Sixty miles southeast of the Puget Sound area, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, Mt. Rainier, dominates the skyline with its peak at 14,410 feet. This glacier-topped mount is encompassed by the 235,612-acre park which draws almost two-million visitors a year to its scenic beauty and recreational activities.
Established in 1899, the park today has are five areas which serve as bases for exploration: Longmire in the southwest corner, Paradise in the south side, Ohanapecosh in the southeast corner, Sunrise/White River on the east side and Carbon River/Mowich Lake in the northwest corner. With 147 miles of roads and 240 miles of maintained trails in the park, you’ll want your own transportation in order to get the most out of the different areas. Several ranger stations (mostly closed in winter) offer guided walks and informative programs.
Of the mountain’s more than twenty glaciers, one is the largest in the US (outside of Alaska) and another is the longest. The park is not all snow though—at lower elevations the glacier fed streams sprout lakes and waterfalls, contributing to flower-filled meadows and forests of tall trees. In addition to the almost 700 species of wildflowers, there are 130 species of birds including bald eagles, and 50 species of mammals including elk, mountain goats, and black bears.
The park offers excellent opportunities for scenic drives and year round active pursuits. Whether you are into gentle hiking or want to attempt a guided ascent of the summit, you’ll be in for stunning views. Most roads are open from late May to early October and winter means great cross-country and downhill skiing. The park is also a Historic District with classic examples of 1920s and 30s National Park System rustic architecture, including the historic Paradise Inn.
Within the park there are several options for camping ranging from primitive hike-in sites to those with RV hook-ups and amphitheaters. There are also two full-service inns with restaurants, one of which, Paradise Inn, was built in 1917 and is complete with a lounge and postal service. Several hotels are located outside but near the park.