My spouse and I visited Mount Rainier National Park on a Saturday afternoon in early August 2014. Mount Rainier National Park features valleys, waterfalls, sub-alpine meadows, old-growth forest, and glaciers (including the two most famous glaciers, Carbon and Emmons). The park entrance fee is $15 per car, which is good for re-entry for seven consecutive days.
In 1899, the United States created Mount Rainier National Park as the fifth property in
the national park system. The park encompasses 370 square miles (about 236,000 acres), and its crowning jewel is Mount Rainier, a 14,410-foot active volcano. Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano in the United States, and it is the fifth-highest peak in the US. Geologists consider Mount Rainier to be an “active” volcano because they predict that it will erupt at some time in the future, although they cannot predict when.
Elevations in the park range from 1,600 feet to 14,000 feet near the top. Every year, nearly 1.8 million people visit the park. Of those millions of visitors, about 10,000 people attempt to summit Mount Rainier, but only 5,000 climbers are successful. The busiest times to visit are July and August.
Guests can enter the park from several entrances: Sunrise, Nisqually (Longmire), Paradise, Ohanapecosh, and Carbon River. In comparison, in the winter months, only one entrance to the park (Nisqually) is open because of heavy snow and poor road conditions. No gas / refueling is available within the park, although you can camp and picnic in various locations. Full-service dining and lodging are available at the National Park Inn and the Paradise Inn.
We entered the park from the northeast corner near Sunrise, and we drove through Ohanapecosh, Paradise, and Longmire. We exited the park via the Nisqually entrance (near Longmire and Ashford).
We drove an 80-mile, 3-hour loop throughout the park, stopping to visit interesting viewpoints. We tried to visit the Sunrise Visitors Center / Day Lodge, but an electronic message board at the road turn-off stated that the parking lots were full and to expect more than an hour wait time. Because it was approximately 2:00 pm and we had no time to spare, we headed for our second choice, Paradise. We parked our car and walked around at two different locations near Paradise, including the Henry M. Jackson Visitors Center. The wildflowers at Paradise were in their blooming season, so we saw some colorful alpine fields. The Paradise area contains lodging, restaurants (both full-service and casual), a visitor center, and picnic areas.
The park is truly spectacular; however, only the passenger was able to enjoy it, because the driver had to keep his eyes on the road, which was windy and treacherous at times! Next time, we will hire someone to drive us around, or perhaps take an organized tour, because the park views are gorgeous!
Even if you are short on time, spend a few hours to visit Mount Rainier National Park. It was one of the highlights of our trip to the Pacific Northwest.