The natural beauty found in the Northwest corner of our country never fails to disappoint. Mount Rainier National Park, the closest national park to Seattle, can be found ruling the skyline about two hours outside of the city. Visible from Seattle and Tacoma–on a good day, at least–Mount Rainier is an active volcano that stands at a staggering 14,410 feet high, making it one of the highest peaks in the country.
Mount Rainier, the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S., spawns six major rivers and features an abundance of wildlife. Subalpine wildflower meadows circle the icy volcano, and ancient forest covers Mount Rainier’s lower slopes.
Mount Rainier has five developed areas: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise and Carbon/Mowich. Each can serve as a base for exploring the park. The level of development in the different areas ranges from basic (Think campground and picnic area.) to more extensive (with lodging, dining, visitor centers, etc.).
Hikers at Mount Rainier — Photo courtesy of Visit Rainier / Jeff Caven
Climbing the mountain can be an exhilarating adventure, but only for experienced climbers; the site is encased in more than 35 square miles of snow and ice and takes a great deal of technical know-how.
However, visitors find ample day hike options, ranging from easy to incredibly challenging. For example, there's the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail around the base of the mountain. Visitors can also bike, camp at one of the established campgrounds, fish and boat.
Visitor centers can be found at Ohanapecosh, Longmire, Paradise and Sunrise, which are perched at 5,000 to 6,000 feet and are the highest points visitors can reach by car. Mount Rainier Guest Services operates two restaurants, two snack bars and a small general store within the park.
To enter the park, the entrance fee is $15 for a private, noncommercial vehicle with a seating capacity of 15 or less or $5 for each visitor 16 and older entering by motorcycle, bicycle, horseback, on foot or for individuals traveling together as a non-commercial, organized group. These fees provide the visitor with a 7-day entrance permit for Mount Rainier National Park.
If navigating the trip on your own feels daunting, consider joining a tour with a company like EverGreen Escapes. Their small-group, all-inclusive, luxury and eco-conscious tours include walking or snow-shoeing adventures, depending on the season.
Friendly and knowledgable guides recommend bringing along binoculars and cameras on day-long expeditions that explore old-growth forests, alpine meadows, lakes and waterfalls. Guides enhance the experience with naturalist interpretation, as tour-goers take in the sights and sounds along the drive. Park entry fees, a seasonal lunch and snowshoes are included in the tour cost.
However you decide to explore this mighty volcano and its surrounding beauty, we wish you an enjoyable adventure.