Mt. Rainier National Park - Washington

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Mount Rainier

 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 forest.

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.

Park Essentials

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 early October.

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 during summer.

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).

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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Staying Inside the Park

National Park Inn
Mt. Rainier Guest Services, P.O. Box 108 Ashford WA 98304
(360) 569-2275
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 year-round.

Paradise Inn
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.

Park Camping

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 park.

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 recreational facilities.

For Hikes and What to See & Do
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