Mount Rainier National Park: 10 tips for visiting the park
On a clear day, Mount Rainier’s faint, snow-capped profile can be spotted from Seattle, just under two hours away by car, and is also easily accessible from Tacoma and Portland as well (all are under 200 miles away). Mount Rainier National Park, the fifth oldest park in the USA, is rich in stunning landscapes, outdoor activities and 9,000 years of human history. It’s no wonder 2 million or so people visit the park's more than 236,000 acres annually. We recently checked in with the team at Visit Rainier on 10 things not to miss when visiting the park.
1. Chase Waterfalls: There are plenty of waterfalls to seek out when visiting Mount Rainier National Park, but one to add to your list is Silver Falls. The waterfall is fairly-easily accessible via the three-mile loop Silver Falls Trail, which meanders through old-growth forest, in which you may spot woodpeckers, deer and other wildlife, as well as fly fishermen casting their lines along the Ohanapecosh River.
2. Get Face-to-Face with the Mountains: For some amazing mountain views, take some time to traverse the four-mile, family-friendly Sourdough Ridge Trail in the Sunrise Area of the park. In addition to stunning views, you may also spot wildflowers and cute little marmots along the way.
3. Explore a Rainforest: Of the 236,000 acres that comprise Mount Rainier National Park, approximately 58% is forested, and the types of forests vary, including aninland temperate rainforest in the Carbon River area of the park. Between 70 and 90 inches of rain fall within the forest, resulting in long-hanging moss, ferns as far as the eye can see and towering Douglas firs overhead. You’re sure to feel like you’re in a fairy tale within the forest.
4. Get On Your Bike and Ride: If you’d rather see the temperate rainforest on two wheels than two feet, take your bike along the Carbon River Road, one of the only places within the park where mountain bikes are welcome. The five-mile road is level, making for an easy ride through this incredible ecosystem.
5. Get Enveloped by Wildflowers: Wildflower season (mid-July through mid-August) is magical at Mount Rainier National Park, and you’ll feel like you’re in paradise when surrounded by the vibrant blooms. In fact, you are: One of the best spots in the park to see wildflowers is in the Paradise Area.
6. Visit Paradise (Area) with a Park Ranger: Park ranger-led programs are offered throughout the park all year, but are more prevalent late-June through Labor Day. Programs focus on geology, wildlife, ecology, mountaineering and park history, and vary by day. In the winter, guided snowshoe walks in the Paradise Area offer a different perspective.
7. Glide Across the Waters of Mowich Lake: With all of the lakes found in Mount Rainier National Park, paddlers will be yearning to put in and start gliding across the water. Feel free, but note that motorized boating is not allowed anywhere in the park, while non-motorized boating is allowed on most every lake. One to check out isMowich Lake, the largest and deepest lake within the park that is set in a glacial basin and surrounded by wildflower meadows in season.
8. Play in the Snow: Mount Rainier National Park is open year-round, and awintertime visit can be just as fun as spring, summer, or fall, especially when it comes to playing in the snow. In addition to the ranger-led snowshoe hikes, enjoy sledding, sliding, snowmobiling and even skiing and snowboarding when the snowfall exceeds five feet, so as to protect damaging vegetation.
9. Become a Junior Ranger or Citizen Ranger: The popular Junior Rangerprogram can be found at Mount Rainier National Park, but if you’ve outgrown being a Junior Ranger yet still yearn for the fun and knowledge that comes from the program, check out the Citizen Ranger Quests, ranging from 30 minutes to two hours.
10. Take a Hike: More than 260 miles of hiking trails traverse Mount Rainier National Park, weaving through forests and fields, and passing by lakes, streams and glaciers. From nature trails suited for families to backcountry and more intense routes, you’re sure to find a few that that suit your interests and skill levels.