2014: Gateway to Paradise

Outdoors Mount Rainier HutsWith the Northwest’s singular natural icon as its centerpiece, the Mount Rainier region is comprised of some 2,800 square miles including one national park as well as portions of seven wilderness areas, three national forest areas and picturesque mountain communities.

A tourist destination drawing visitors from across Washington state, the country and with a big draw of international tourists, Mount Rainier is but 68 miles from Seattle and 95 miles from Portland, the two big metropolitan areas of the great Northwest.

Mount Rainier is an active volcano that erupted as recently as 1854. As you drive off of Interstate 5 and through the communities of Tenino, Rainier, Yelm, McKenna and Roy, stunning views of the mountain give an indication of the splendor found. The mountain rises about three miles from the lowlands and is a towering presence — at 14,411 feet tall — it’s the highest peak in the lower 48 states, with the largest glacial system in the lower 48 and 25 named glaciers.

Cool WeatherMount Rainier, part of the Cascades Range and the Ring of Fire, forms a trine with Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.

Lodging options in the Mount Rainier area are plentiful, and include historic inns within Mount Rainier National Park, historic lodges in Mineral and Ashford, historic hotels in Packwood, resorts, hotels, spas, mountain vacation retreats and vacation home rentals, bed and breakfasts, cabins, a treehouse, and more in  Ashford, Greenwater, Crystal Mountain and other surrounding communities.

The area is primed to serve visitors, with restaurants, cafes, espresso stands, climbing and other outdoor activities outfitters, gift shops, grocery stores, and more can be found in the communities surrounding the mountain. Within the park, there is a restaurant at the National Park Inn, Longmire, and snacks at gift shops in the Sunrise and Paradise visitor centers.

n Source: VisitRainier. Contact Executive Director Mary Kay Nelson at: VisitRainier@LocalAccess.com; toll free 877-270-7155 or www.visitrainier.com


How to get to Mount Rainier:

Highway 706 from Ashford to the park’s Nisqually entrance, in the southwest corner of the park, is the only year-round access to the park. Highway 706 can be accessed by Highway 7 — to the west or, in the summer, via Skate Creek Road — to the south. The road from Longmire to Paradise within Mount Rainier National Park — closes nightly and reopens each day, weather permitting. Call 360-569-2211.

Highway 410 over Chinook Pass (on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park) — check with Washington State Department of Transportation by calling 800-695-7623. Closed in winter.

Highway 12 to Highway 123 — approaching from the south side of Mount Rainier National Park. East from Morton, Randle and Packwood or west from Naches (over White Pass).

Carbon River Road (Highway 165 South off of Highway 410 near Buckley, northwest of Mount Rainier National Park) high clearance vehicles recommended. Check for closures due to flooding by calling 360-569-2211. Open year-round.

Highway 123/410 over Cayuse Pass (on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park) — check with Washington State Department of Transportation by calling 800-695-7623. Closed in winter.

n Source: VisitRainier.com


Historical Roots:

Long before European explorers, Mount Rainier was known as Talol, Takhoma, Tahoma and other names by Northwest American Indians who frequented it to gather wild huckleberries and hunt game.

Captain George Vancouver penned the name Mount Rainier after his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier, upon observing the mountain on May 8, 1792.

One of the first recorded white explorers to Mount Rainier was Dr. William Tolmie in 1833.

The first known successful summit climb was by Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump in 1870.

James and Virinda Longmire built the first hotel on the mountain, Longmire’s Mineral Springs Resort, in 1890. That same year, Fay Fuller, a schoolteacher, was the first white woman to climb Rainier.

Mount Rainier National Park was the fifth park established in the system by an Act of Congress on March 2, 1899, under President McKinley.

n Source: VisitRainier.com


Parks, Forests and Wilderness:

Mount Rainier National Park, covering 235,612 acres, includes such well-known sites as Paradise, Sunrise at 6,400 feet, the highest point in the park accessible by car, Longmire, Ohanapecosh, Grove of the Patriarchs, Tipsoo Lake, 25 named glaciers, and wildflower carpeted sub-alpine meadows.

Bordering the national park are the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest, as well as the Wilkeson, Norse Peak, Clearwater, William O. Douglas, Tatoosh and Glacier View wilderness areas. Goat Rocks Wilderness borders both the Tatoosh and William O. Douglas wilderness areas.

n Source: VisitRainier.com


Other Key Attractions:

Trails for all ability levels — An established and well-maintained trail system within and outside the park offers varying levels of difficulty, diverse terrain and many scenic vistas. More renowned trails include the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which skirts the park’s east boundaries, and the Wonderland Trail, which circumnavigates Mount Rainier. There are 240 miles of maintained trails within the park itself.

Mount Tahoma Trails Association Hut-to-Hut Trail System — the nation’s most extensive no-fee hut-to-hut system, offers 50 miles of trails, 20 of which are groomed, three huts and a yurt. Designed for use by cross-country skiers during the snowy months, the trail is enjoyed by mountain bikers and hikers during the rest of the year. The system is best accessed from Highway 706, one mile west of Ashford.

Crystal Mountain and White Pass ski areas — The Mount Rainier region boasts some of the best snow in the west with 350 inches of average annual snowfall on Crystal Mountain, the largest ski area in Washington, and at White Pass. The two ski areas offer days of downhill and/or Nordic runs. Crystal Mountain also offers dinners at the summit during the summer.

Crystal clear mountain lakes, sparkling streams and milky, mineral-rich glacial rivers treat the visitor. There are five major rivers: the Carbon, White, Cowlitz, Nisqually and Puyallup, which originate from Mount Rainier, and more than 100 waterfalls in the park alone.

Flora and fauna viewing opportunities — With extensive wilderness lands, national forests and protected national park habitat, the Mount Rainier region supports an abundance of wildlife. The Oak Creek elk and mountain goat feeding stations in the Naches Ranger District (east of White Pass, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 12 and Highway 410) provide easy viewing during feeding times in the winter months and other opportunities year-round. On rocky slopes within and outside the national park, marmots can often be spotted. In all, 50 species of mammals make their homes in the park. Bird populations are plentiful with 130 species spotted within the park; abrupt elevation changes allow for observable vertical migrations. The environs also support a profusion of wildflowers in sub-alpine meadows.

n Source: VisitRainier.com

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