Mt. Rainier

Thing Learned – Some Mountains Are Just ‘Cooler’ Than Other Mountains

I grew up in the Seattle area and first discovered Mount Rainier National Park during high school. I moved away for college, then for employment, but always wanted to (and did) return. I finally did and I should have returned to Rainier earlier…

I have made quite a few ‘pilgrimages’ over the years, often staying at various Mt. Rainier lodging places. You can see just how majestic Mt. Rainier can be from picture below.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
John Muir 1*John Muir

Quick Overview – You Can Do This In A Long Day Driving Trip – But Check The Weather, The Roads And The Hours Of Operation Before You Go

A few important Mt. Rainier tips for one and all:

Bonus Tip – Check The Weather: Just because it is warm where you are (i.e. Seattle) doesn’t mean it is the same temperature on the Mountain. Flip-flops may work at sea level, but not so much once you get to Paradise. Also, it may be clear in Yakima, Olympia, Ellensburg of Bellingham but that doesn’t mean Mt. Rainier is clear. First do a visual check – can you see the mountain top? Next check the weather for Mt. Rainier 2*Mt. Rainier weather

Bonus Tip – Drive Time: If the weather is nice, plan on around a two-hour drive from Seattle to Mt. Rainier.

Bonus Tip – Road Conditions: If it isn’t summer be sure to check Mt. Rainier’s road conditions 3* Mt. Rainier’s road conditions  BEFORE you go. Most of the roads are closed for winter. The road from Nisqually Entrance to Longmire is open year-round, but will close during extreme weather. The road between Longmire and Paradise closes nightly in winter and reopens in the morning once the road has been plowed.

Bonus Tip – Summer Extra Clothing: Bring extra sweatshirt, jacket, long pants if you are wearing shorts, etc. And be sure to bring sunblock whether for the sun or the reflection from the snow.

Bonus Tip – Winter Extra Clothing: Bring more clothes than you think you will need. Don’t wear sneakers or flip-flops, you will get wet, then cold, then freeze.  Wear layers of wool or synthetics like pile and polypropylene under a waterproof shell. Avoid exposure to wind or wear wind proof jacket. Snack frequently, drink lots of water, and take warm-up breaks indoors.

Bonus Tip – Hours Of Operation: Check the hours of operation for Mt. Rainier 4*Mt. Rainier hours of operation (they vary by season) and plan on arriving early. Many a visitor has left Seattle at mid-morning only to drive up to Paradise lodge and find there is no parking.

Bonus Tip – It Really Snows: Paradise is one of the snowiest places 5*Mt. Rainier annual snowfall on Earth.  From November to late May, expect to find 10 to 20 feet of snow on the ground. Approximately 630″ of snow falls in an average winter at the Paradise lodge.

Mountain Rainier Details

First Things First… Mt. Rainier is a volcano. Not currently spewing, but things can change. Rainier was built up above the surrounding country by repeated eruptions and successive flows of lava. It is a relatively young volcano, only about 500,000 years old. By contrast the other Cascade Range mountains are at least 12 million years old.

I Told You So: In the spirit of full disclosure, my neighbor loves Mt. Rainier and asked me to include the ‘disaster movie,’ above, to keep away tourists. Oh yeah, he asked me to tell you Rainier’s last magmatic eruption 6*Mt. Rainier’s most recent eruption was about 1,000 years ago.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Mountain Rainier is massive 14,411 feet, or 14,409 depending on who you believe but when you get up there you realize that a couple of pesky feet don’t really matter. Especially on many days when you can’t see the peak anyways. But when it is clear, the summit looms above you, the Cascades and everything else. It is, well, magnificent.

Mountain Rainier Places To Visit

The Road To Paradise: There are many clear days when I was in Seattle and could see it and it caused me to change my weekend plans to take the 2+ hour drive to Paradise. Paradise is the most popular destination at Mount Rainier, located on its southern slope – that means if you are coming from Seattle you have to go around the mountain a bit.

Sunrise Is Just That: Sunrise Visitor Center is at an elevation of 6,400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park. Due to the altitude, Sunrise is open from early July to late September. Sunrise is located 60 miles northeast of the Nisqually Entrance.

Things To Do At Mount Rainier National Park

The Drive: I know, I know… It isn’t always that the journey is as fun as the destination, but in this case it is. As you get closer and closer to Rainier, it just gets more magnificent. Have your camera ready. It will take a few trips to get rid of that white-knuckle grabbing of the anything that you can as you look down some pretty steep valleys.

Hiking: There are many trails to hike at Mt. Rainier 7*Mt. Rainier hiking trails . Quite a few are pretty strenuous but well worth it.

Hiking – The Wonderland Trail: If you are in good physical condition and have about 10 days to kill, then the Wonderland Trail 8*Wonderland Trail – Mount Rainier National Park is for you. It roughly circles around Mount Rainier.  It is a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain and loss, through lowland forests and valleys and into high alpine and sub-alpine areas.

It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks.”
The three rules of mountaineering 9*he three rules of mountaineering

Climb Every Mountain: I don’t climb, but I have met climbers they’d had a great time. In 2015, 10,025 people attempted to climb Mount Rainier; 10*10,000+ people attempted to climb Mount Rainier annually and about 4,900 of them actually reached the summit. Word of warning – it is dangerous for the inexperienced. There have been over 100 deaths on Mt. Rainier 11*Analysis: Over 100 climbing deaths on Mount Rainier

Wildlife: You will almost always see deer. Marmots 12*Wikipedia Marmot are a frequent ‘greeter’ as well.

Crowds: Again, it can get crowded in the high summer season. There are also many trails and viewpoints to see on the way to Paradise or Sunrise.

Wild Flowers: The wild flowers are great – but that isn’t usually until July, and by the first of August the meadows are very camera worthy. Mt. Rainier’s ‘peak bloom’ for wildflowers 13*Mt. Rainier wildflowers depends on weather and precipitation patterns.

There are more Mount Rainier National Park pictures 14*Mount Rainier National Park pictures at

It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
Sir Edmund Hillary 15*Sir Edmund Hillary