Mount Rainier, WA
For those traveling to this area of the country, a trip to see Mt. Rainer National Park is an exciting, invigorating experience that takes you to the heart of wildlife, nature and beauty in one trip. Mount Rainer is a part of the Cascade Mountain Range and is an active volcano. It is totally encased in snow and glacial ice. The mountain's size, a large 35 square mile area, offers a height of 14,410 feet. Throughout the region, you will find beautiful old growth forests in pristine condition. A visit here is a step into a preserved piece of history.
The Area in Total
Mt. Rainer National Park offers five unique areas, which are called developed areas. These include Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise and Carbon/Mowich. These areas are all unique. A look at them will help you to see what Mt. Rainer National Park can offer when you visit.
Longmire was the first headquarters to the Mount Rainer National Park, which was first established in 1899. It was once the home of James Longmire and later was turned into a mineral spring resort. Now, a visit here allows you to see a museum, which depicts the area in full detail. You can learn about the history of the park itself here. In addition, the entire area of Longmire is considered a national historic district. The area is located on the southwest corner of the National Park. Here, you can enjoy the museum, as well as the Wilderness Information Center which offers permits for wilderness activities, hiking, climbing and camping information. Additionally, this area also features a National Park Inn, which is a concessionaire operated hotel. There is also a small restaurant and gift shop located here. The Cougar Rock Campground is also here, about two miles east of the actual Longmire area.
As you move from Longmire towards Paradise, you get to enjoy the Christine Falls, Glacier Bridge (which allows you to look up to the Nisqually Glacier) and Ricksecker Point Road, which gives you some of the best views of the Mount Rainer itself, as well as Totoosh Range and Nisqually Valley. For those with the ability, continue on another eight mile hike to Narada Falls for an amazing waterfall.
The next area to visit in Mt. Rainer National Park is the area called Paradise, and that is perhaps the best term for it. There is something about the flowering wildflower meadows and amazing views that take your breath away. The main visitor center to Mt. Rainer National Park is located here and is called the Jackson Visitor Center.
Because of the large amount of snow in this particular area, this is where everyone comes for wintertime activities on Mount Rainer. This includes snowshoeing, tubing, skiing, and cross country skiing.
Stay at the Paradise Inn that is a concessionaire operated hotel, open seasonally. Visit the Guide House for permits and hiking information. You will need a permit to climb, too. Also, stop by the Paradise Ranger Station for information and for a tour of the scenic area. The trails in this region are hilly and you will be at an elevation of 5400 feet.
The next stop in the Mt. Rainer National Park is Ohanapecosh. This area is filled with Douglas Firs, amazing red cedars and beautiful western hemlocks. This is the old growth forest you were waiting to experience. You cannot get to this part of the park during the winter months (many of the other sections are available as long as roads are accessible.) When you visit Ohanapecosh, you can visit the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center that provides a number of exhibits on the area and the mountain as well as an interpretive program that change often. You can pick up a few books to read here, too.
Another area to stop at is the Ohanapecosh Campground located here, which you will need to get a permit to stay at on your trip. The campground is about three miles north of the center. From here, take the time to hike through about a mile of old growth forest.
At 6400 feet, what is more magical than Sunrise? This part of Mt. Rainer National Park is the highest point that you can take a vehicle. When you step out of that vehicle, in the summer you will see an expanse of wildflowers blooming. You will be able to glance over at Mount Rainer, and Emmons Glacier, as well as many of the other volcanoes located in the Cascade Mountain Range. A number of trails of high quality will take you throughout the area and are well traveled.
A stop here will allow you to visit the Sunrise Visitor Center for exhibits and programs, the Sunrise Day Lodge which offers food service and gift shops as well as lodging and the White River Campground and picnic area.
Carbon and Mowich
Carbon is in the northwest corner of the Mt. Rainer National Park. You will see the most precipitation here and because of the climate, it is considered a temperate rainforest. Be careful when traveling here because the road readily floods. When you visit, stop at Ipsut Creek Campground and picnic area. Take the short loop trail by foot to explore the rain forest. You can also take the trail by the campground to Carbon Glacier, which is the lowest glacier in the 48 states and the largest.
Also, visit Mowich Lake, which is the deepest and largest lake in Mt. Rainer National Park. There is also the Mowich Lake Campground located here.
When visiting any of these areas of Mt. Rainer National Park, spend some time planning your activities and movements. Because of the rapidly changing weather and the elevation, roads do close when conditions worsen. Many of the activities are only open from May through October. Still, anyone that enjoys hiking, mountain climbing, camping or just seeing some of the world's most beautiful mountains and scenes will find that Mt. Rainer National Park has something amazing to offer.