This 369-miles squared park is home to the iconic Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in Washington state, which is also an active volcano. Receiving an average of 643 inches of snow every year, it is the most glaciated peak in the US. Ascending up to 14,410 feet (4,400 meters) above sea level, you can see Mount Rainier from as far as Oregon in the south, and British Columbia in the north, on a very clear day. When the skies are clear (which is not very often in Seattle), it greets you as you land or depart from the SEA-TAC airport.
The Mount Rainier National Park, with its many trails, lakes, vegetation and wildlife, deserves at least several days, if not weeks, of exploration. Each season is a different experience, with the flowers blooming in the meadows in spring and summer, and parts of the park turned into skiing grounds in the winter. This national park is therefore the most visited park in Washington state, receiving at least 2 million visitors annually.
There are at least five areas in Mount Rainer that are frequently visited. Since we had only one day, we went, straight for the most popular Paradise area. It is the only area that is opened year-round.
The scenery as you drive up is pretty stunning, with alpine trees, meadows, waterfalls and lakes as you drive up. We made a couple of stops both up and down to take in the scenery.
You get this classic view of Mount Rainier from the Reflection Lakes, at an elevation of 4,900 feet above sea level.
From 1927 to 1973, this area was opened to fishing, boating and swimming, resulting in damage to the lake ecosystem. Fortunately, this was put to a stop, and now efforts are made to restore the area by delineating trails, and revegetating many of the paths and bare ground.
In summer, the lakes are surrounded by wildflowers(such as rosy spirea, fireweed and lupines) and are filled with fall colors in autumn.
There are a couple of trails around here, from the easy Wonderland Trail, to more strenuous hikes that lead you to the visitor center at the Paradise area. We took the trail around the lake, where you can walk right up to the lake.
Henry Jackson Visitor Center, Myrtle Falls and Shoreline Trail
Located in the southwest part of the park, Paradise was named because the daughter-in-law of the first American settler in the area exclaimed ‘oh, what a paradise’ when she saw the area.
From the Henry M Jackson Visitor Centre, we took the trail to Myrtle Falls, and continued on the Shoreline Trail, 5000 feet in elevation. Although we visited the park end of July, right in the middle of summer, parts of the trail are still covered with snow. You need to be careful when walking on the snow, as parts of it are melting. A hiking stick would be useful to check the snow is still firm, otherwise stick to the rock paths.
The trek could be pretty tiring especially under a blazing summer sun, but the stunning alpine views from up there is well worth the effort. Apart from the wildflowers that dot the meadows, hoary marmots are common sight along the trails here. When in groups, you hear them ‘whistling’.
There are so many trails and areas to explore in this national park, each with its unique characteristics. Will update with more in later posts.
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Paradise – Mount Rainier National Park (U.S. National Park Service). n.d. Available at https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/paradise.ht m [Accessed 1 August 2020].
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Paradise Mt. Rainier | Visit Rainier. n.d. Available at https://visitrainier.com/places-and-attractions/pa rk-regions/paradise/ [Accessed 1 August 2020].
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