Take a trip to the far northwestern corner of the continental United States to find an area full of subalpine forests and meadows, wildflowers, plenty of rivers, and one of the tallest peaks in the US and an active volcano at that. I’m talking about the lovely Mount Rainier National Park.
Let’s explore this Washington beauty of a park including a bit of history, what to do and where to go when you’re there as well as where to stay and when to go so you’ll be ready the urge to hit the northwest happens.
A Brief History
Mount Rainier is actually the fifth oldest park in the National Park system. The Pacific Forest Reserve had been created in 1893, which included the eventual namesake, Mount Rainier. The Pacific Forest Preserve had additional land added in 1897 and legendary conservationist made the fifth recorded ascent of Mount Rainier in 1888. Muir and the newly formed Sierra Club partnered up with the National Geographic Society to urge for an entire protection of the land. President William McKinley signed a bill to authorize the creation of Mount Rainier National Park on March 2, 1899.
What to Do at Mount Rainier National Park
Rainier’s 235,000 acres are open year-round and ready to accommodate any type of tourist or traveler. 97 percent of Mount Rainier National Park is designated as wilderness so don’t look for the park to be lined with spiffy ranger stations or brand new exhibits. Due to this wilderness, many choose to explore Rainier on foot and it has plenty to offer. Trails range from beginner to advanced and can be anywhere in distance from a nice 3-mile jaunt to exhausting 45-mile treks. What type of hike you choose will depend on both your skill level and the amount of time you’re willing to put into a hike.
If you’re one that would rather explore Rainier in your RV or another vehicle then you’re in luck as well. You can take the 78-mile Mount Rainier Loop which takes you through old growth forests, waterfalls, scenic views and more. The trip takes about four to five hours but closes in Winter due to snow and ice.
Mount Rainier also offers a relatively new program in the National Park service known as Citizen Ranger Quests where visitors are tasked with quests that may involve geocaching, taking readings and measurements and discovering way points. Citizen Ranger Quests are definitely fun for the whole family.
If that’s not enough for you then you can try your hand at fishing, bicycling, geocaching, mountaineering, white water rafting and plenty of more. If you’re prepared, done your research and have the physical capacity you may decide to summit the park’s 14,410-foot namesake peak, the active volcano itself, Mount Rainier.;
Where to Stay
Mount Rainier does provide a few campsites where you can take your RV, however, you will have to dry camp or use a generator in order to have power as there are no RV grounds with hookups provided by Mount Rainier.
You’re likely better off to choose a campsite made for RVs near Rainier. Our personal choice is at Mounthaven Resort in nearby Ashford, Washington less than a mile away from the park entrance. Mounthaven has all the amenities, hookups and facilities you need, it even made the list of our top five RV Parks in Washington.
When to Go
The Pacific Northwest is notorious for fickle weather and it’s no different at Rainier. If you want the best weather, try Rainier during the summer, you’ll still get fog and rain but overall the weather is much more pleasant. You will have to contend with the summer crowds of course, but the weather will be worth it for most people. If you're okay with rain and snow as long as you avoid crowds you’re better off visiting Rainier in the spring and fall.
Overall, Rainier’s old growth forests, lovely sub-alpine landscapes and of course Mount Rainier itself are worth a lengthy drive to the far northwest corner of the US. Make sure your hiking shoes are ready and you have a nice rain jacket to get the most out of Mount Rainier National Park.