Hiking Mt. Rainier National Park
Encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice and originally known as “Tahoma” to the Klickitat Indians, Mount Rainier is the most beautiful backdrop any national park could hope for. “The mountain is out” takes on special meaning with your very first glimpse of the 14,410-foot volcanic peak— the highest in the Cascade Mountain Range. Although Mt. Rainier National Park is a mecca for hikers, windshield tourists enjoy the views just as much from the pavement.
More than 140 miles of road loop through the park, so there’s always a waterfall, lake, or mountain vista ahead. Even if you stay at one of the park's campgrounds (reservations strongly suggested) and won't need a hotel room, stop at the National Park Inn for the view. The wide covered front porch is a good place to admire the evening alpenglow on the south face of Mount Rainier. The porch’s rustic, yet comfy chairs are made for lingering as long as you’d like. There’s also a museum, an information center, and a well-stocked store and gift shop next to the Inn.
Paradise is not only a state of mind at Mount Rainier National Park, it’s a real destination perched at the 5,400-foot elevation. The panoramas from Paradise are incredible on a clear day— the snowy summit seems close enough to touch! Historic Paradise Inn was renovated several years ago and is a definite must-see. Originally built in 1917, the rustic interior and furnishings are simplistically beautiful and huge stone fireplaces at either end of the spacious lobby make warming up on chilly day a real pleasure. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center is a great place to learn about the geology, glaciers, flora, and fauna— everything you need to know about Mount Rainier and the surrounding Tatoosh Mountain Range. You can also shop for gifts, eat a meal, and talk to park rangers here. To get a little closer to Nisqually Glacier or the lovely wildflower meadows surrounding Paradise, pick up a trail map or a park ranger can point the way to excellent hiking. Serious mountain climbers attempting the 8+ mile trek with 9,000 feet of elevation gain to Mount Rainier’s summit team up in Paradise, so you’ll likely see gear-laden mountaineers on their descent. If snow still covers the trails you want to explore (common even in July), snow gaiters will keep your legs warmer and drier. If the trails are dry when you visit, hiking gaiters will protect your lower legs from wet weeds, briars, and the dust.
If first-rate scenery and outdoor recreation are high on your list, you’ll definitely be headed in the right direction if you visit the nation’s fifth oldest national park. And when you do, you'll easily see why Washington is known as the Evergreen State.