 trail around an island surrounded by the Ohanapecosh River. A hiker can also do birding along the trail around the lovely river that surrounds the island. It is also a lovely place to take photos to post on social media sites.
To see a further breakdown of the GROVE OF THE PATRIARCHS, please visit the official page for the Washington Trails Association. Link to the relevant page on wta.org for the hike.
The Grove of the Patriarchs Loop History
The Ohanapecosh area that this loop is located in got its name from an Indian habitation site by the river. It was called Taidnapam, which roughly means “standing at the edge.”
Mount Rainier National Park, where the Grove of the Patriarchs Loop is located, was established in 1899. The Park was at that time described as “an arctic island in a temperate sea.” It stood out for its massive snowy peaks and valleys filled with wildflower.
In the prehistoric era, the forest that became the Park was used as a hunting and gathering site and sometimes for spiritual purposes.
The Ohanapecosh area where the Grove of the Patriarchs is located is relatively a tiny segment of the Mount Rainier National Park.
Getting to the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail
The Grove of the Patriarchs is about 30 miles from Sunrise Visitor Centre. To get to the Grove of the Patriarchs Loop, the hiker should use the Steven Canyon Entrance, which is closest to the trailhead.
The loop trail is on the west of Stevens Canyon Entrance near the Ohanapecosh River. This is on Highway 123. Once you get to Packwood, turn towards HWY 12, which is eastward. You will then cross the bridge over the Ohanapecosh River. You should then take a look left turn onto SR 123.
From there, follow the road leading to the Ohanapecosh Visitors Centre, then make another left turn to get to Stevens Canyon Road. Drive for about ¼ of a mile. Once you reach the Stevens Canyon Entrance opposite the Ohanapecosh River, you will see the parking space in the area on your right, which is not far from the Eastside Trail. It is a 2200-feet elevation.
The Eastside Trail is sunnier and drier than the Westside, hence the former is the natural destination for hikers who cannot put up with the wet and foggy Longmire and Paradise areas of the Park.
Park Facilities and Regulations
The visitor center oversees park admission. The center remains open from June to early October. Currently, many of the facilities there are either closed or have limited business hours due to the complications brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Grove is actually in the Mount Rainier National Park. The fee is per vehicle or motorcycle. However, if you are on foot, the fee is charged per person. There is an annual pass you can purchase to enter the Park without paying fees throughout the year.
Pets are not allowed, so do not come with a dog. There is a small parking space so the earlier you get here, the better. The parking can accommodate about two dozen cars. If you can’t get here early, then plan to come later in the day, say, around 3 PM.
The parking is specially packed in summer, a time many families and friends want to escape the indoor conditions. When crossing the bridge, note that only one person is allowed at a time. The line can be long on holidays but be patient because waiting is part of the fun.
The demand to cross one person at a time might create the impression that the bridge could collapse under a heavy weight. Therefore, heavyweight hikers can get worried. However, the suspension bridge is sturdy enough to bear the weight of the heaviest hiker in the world.
There are washrooms close to the parking lot. There are also restrooms where one can cool off after the hike. The Ohanapecosh is not open in winter due to the harsh weather conditions. It is free of snow between June and October.
There are some benches somewhere along the trail where the tired can rest on. This is after the hikers have crossed the bridge.
Navigating the Grove of the Patriarchs
The real fun begins with walking across the swinging suspension bridge over the river. It is an incredible experience, especially for the kids.
However, the trail is not stroller-friendly due to the tree roots in some parts of the track. The wooden suspension bridge is also not designed for strollers. The kids have to be walkers.
Hikers with mobility challenges may manage because there are no remarkable elevation variations, though the path is not level everywhere. Some surfaces are uneven due to the tree roots.
Immediately after the bridge, you come across a large rocky beach where children may want to play for a while before you head straight to the amazing, huge, old trees.
The trail winds its way upstream. It’s like a virtual reality game scene, except it’s a reality. It is not a long hike, but the fun is enormous. At some point, the path becomes a fork. You can take any. This is a loop.
You should move slowly, taking the time to study the trees. There are signs with the names of the plants and trees. For some reason, you would feel that you are trekking on sacred ground and that you owe the huge, ancient trees respect and reverence. You are walking among timeless warriors. They have stood the test of time; they have been around for hundreds of years.
But it does not give the feeling one gets when in a museum, watching artifacts. Here, the hiker feels he is trekking through paradise.
The Park is expansive and easy to hike in and explore nature. There are self-guiding signs posted along the boardwalk to direct the hikers. If you visit in the late summer or early fall, you get many mushrooms, jellies, boletes, coral tooth fungus, etc.
There are roadside attractions you can see while hiking the Grove of the Patriarchs Loop. Box Canyon is located 19 KM west of Ohanapecosh and is visible from the suspension bridge if you gaze below at the water flowing through a narrow slot canyon.
The Inspiration Point is a large pullout located 32 KM west on Stevens Canyon Road. From there, you can catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier reflected in the lakes.
Apart from hiking, you may want to jog. There is a campground and picnic area within the Ohanapecosh site, but not at the Grove itself. You cannot camp within the Grove of Patriarchs.
The camp and picnic areas are on the banks of the serene Ohanapecosh River. You can use the campground from the end of May to early October.
The water flowing next to the trail is clean and clear, so you can easily see the bottom. Some hikers have wanted to swim in the water, but it doesn’t afford anyone a good swim, being shallow. Besides, swimming is not encouraged because it takes other hikers’ attention away from the natural aspects of the
Some people have the time to go fishing in the streams in the Ohanapecosh. The fishing can only be done from the first Saturday of June until the last day of October.
The Grove of the Patriarchs Loop is an example of what Mother Nature gives back as a reward when human activities or disasters do not change or distort her course.
The majestic trees, standing tall, silently speak of power and grandeur that words cannot accurately convey. One has to be there to experience it. A video, a picture, or a narration do no justice to the real feeling a nature lover experiences when hiking among these trees.
The Grove of the Patriarchs Loop is primarily plain, so hikers find the trail easy to walk on. Some hiking trails involve climbing up and down, which can be hectic for the hikers looking for a leisurely walk with as little struggle as possible.
The place is also safe; one is unlikely to be attacked by a wild animal. However, the place is cold and snowy in winter, thus you would not wish to be there during that season. It is closed in winter anyway.
As expected, the air within the trails is humid, thanks to the trees whose branches minimize sunlight penetration. For that reason, wearing warm clothes can be of great comfort.