Mt. Rainier, Washington
The majestic mountain towers over the Washington state landscape and can be visible from most vantage point in the Seattle metro area. See the main Seattle page here
Mt. Rainier is an active volcano that is always topped with snow. It has 26 main glaciers - the most on any mountain in the lower 48 US states. It is more than 14 thousand feet high and spawns 6 major rivers and many waterfalls.
The national park around the mountain was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States and it encompasses 236,381 acres. Along with the towering peak of Rainer, the park’s expansive area includes many mountains, meadows, old growth forests, rivers and waterfalls.
Interesting Facts: On clear days Mt Rainier can be seen as far away as Corvallis, British Columbia and Oregon.
The park is popular for hiking, climbing and winter sports. Most visitors go for a day trip, but some like to stay at the campgrounds and Inns.
On a recent tour with “Customized Tours”, we spent a day exploring this beautiful park and majestic mountain.
We started from Seattle and headed south towards the Nisqually entrance. Along the way, we stopped at Puyallup to stretch our legs and buy some supplies. The town has a large Fred Myers grocery store with everything you can think off – including a Starbucks. It was a good stop for breakfast.
Interesting Facts:Some ice cave in the mountain are so cold they are being studied for similarity to conditions on Mars.
Our guide and driver Joe was a wealth of information. He knew the ins and outs of the park and where to stop and what to see. As we threaded the windy highway towards our destination, we enjoyed the amazing scenery and stopped for small hikes into the woods and to inspect the wildlife. On one stop we got close and personal with some deer – a mom and 2 pups.
The weather is unpredictable at the National Park. On an early October day, the sun was shining in downtown Seattle, but as we drove up the hills into the park, the skies darkened and a slow drizzle started. Joe used his experience and knowledge to adjust our itinerary according to weather conditions.
First, we stopped at National Park Inn in Longmire for lunch. This stop also has the ranger station, visitor center and a museum.
Tip:Longmire is the last stop at which you may find some cell phone coverage. After that point the phones were totally dead.
Right across the street from the Inn, we enjoyed a hike through the Trail of Shadows. It is an easy .7-mile hike through trees, creeks and meadows. If you look closely you can see that the Beavers were busy building their dams across the creek.
On the trail we also passed an old log cabin and some abandoned hot springs. The hot springs are now considered very dangerous due to the presence of parasites.
After our lunch stop and hike, we discovered that the drizzle turned into ice. Later during the climb to Paradise, the ice turned into snow. Joe decided to keep going and reach the Inn before any road closures. As we climbed, a few snow-covered peaks revealed themselves through the clouds but Mt Rainier remained shrouded.
Interesting Facts:The mountain is so high that from the lowest summit, Liberty Cap you can see four additional mountains, Mount Baker, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams
Arriving at Paradise Inn, we saw a rustic wood structure mostly covered in snow. Inside it was warm and inviting with vaulted ceilings made of aged old growth wood. Outside, under light snow, squirrels were scurrying around and then hiding in snow holes.
Paradise area is a base camp for many activities. During the summer visitors go camping, hiking or mountain climbing. In the winter months they go cross-country skiing, snowboarding and tubing – or just enjoying the winter wonderland, like us.
On the way back, the snow stopped and the clouds started clearing. All of a sudden, Mt Rainier revealed itself and we could see the shiny glaciers. Because of the improving weather, we were able to stop at 2 waterfalls, Ruby Falls and Sluiskin Falls. Both were cascading through an eerie snow-covered landscape. The Paradise river has 8 major waterfalls along its path and many minor ones.
This guided tour by Customized Tours was only an introduction to the national park. I will definitely come back to explore the many trails and waterfalls and maybe camp during summer. de Joe made it a fun trip with his stories and commentary. The tour bus was comfortable and warm in the wintery weather. I am looking forward to going on more tours with this company.