One of the three amazing national parks in Washington State, Mount Rainier National Park lies less than two hours by car from Seattle, the region’s main hub. It’s exceptionally accessible. Like most other American national parks, this one is a place where superlatives are not out of place.
The fifth-highest mountain in the contiguous United States and the tallest in the North Cascades, rising 14,410 feet (4,392 meters) above sea level, Mount Rainier dominates the landscape in western Washington State. In fact, it is visible from most places in the state. If you can’t see it where you are, just look at the cars—it’s the background on pretty much every Washington license plate.
What sets this mountain apart is that it’s an active stratovolcano. The most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48 U.S. states, it towers over all other mountains in the region and is part of a collection of volcanoes that includes Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in Washington State, and Mount Hood just across the border in Oregon. Many of these (potentially) active volcanoes are visible when hiking the trails of Mount Rainier National Park.
One of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes.
It’s the only volcano in America that’s one of the so-called “Decade Volcanoes”. This list contains sixteen volcanoes in the world that are constantly watched because of their active history, potentially cataclysmic eruptions and their location near large cities.
In Mount Rainier’s case, an eruption could threaten the southern Seattle area, result in massive mudflows and create destructive tsunamis in the Puget Sound. Its last eruption was in 1854, which in geological terms was basically yesterday.
This is, in other words, quite an exciting region. Go visit it. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and, considering all of the above, surprisingly peaceful as well.
In fact, Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever visited. Even though I only spent one day in the park, a day trip from Seattle, it left a lingering impression on me. It’s unlike any other place I’ve been to in my entire life. The landscapes kind of reminded me of the Swiss Alps, but then there’s the added bonus of a giant volcano, which sets it apart completely, of course.
Mount Rainier National Park is a paradise for hikers, wildlife watchers and photographers. It’s main tourist area is, in fact, called Paradise, which is no coincidence. When the daughter of pioneer James Longmire saw this area for the first time in the 1880s, she exclaimed: “oh, what a paradise!” The area has kept that name ever since. It could not be more appropriate. (The park itself got its modern—English—name from explorer George Vancouver, who named the mountain after his good friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.)
Best of Mount Rainier National Park
- Mount Rainier
- Myrtle Falls
- Narada Falls
- Christine Falls
- Skyline Trail
- Reflection Lake
- Grove of the Patriarchs
- Nisqually Glacier
- Chinook Pass
Why Mount Rainier Is So Awesome
Mount Rainier National Park has everything you could possibly want in a park—and then some.
There are tall pine forests, reflecting lakes, impressive waterfalls, wildflower-filled alpine meadows and historic buildings. Called Tahoma or Tacoma by the Native Americans, meaning “the mother of waters”, Mount Rainier also has no fewer than 26 glaciers, including the largest one in the contiguous United States.
Just to sum up why Mount Rainier National is so awesome, here’s a bullet-point list.
- (Sub)alpine meadows covered in wildflowers
- Glorious mountain landscapes
- Roaring waterfalls
- A glacier-covered volcano
- Historic homesteads
- Plenty of wildlife, including marmots, mountain goats, elk and black bears
- Everything from pleasant meadow walks to epic multiday treks
- Easily accessible from Seattle
Mount Rainier National Park Map
Location: Northwestern Washington State, United States
Nearest Towns: Tacoma
Area: 369.3 square miles (956.6 square kilometers)
Features: Volcano, mountain ranges, pine forests, iconic wildlife, waterfalls and rivers, historic homesteads
Main Attractions: Mount Rainier, Myrtle Falls, Chinook Pass, Narada Falls, Skyline Trail, Christine Falls, Reflection Lake, Nisqually Glacier, Grove of the Patriarchs
Main Activities: Hiking, camping, wildlife watching, mountaineering, cycling
Suggested Stay: 2 days / 1 night
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Mount Rainier National Park Photos
Visit my national parks photography portfolio for a bunch of awesome photos of Mount Rainier National Park.