Some volcanoes are majestic mountains cloaked in forest and flowers. Others, such as Mount Rainier, are naked in their might. To some, it’s a Valhalla, home to the gods. To others, it’s an outpost of hell. Born of a clash of volcanic fire and glacial ice, this is the tallest peak in the Cascade Mountains, the dazzling centerpiece of its namesake, Mount Rainier National Park.
Rising into the clouds of west central Washington, this magical national park welcomes an average of two million visitors each year. Come along with us as we take a tour of some of the sights, sounds, and thrills of Mount Rainier National Park.
Traversing Mount Rainier’s Wonders
Mount Rainier National Park is 97% wilderness. Its postcard peak hovers benignly in the distance over the urban reaches of Seattle, like the city’s guardian angel. The mountain’s crown is topped with two overlapping craters, and its last major eruption was around 2,000 years ago, a blip in geological time. No one knows when he’ll blow next, but rest assured, he will awaken, and it will be powerful.
The best way to discover all that the park has on display is to take Wonderland Trail to seek the soul of Rainier. You can circle the entire mountain in roughly a week at a leisurely pace along 93 miles of path. You’ll traverse an ancient forest of towering trees, pass waterfalls, and trek through fields of wildflowers bursting with color and over tundra high above the timberline. All the while, remember that beneath the magical Wonderland Trail beats the subdued heart of a ferocious volcano.
Paradise is the most visited part of the park, home to Jackson Visitor Center, which teems with valuable information and eco-friendly accommodations. Nearby, you can stay a while at Paradise Inn, which was built in 1916 and gracefully blends into the landscape with rustic charm.
How else to enjoy Mount Rainier National Park
As much as 50 feet of snow blankets the peaks and valleys of this magnificently diverse park each year. The meadows become a winter playland for skiers, snowshoers, sledders, and various other activities. Meanwhile, serious climbers can test their mettle against the mountain. The fierce and often unpredictable weather makes Rainier a great warmup for legendary climbs in famous peaks of the Himalayas.
Thousands of people each year attempt to top Rainier when the mountain is welcoming. They start the climb at Camp Muir at 10,000 feet, and make through wind, snow, sleet and thin air to reach Columbia Crest, the mountain’s highest point at 14,400 feet. If this kind of mental and physical test isn’t in the cards for you, maybe consider a drive. Road to Sunrise, which spirals up the mountain to 6,500 feet, is the highest point reachable by cars.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your tour of Mount Rainier National Park. For the full experience, you’ll just have to book your trip to Washington whenever you’re able!