When I was a kid, my father and I would go up to Mount Rainier National Park in the summer time and go hiking. It was always such an enjoyable time, the freshness of the mountain air, the wonderful, wooded hillsides and up higher, the beautiful, breathtaking views.
Last summer when I went back to Washington State, I again took a trip to the park and was reminded of what a great place it is to visit in the summer time.
Mount Rainier, standing at 14,410 feet is actually an active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range, but I don’t remember in my life time there ever being a strong threat of eruption.
Sure a few grumbles here and there, but never anything to worry about, making it a safe place to get out and enjoy nature at its best.
Activities and trails
There are many activities to enjoy, from day hiking, backpacking, bicycling, fishing, boating, and camping, to of course, mountain climbing.
In the lower elevations of the park you can get out for the day and hike through the magnificent old growth forests. Mostly made up of Western Red Cedars, Hemlocks and Douglas Firs, the trees tower over you like giants, as you wind your way through the wooded hillsides. Some of them are over 200 feet tall with a circumference of over 25 feet!
There are over fifty marked and charted trails in the park, most of which are from one to ten miles long. For the more serious hiker, one can go for the 93 mile trail. Called the Wonderland Trail, it is located in the northeastern part of the park.
As you head through the forest an abundance of wildlife can be seen. I have been lucky enough to catch sight of many herds of elk, grazing, heads down, adorned with impressive antlers.
There are also a lot of deer and smaller animals in the area such as raccoon, squirrels and chipmunks. A large number of various birds are present also, including the infamous Spotted Owl of the Northwest.
While hiking you will come across many awesome scenic views of the mountain, lakes, rivers and cascading waterfalls. The beauty here abounds as you make your way through the lush, green forest with many Vine Maples that turn an abundance of vivid colors in late summer.
There are numerous lakes in the area that you can hike into or that have road access for boating also if you like.
As you drive from one destination to the next make sure to watch out for the many groups of bicyclists that are out enjoying the refreshing mountain air also.
Road to Paradise
If you head up the twisting road to the 5,400 foot elevation level you will find Paradise, rightly named for the majestic scenic views of Mount Rainier and exquisite meadows full of mountain wildflowers.
One of my favorite memories of visiting Mount Rainier National Park is when my father took me on a hike that originated from Paradise. As the path rose in elevation we hiked through the beautiful meadows, filled with brilliant shades of blue, purple, yellow, red and white wildflowers. The striking red color of the Indian Paintbrush has been imbedded in my mind ever since.
We hiked over small glacial streams and saw many a waterfall pouring down the hillside. The higher we went, we watched the countryside unfold before us, until we reached a lookout point that was awe-inspiring.
As we gazed in the distance we could see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood all holding their heads high above the clouds with great distinction. We had to turn around at this point since it was getting late in the day and you never know what the weather on the mountain may do.
Check the Weather
Storms can crop up unexpectedly at anytime, so before heading to far up the mountain it is a good idea to check the weather conditions ahead of time.
One can continue their excursion up all the way to the summit, stopping over night at Camp Muir and then proceeding on to Columbia Crest, Mount Rainier’s highest peak.
The higher in elevation you go the more serious the journey gets, only the experienced and well equipped mountain climber should attempt the climb, as some of it is pretty much vertical going up to the summit. For safety you must register with the park service before setting out on your hike.
So, whether your destination is the grand, old growth forests of the lower elevations or the wondrous views higher up on the mountain, it is sure to be a trip to be remembered and cherished for years to come.
For more information:
National Park Service:
Mount Rainier Tourism: