Mount Rainier National Park
|Old growth forest in Mt. Rainier National Park|
There's no doubt that getting out for a one-day, two-day, or even a twelve-day hike is the best way to get a feel for Mt. Rainier National Park. With more than 300 miles of hiking trails, there is something for everyoneit just depends how much time and energy you have to spend.
If, like most visitors, you'll be traveling from western Washington, the most accessible areas of the park are Longmire and Paradise. The Longmire Museum and Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center near Paradise provide ample distractions for non-hikers or rainy days, and a number of short and long hikes begin at these locations. These are also the only two areas open during the winter months, though hours vary.
Travel a bit further east in the park to the Ohanapecosh Area and you'll find a short, half-mile hike to bubbling hot springs, lush forests, and sparkling lakes. This is the best area for spotting mountain goats, and the Visitor Center and campground make the area family friendly.
On the northern side of Mt. Rainier, the Sunrise area hikes provide some of the easiest jaunts to the most excellent views during summer. Both visitor centers in the area close for the winter months, however, so plan your trip accordingly. Getting to this area from the western edge of the park requires a bit more time and tolerance for winding mountain roads, but is well worth the trip if good mountain views are your goal.
The northwest corner of the park is home to the Carbon River Area, and boasts sections of the only true inland rainforest in North America. A number of short hikes take you through old-growth forests and and clear mountain lakes.
If you intend to spend a week or so backpacking in the park, you've come to the right place. The well-known Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile hike around the base of Mt. Rainier. It takes anywhere from 10 to 14 days to hike this fairly strenuous loop, but the hilly terrain and constantly changing perspective make it a pretty unforgettable experience.
If that's not long enough for you, the Pacific Crest Trail runs along the eastern edge of Mt. Rainier National Park on its way from Mexico to Canada. Dubbed a National Scenic Trail, this section of the Pacific Crest is only a small piece of the 2,600-mile trail.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication