The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Mt. Rainier National Park is of course the mountain itself. Topping out at about 14,410 feet, Mt. Rainier is not only the tallest mountain in Washington, it also boasts the most glaciers as well. Mt. Rainier's glaciers cover more than 35 square miles and are important sources of water for six major rivers. If ice isn't really your thing, consider this -- Mt. Rainier is also an active volcano!
Mt. Rainier is a mecca for mountain climbers, with approximately 10,000 people attempting to summit every year! It’s a difficult climb, and only about half reach that ultimate destination. Because there are so many activities that you can do at Mt. Rainier, it can be a very busy place, especially on a beautiful sunny day.
Mt. Rainier was originally referred to as “Tahoma” or “Takhoma” by the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. One translation for these names is “mother of waters”. It is believed that the city of Tacoma adopted this as their city name due to their proximity to (and love for) the mountain. The current name, Mt. Rainier, was given by British explorer, George Vancouver, who named it in honor of his friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. In 1890, the United States Board on Geographic Names declared that the official name of the mountain would be “Rainier”.
Established in 1899, Mt. Rainier National Park boasts five developed areas and each have their own historical significance and overall ambiance. The areas are Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon & Mowich. We recommend spending time exploring them all but hope you’ll enjoy our brief synopsis.
Longmire was the original park headquarters in 1916. Though no longer the park headquarters, there is museum and a Wilderness Information Center. Paradise is the second of the developed areas and is most famously known for its brilliant fields of wildflowers in the warmer months. It is also quite popular for winter recreation as it receives on average 643 inches of snow per year. Ohanapecosh is thought to meant “standing at the edge” and is a great option as it is typically more dry and sunny than Longmire and Paradise. The old growth forests located in this area allow visitors to experience a unique beauty and complexity often lacking in more urban settings. Sunrise is a very popular option as it is the highest elevation reachable by car. At 6,400 feet, Sunrise offers stunning views of wildflower meadows, glaciers, and Mt. Rainier. Lastly, Carbon & Mowich is the area that refers to Carbon River and Mowich Lake. Carbon River got its name from the coal deposits found in the area. It is often rainy and resembles a temperate rainforest. Mowich Lake is set within a glacial basin and is both the largest and deepest lake within Mt. Rainier National Park. This is another great spot to take in the wildflowers.
Whether viewed from the shores of Puget Sound or from the top of the mountain itself, Mt. Rainier is a beautiful icon for all who live in the Pacific Northwest and beyond!