My home state of Washington, perched in the upper left corner of the US, is known for having a wide variety of prime geographic regions; it is one of the only states in the US where you can experience the ocean, mountains, high desert, and bustling cities in one state.
Only those who have experienced the northwest understand the overwhelming beauty of Mount Rainier National Park. Those who can tie up their hiking boots, and explore the area in depth, have an even better understanding of all that is to be appreciated in the area. But before you venture off on your first hike in Mount Rainier National Park, please take note of these ideas from a Rainier nerd herself.
Designated as a National Park in 1899, Mount Rainier has much to offer for any outdoor enthusiast-Mount Rainier is the highest peak in Washington State and the 5th highest mountain in the lower 48 states. According to AllTrails.com, Mount Rainier is one of the best hiking areas in the Pacific Northwest. This may be because hikers can find forests with cedar, hemlock, and fir trees as well as streams and wildflower meadows. On Rainier’s alpine slopes, visitors can also come across giant firs, glaciers, and tundra.
The park offers 260 miles of maintained trails to explore at your leisure. If you are traveling to the Longmire area, try the short trail of the shadows-you’ll see a replica of an early homestead cabin and discover the plants and animals that call this area their home. Shadow Lakes Trail offers views of White River Valley and gives access to Shadow Lake.
First of all, know when to go
The best time to visit Mount Rainier is during July, August, and early September before the park closes. While Washington State is famous for its rain, its summers are generally dry with comfortable temperatures and little to no humidity. According to National Geographic, Washington state wildflowers are at their best in July and August, which is one of the reasons why I recommend taking advantage of the natural seasons and coordinating your trip with the blossoming of wildflowers including Mountainbells, Magenta Paintbrushes, Subalpine Daisies, and Tiger Lillies.
Do your research
Before you hike, you should read up on the trails you are exploring. In fact, before heading off, you will have to speak with a Park Ranger to get a copy of the Trail Map. The park service’s intentions with this are so that you can have a one-on-one conversation about the status of flora and fauna, wildlife, safety, and weather conditions before continuing in your endeavors. Talking to a ranger can give you a good feel for what your day entails, and they can give you special tips and warnings that might not be online or published publicly.
Also, respect the park
Part of enjoying Mt Rainier National Park is doing your part to help preserve it. Make sure that you stay on designated trails, and leave your pup at home- dogs are not allowed in the park.
Mount Rainier’s ecosystem is fragile, like any other National Park. Every wildflower is part of this Western treasure’s circle of life- try not to step on, or pick any of the plant species. Do not feed any of the wildlife during the hike, and keep your distance. Many people think that they are helping the animals by feeding them, when in reality they have a perfectly balanced habitat that cannot be disturbed. Different species can also become dependent on human food, and that might lead to an incident that could injure other visitors or even the animal you fed.
I hope that you keep these notes in mind before packing up and hitting the road. Whether you are a Washingtonian yourself who wants to understand the state you call home better, or someone who will be traveling to Mount Rainier just to see the spectacular views-the mountain, and surrounding park areas provide hiking opportunities to see the beauty of Washington State from all angles.