There are a few
mountains in the Western Hemisphere which appear
to float high in the sky, seemingly unattached
to the earth. When one first sees the great
Denali, above the Alaskan tundra, it seems to be
a huge white cloud. On closer inspection, it
reveals itself as the top of a huge mountain,
separated from its base -- a gigantic fairytale
on a flying carpet of ice and snow.
Mount Rainier has the same floating effect,
poised behind the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, sitting
above the misty air which floats in from Puget Sound. The
fifth tallest peak in the lower 48 states, Rainier
doesn't show its immense size until you get close enough
to sense where the slopes begin, and obtain a sense of
scale. You're small, the mountain's BIG. The peak is
14,411 feet above the nearby waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The mountain stands alone, mounted on a green Northwest
The Wonderland Trail, a trip of 93
miles, runs completely around the mountain, just below
the glacier line. This is one of the great hikes in the
United States. It takes more than a week to complete, and
it will take longer in 2007 because several bridges over
creeks were taken out by flooding in November 2006.
There are other long trails, in addition to
a baker's dozen of shorter trails within the national
park boundaries. Several roads lead through the lower
portions of the park, with one (the road to Sunrise),
taking you to higher elevations and supreme views, at
sunrise or any other time of day.
The park is open year-round, with
wildflower viewing in late spring and summer,
cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. It also
offers experienced climbers a route to the summit, a
journey attempted by some 8,000 people each year. For the
rest of us, the park is a place to ponder the power of
volcanoes, of perpetual snow and ice, and of the fertile
Northwest environment which provides just the right
combination of rain, snow, and sun, to create a perfect
place for forests to grow, and wildlife to thrive.
How to Get There
The most popular and most accessible
entrance from the Interstate 5 corridor is the southwest
Nisqually Gate. The park road leads to the Longmire
Visitor Center, and them climbs to the Paradise
Visitor Center, before leading west through Stevens
Canyon. This same road continues to the southeast corner
of the park (leaving the park to avoid crossing Backbone
Ridge), reaching the Stevens Canyon entrance.
Mather Memorial Parkway runs up the
eastern side of the park, joining the three eastern
entrances, and providing access to the Sunrise Road.
There is no road link between the northwestern Carbon
River area and the rest of the park. From the Carbon
River gate, transportation is by foot, along some of the
most thrilling mountain trails in the Northwest.
The Nisqually park entrance is 95
miles south of Seattle and 70 miles from Tacoma. From
Seattle or Tacoma, take Interstate 5 to State Route 7,
and then State Route 706. From Yakima, southeast of the
mountain, take State Route 112 west to routes 123 or 410,
and enter the park from the eastern gates (Stevens Canyon
or White River). To reach the northwest gates,
either Carbon River or Mowich Lake), take State Route
410, and then State Route 169, to State Route 165.
Headquarters: Contact Mount Rainier
National Park, Tahoma Woods, Star Route, Ashford,
Washington 98304. Phone (360) 569-2211. The main visitor
center, at Paradise, is usually open from mid-May to
The park is open 24 hours a day, throughout
the year. Use the Nisqually entrance during winter
months. Other entrances are generally open from Memorial
Day, except the White River entrance which usually opens
by June 15th. Fees are taken at the park gates. Ranger
stations are located at Longmire, Paradise, the
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center, south of the Stevens Canyon
entrance, at the White River entrance, at the Sunrise
Visitor Center, and at the Carbon River entrance. There
are several backcountry ranger stations which are open
Food and lodging are available at the
National Park Inn, in Longmire, near the Nisqually
entrance. The Paradise Inn and cafeteria are open from
late May to early October (see below).
Staying Inside the Park
National Park Inn
Mt. Rainier Guest Services, P.O. Box 108 Ashford WA
This small inn is at Longmire, at the 2,500 foot level,
near the Nisqually entrance to the park, at the
southwestern corner. The overnight units all have private
bath, and there is a restaurant. The inn is open
Mr. Rainier Guest Services, P.O. Box 108
Ashford WA 98304, (360) 569-2275
This inn is at the 5,400 foot level, next to the Paradise
visitor center and the subalpine meadows. A summer
operation, it is larger than the National Park Inn, and
has a cafeteria-style restaurant. It is open from June
through early October.
There are five developed campgrounds, all with a
14-day limit. For information on all camping facilities,
contact park headquarters, (360) 569-2211.
Sunshine Point Campground is closed because of
flooding in November 2006. Repair work is continuing. The
campground is usually open year-round. It is located near
the Nisqually entrance, at the southwestern corner of the
Other camping facilities include:
Longmire Campground, at 2,500 feet, near the
Longmire Museum and visitor center. There is a ranger
station and trailhead nearby.
Ohanapecosh Campground is located in the
southeastern corner of the park, on State Route 123, near
the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center.
White River Campground is accessed by taking
Highway 123 (from Packwood, to the south), and State
Route 410 (Mather Memorial Highway) and turning west onto
the road to Sunrise. You may also enter the park at the
western gate on Highway 410, and turn west onto the
Sunrise Road. Highway 410 also enters the western portion
of the park from the north (Seattle). Take the parkway
south to the Sunrise Road and turn right. There are
rangers at the nearby Sunrise Visitor Center.
Ipsut Creek Campground, located in the
northwestern corner of the park, is a few miles from the
Carbon River entrance. A summer ranger station is at this
location, with a visitor center, at the park gate.
Alta Crystal Resort at Mt. Rainier
68317 State Route 410 East, Greenwater, WA 98022
(360) 663-2500. Reservations: 800-277-6475
Located at the Sunrise entrance to the park, Alta Crystal
Resort provides a scenic, quiet setting. The 1920's
Recreation Lodge and chalet accommodations are set in 22
acres of fir forest with two year-round streams, and