With a peak of over 14,000 feet, Mount Rainier in Washington is the highest mountain in the Cascades, the highest in the state of Washington and the 17th highest in the United States, although its topographic prominence has it ranked third of America's ultra prominent peaks. The most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, the mountain spans six rivers. Lower elevations include ancient pine forests and subalpine wildflower meadows.
The 368 square mile park is 97% wilderness. The remaining percentage of park land which has been developed has been designated a National Historic Landmark District and includes 260 miles of trails, over 140 miles of roads, as well as lodging, a museum, climbing and wilderness centers, and three visitor centers. Longmire served as the park headquarters when the park was first established in 1899. Today, the 1916 building, which once served as the administrative center of the park, is a museum. Attractions nearby include the National Park Inn, the Wilderness Information Center, and trail heads leading to the Narada Falls, Rampart Ridge and Eagle Peak. Sunrise, the highest point in the park which can be reached by car, is located at just over 6,000 feet above sea level. From the Sunrise mountain meadows, visitors can see a 360-degree view of the landscape and other volcanic peaks such as Mount Adams. On clear days, visitors to Sunrise have an excellent view of the peak of Mount Rainier. Trails beginning at Sunrise take guests to Upper Crystal Lake, through the Naches Peak Loop along the Pacific Crest Trail, and to Tipsoo Lake. Ohanapecosh is located at the southeast corner of the park. The old growth forest of hemlock, cedars and firs is much drier and sunnier than the west side of the park. The trailhead at the Ohanapecosh campgrounds takes hikers on a 3-mile loop to the Silver Falls, one of the park’s most spectacular waterfalls. The Carbon and Mowich areas of the park are located in a temporal rainforest. The Carbon River in the northwest corner was named for the coal deposits found there, and receives consistent rainfall year round. Mowich Lake is the largest, deepest lake in the park and sits in a glacial basin surrounded by meadows. The Carbon glacier is the lowest elevation glacier in the contiguous United States. Several hikes through these areas allow visitors to camp and experience the subalpine lakes and meadows.
History: Mount Rainier is America’s fifth oldest National Park. Area visits from humans date back over 9,000 years. As far back as 15,000 years ago, when the mountain was still largely covered in snow and ice, people lived in the plains and valleys under its shadow. Approximately 9,000 years ago, the mountain’s mid-slope was no longer covered in permanent snow pack. As far back as 4,000 years ago, people were hunting and gathering on the mountain as wildlife made its home there in the subalpine terrain. The Native tribes which have historically lived off the land in the area maintain relationships with the park to this day. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that archeologists began to systematically study Mount Rainier, but today, over 75 prehistoric sites have been catalogued, which demonstrate that people have been living on and around Mount Rainier for thousands of years. The last eruption at Mount Rainier was in 1882, although the mountain is still an active volcano and considered America’s most dangerous. In the mid 1800’s local residents and businesses began pushing for the area to be designated a park in an effort to increase tourism. The National Park was established in 1899 by President William McKinley.
Ongoing Programs and Education: The park offers an extensive array of ranger-led programs at each of the developed areas and visitor centers. Programs include Junior Ranger activities, and talks on park history, the park’s architectural history, wildlife, geology and the active volcano. Rangers lead eco hikes through the meadows at Paradise, Sunrise and through the forest at Ohanapecosh. Winter programs include guided snowshoe walks. Evening programs include campfire talks at the Sunrise campgrounds and an astronomy program at the Paradise visitor center. A self-guided historic district walking tour begins at Longmire and takes visitors past some of the park’s most iconic rustic architecture. Visitor centers at Sunrise and Ohanapecosh offer exhibits, books sales and guided interpretive programs. The mountain is popular for climbing, although traversing the glacier is very difficult and requires technical skill. The success rate of summiting Mount Rainier is close to 50%.
55210 238th Avenue East Ashford, WA 98304, Phone: 360-569-2211
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