Mount Rainier is famous for providing a stunning backdrop to the skyline of Seattle, and this huge volcano holds a treasure at its base: a beautiful national park.
The mountain itself rises to over 14,000 feet (almost 4,400 meters), and the peak is permanently covered in snow. Mount Rainier is a major source of the region’s water, with 25 major glaciers and huge snowfields that melt every spring.
The surrounding national park covers 238 square miles (616 square kilometers). It’s a designated Wilderness Area with alpine meadows, forests, streams and stunning waterfalls. Take a walk along any of the 260 miles (416 kilometers) of maintained trails to really appreciate the vast beauty of the area.
For an easy hike with the family, try the 20-minute Trail of the Shadows, which starts near the National Park Inn at Longmire. Another easy hike is the Twin Firs Loop Trail. You’ll pass through an old-growth forest with impressive examples of western red cedars, Douglas firs and other native trees. There are dozens of easy and more serious hikes that can be achieved in a few hours or a day. Wind through the range of habitats in the park, from blossom-filled meadows to huge glaciers. If you are an experienced hiker, take a multi-day hike to the summit with experienced guides.
Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, sledding and cross-country skiing. The Visitor Center at Paradise has plenty of practical and educational information about the mountain and the national park. It is open every day from May to early October, as well as weekends and holidays outside these times.
The park is circled by a road and if you don't have a lot of time you can simply drive around it. There are plenty of stops along the way to enjoy views or take a short walk.
If a day trip to Mount Rainier National Park leaves you wanting more, consider booking a room at the National Park Inn at Longmire or the Paradise Inn within the park. There are also several campgrounds within the national park.
Mount Rainier National Park is around a 90-mile (144-kilometer) drive from Seattle. Although it’s open year-round, snow blocks many of the routes such as SR410, SR123 and the Stevens Canyon Road from mid-October until June. Winter visitors will generally find the 12-mile (19-kilometer) stretch of road from Longmire to Paradise open during the day unless there is an avalanche threat.