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Mount Rainier National Park was designed from a master plan which included such things as roads with scenic lookouts, trails and visitor centers. The roads were carefully engineered to make the least impact on the landscape, so you will notice they are narrow, and trees grow close. This creates a wonderful atmosphere to quickly transport you beyond the reminders of the nearby urban belt and bring you to the many beauties of the park which are easily accessed in short walks that ring the mountain. The further you are willing to hike, of course, the more you will see of the views, vegetation, wildlife, rivers, waterfalls, springs and canyons.
The park has more than 300 miles of trails that are usually snow-free from mid-July through September. They range from short walks from viewpoints and visitor centers to the 93-mile Wonderland Trail which completely encircles the mountain. A circuit of the latter takes about 10-14 days. There are a number of self-guiding nature walks. Ask at the visitor centers about naturalist talks and walks in summer, and snowshoe walks in winter. Horses are allowed on 100 miles of the trails.
The mountain is encircled by old-growth forest, filled with majestic Douglas-fir, red cedar and western hemlock. In the wettest area of the park near Carbon River in the northwest, some botanists contend the vegetation is an example of temperate rain forest. In summer the Park puts on displays of wildflowers that carpet the sub-alpine meadows. The greening meadows follow the zone of contact between advancing springtime and retreating winter, up the mountain. The best time to see the flowers is mid-July to mid-August.
The area abounds with wildlife which is readily seen upon the open, sub-alpine landscape. You can usually see birds, marmots, chipmunks, chickarees, squirrels, pikas and deer without wandering too far. Elk and black bear are more elusive. To see mountain goats, you'll have to hike up to the high country where they live. If you are serious about seeing wildlife, you will need to be on the trails well before 11:00 am.
Best selection of books on the Northwest.
Mt. Rainier: Adventures and Views by John Harlin III and James Martin. Get up close and personal with the of Mount Rainier. Photographer James Martin captures the awesome beauty of this majestic peak, from its icy glaciers to its lush alpine meadows, while climber and writer John Harlin provides engrossing accounts of adventure on the mountain. Order now...
Washington's Mount Rainier National Park: A Centennial Celebration by Tim McNulty and Pat O'Hara. In this official book, O'Hara and McNulty view the mountain through all its facets: from the geologic and climatic forces that continue to shape it, the rich legacy of humans' relationship with it and its delicate ecosystems. Order now...
Adventure Guide to Mount Rainier: Hiking, Climbing and Skiing in Mt. Rainier National Park by Jeff Smoot. Includes descriptions of tourist trails, nature trails, off-trail hiking, bike routes, minor peak scrambling, skiing and snowshoeing areas, and of course, summit routes. Order now...
Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide 2nd Edition by Mike Gauthier. From the Lead Climbing Ranger for Mt Rainier National Park. The latest information on logistics, regulations and permits. Expanded material on understanding and surmounting Rainier's glaciers, tips on selecting a guide service, mountaineering training sites around Rainier and bonus routes on adjacent Little Tahoma. Order now...
Day Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park Trails by Dan A. Nelson and Alan L. Bauer. Compact, portable and beautifully packaged, Day Hiking Mount Rainier provides the most thorough coverage of Mount Rainier National Park to date. Nearby camping options are included, plus info on how to extend your hike, a full-color photo insert and overview map, quick-reference icons for kids, dogs, views and more. Order now...
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