At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. Mount Rainier is also the most glaciated mountain in the continental United States. You can see Mount Rainier for miles from every direction, so of course, we visited it while we were in southwestern Washington. John Muir said, “Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed across the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”
We drove to Mount Rainier National Park on a beautiful, warm day. After having National Park sites almost to ourselves, we were overwhelmed by the number of visitors to the mountain. We drove in the Nisqually entrance to the Paradise area of the park. This is the main Visitor Center for the park and there were thousands of visitors the day we were there.
We found a parking space in the second overflow lot and walked to the Henry Jackson Memorial Visitors Center. The Visitors Center was disappointing because it was a huge space that did a very poor job of telling the story. There was a small display on volcanoes but nothing particularly good.
We watched a forgettable movie, got instructions from a ranger on the trails, then started up the “moderate” Alta Vista Trail. We figured we would lose most of the people blocking paths and taking selfies as we went up the Trail. The thousands went down to hundreds, but the trail was still surprisingly crowded.
For some reason the trail just kicked my butt. It might have been the altitude – starting at 6,000 feet – or it might have been the steepness of the trail. At any rate, it seemed much more difficult than Hurricane Hill which was similar in altitude and elevation gain. I kept asking Tom, the keeper of the trail map, if he was sure we were on the right trail. We only hiked about two miles but I struggled with every step up. Coming down was easier.
After the Alta Vista Trail we climbed back in the truck and headed down the mountain to the Mount Rainier Historic District at Longmire. I hoped the Longmire Museum would have better displays and information than the Visitors Center. Alas, we were let down again. But we did enjoy seeing the historic lodge, store, and park headquarters. The General Store had a variety of items for sale and I picked up some caramel corn for a snack.
We stopped at several viewpoints and enjoyed seeing waterfalls and a variety of glacial rivers. Paradise Inn looked like an awesome place to stay if you are visiting in the summer. The road is open to Longmire year round, but the Paradise area is only open seasonally.
We enjoyed our visit to Mount Rainier and I was pleased to get another stamp in my book. I know people who live in Washington and visit the park frequently. But seeing Mount Rainier again only from a distance will be fine with me.