At first glance, Mount Rainier National Park appears to be a bit of a one-trick pony. There’s a large mountain, which happens to be an active volcano, but until you get into the park and start exploring, you may not realize the amazing features this area has to offer.
First, there’s the mountain. Mount Rainier is the highest point in Washington and one of the highest peaks in the contiguous 48 states. It jumps out of the Cascade Mountains along with several other volcanic peaks and beckons visitors from a hundred miles away.
The mountain is so large that it creates its own weather patterns. Moisture from the Pacific Ocean will sweep inland, rise up the slopes of Rainier and condense into clouds which dump an average of nearly 700″ of snowfall in winter and lots of rain in summer.
The amazing amount of snowfall is what keeps the mountaintop glaciers at work year-round. There is no other place in the 48 states that contains such a high number and volume of glaciers all on one mountain. Hiking up the side of Rainier in the Paradise area, you can literally see and hear the glaciers at work. They will crack and groan periodically to announce the changing of seasons.
At the base of Mount Rainier are some of the most impressive clusters of trees I’ve seen. There are huge Douglas Firs and Red Cedars in the Grove of the Patriarchs that are over 1000 years old and grow over 200 feet in the air. They really make a person feel small.
Another spectacle of the park are the waterfalls. It seems no matter where you are, if you are quiet you can hear the gentle hush or the resounding roar of a waterfall somewhere nearby. There are many hikes that take you to these waterfalls, or there are some you can witness on the roadside.
Mount Rainier National Park isn’t just a one-trick pony like we thought going in. There’s so much to see here!