18 Aug Mount Rainier National Park
I have visited Mount Rainier National Park twice, once in July and once in October. Which is to say, too few times to do it justice. Mount Rainier is part of the legendary Ring of Fire, a horseshoe shaped basin in the Pacific Ocean known for its earthquakes and volcanoes. 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire as have all but three of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions over the last 11,00 years. Some other notable volcanoes in the Cascadian arc of the Ring are Mount Baker, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Hood and Mount Shasta. With a summit elevation of 14,411 feet Mount Rainier dominates the horizon in every direction and can be seen as far away as Corvallis, Oregon to the south and Victoria, British Columbia to the north.
Wikipedia states that “it is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States.” What does that mean? Think of it as a vertical line between the summit and the lowest contour line surrounding it or the vertical drop from top to bottom. Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the lower 48 and 21st overall in the world. 22nd is K2…. yes that K2. In other words, this is a massive mountain that goes almost straight up. With 26 major glaciers and 36 square miles of permanent snowfields and glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated of the lower 48’s mighty mountains. The wonderful thing about Mount Rainier National Park is the road that allows you to drive practically right up next to it.
54 miles north of Seattle, Mount Rainier is in the center of Mount Rainier National Park. The Nisqually south entrance on SR 706 and the Carbon River SR 165 entrance are open year round. Traffic in the summer months is heavy and on weekends the wait entering the park can approach two hours.
For the day car tripper the best access points to the mountain are the Paradise and the Sunset areas. Though these two destinations are where you will likely find the most people they also lead you to some of the park’s best trails and facilities. Mount Rainier National Park, with more than 260 miles of maintained trails through old growth forest, river beds and sub alpine meadows, truly deserves its reputation as one of the greatest national parks in the U.S. system.