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Mount Rainier National Park
February 27, 2010 - 2:25pm — GettingOutside
At 14,410 feet Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascade Range. From various locations around the park you can see four other Cascade volcanoes: Mount St. Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Baker, and Glacier Peak.
Climbers are afforded rest at Camp Muir on their way to the summit of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range. This is a mountaineer's dream park, and the same thing goes for rock climbers, hikers, nature viewers, and many more types of people who enjoy getting outside. Being at a National Park is like going back in a time capsule, because the land has been preserved, and human development has not been allowed to squander the natural and cultural resources of the region. On a clear day, you can see the tip of Mt Hood, in northern Oregon, from the breathtaking Paradise Meadows! (see image below)
Climbing Mount Rainier for John Muir, one of the men who was instrumental in securing the parks idea's future, was a life changing experience. He was already old and weakened by the world, but when he returned from his exploration of this region, and his literal rise to the top of the world (at least in that geographic area), he triumphed and became revitalized. His spirit was re-awoken, his body changed! Muir lived for many more years, and fought hard for the creation of a National Parks System, and the setting aside of many places that might have otherwise fallen victim to encroachment.
Developers were not allowed to build on this land, despite their best efforts, and we have John Muir, and many others (President Theodore Roosevelt included, as well as General Sheridan and General Wright)... now we have a beautiful park to enjoy here in Washington State, the state named after our fore-father, who would have been proud to see these men stand up for what they believed in: Democracy, and a chance for all to have equal opportunity (to see this and other natural wonders of the world)!
The Park Today
Mount Rainier National Park encompasses 235,625 acres on the west-side of the Cascade Range, and is located about 100 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. Technically it's in Washington State (it should almost be it's own state!). Mount Rainier National Park is approximately 97 percent wilderness and 3 percent National Historic Landmark District and receives approximately 2 million visitors per year.
The park is part of a complex ecosystem. Vegetation is diverse, reflecting the varied climatic and environmental conditions encountered across the park’s 12,800-feet elevation gradient. Approximately 58 percent of the park is forested, 23 percent is subalpine parkland, and the remainder is alpine, half of which is vegetated and the other half consists of permanent snow and ice. Forest ages range from less than 100 years old on burned areas and moraines left by receding glaciers to old-growth stands 1,000 or more years. Some alpine heather communities have persisted in the park for up to 10,000 years.
Species known or thought to occur in the park include more than 800 vascular plants, 159 birds, 63 mammals, 16 amphibians, 5 reptiles, and 18 native fishes. The park contains 26 named glaciers across 9 major watersheds, with 382 lakes and 470 rivers and streams and over 3,000 acres of other wetland types. Of these vertebrates, there are 4 federally listed threatened or endangered species known to occur in the park, including 3 birds and 1 fish. Four other species historically occurred in the park, but their present status is unknown including: gray wolf, grizzly bear, Canada lynx, and Chinook salmon. People Camping at the Park should be aware of Leave No Trace ethics and practice them to the best of their ability!
Camping at Mount Rainier National Park
The entrance fee is $15 for a private, noncommercial vehicle or $5 for each visitor 16 and older entering by motorcycle, bicycle, horseback, on foot, or for individuals traveling together as a non-commercial, organized group. These fees provide the visitor with a 7-day entrance permit for Mount Rainier National Park.
Commercial Tour Fees
These fees are only charged to commercial organizations, such as tour companies. This fee is determined by the seating capacity of the vehicle:
- sedan with 1 to 6 seats = $25
- van with 7 to 15 seats = $75
- minibus with 16 to 25 seats = $100
- motor coach with 26 or more seats = $200
Mount Rainier Annual Pass
The $30 annual park pass covers entrance fees for the pass holder and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park and Whitman Mission National Historic Site. This pass does not cover camping fees and is non-transferable and non-refundable. This pass can be purchased at any entrance to Mount Rainier.
Special Use Permits
Mount Rainier National Park, a recognizable national landmark with inspiring vistas and natural settings, is an ideal spot for a variety of special activities. Most special events and activities held within Mount Rainier National Park require a Special Use Permit. These permits are issued and approved only after National Park Service staff determine that the activity will not impair park values, resources, and visitor enjoyment.
Activities and events that require Special Use Permits include:
- Wedding ceremonies
- Scattering of ashes
- Military operations
- First Amendment activities
- Other special events (rallies, sporting events, organized mountaineering training, etc.)
Campgrounds at Mount Rainier
There are more than 4 Campgrounds at Mount Rainier:
- Cougar Rock (SW corner of park)
- Ohanapecosh (SE corner of park)
- White River (NE corner of park)
- Ipsut Creek (NW corner of park)
- Mowich Lake (NW corner of park)
For making reservations you can see the National Parks Webpage which has deatailed information on each park (some have RV Hookups, running water, other amenities, some do not) and they offer a pricing guide for each (ranges from 12 to 15 dollars per night for one individual site, up to 64 dollars a night for a group site).
Activities at Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park offers excellent opportunities for scenic drives, hiking, and mountain climbing. Most roads are open from late May to early October--all provide stunning views and access to a variety of hiking trails and other sites.
Trails usher hikers through lowland forests of cedar, hemlock, and fir to subalpine streams and meadows of wildflowers, to alpine slopes of firs, glaciers, and tundra.
Rock Climbing is a Favorite and (Probably Most Challenging!) Activity Here
Mount Rainier, the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, offers an exciting challenge to the mountaineer. Each year thousands of people successfully climb this 14,410 foot active volcano. The link above to the NPS website let's you gather current information on weather, Northwest Avalanche Center avalanche forecast, route conditions, avalanche information, Climbing Permits & Fees, Regulations, guide services, and other things you need to know before you climb. If you would like more information, contact Mount Rainier climbing rangers at (360) 569-6009.
Reaching the summit requires a vertical elevation gain of more than 9,000 feet over a distance of eight or more miles. Climbers must be in good physical condition and well prepared. Proper physical conditioning can offset the effects of fatigue that lead to mistakes and injuries.
Weather, snow, and route conditions can change rapidly, making the difference between a pleasant and rewarding experience or tragedy. Before beginning a climb, obtain a current weather forecast. During your climb, turn back if weather conditions deteriorate. Severe winter-like storms on the mountain are not uncommon during the summer.
Winter storms on Mount Rainier are frequent and severe, with high winds, deep snow, and extremely poor visibility. Winter conditions generally exist from mid-September to mid-May. All parties attempting a winter ascent should be experienced in winter mountaineering, avalanche forecasting and rescue, and be familiar with the intended routes of ascent and descent. The maximum party size for winter climbing is 12. A party size of at least 4 is recommended.
Climbers must follow low impact camping regulations.
- Camping is allowed only on permanent snow or ice, or on bare ground areas previously used as campsites. Clearing new tent sites on rocky or snowfree areas is prohibited.
- Travel on established trails to avoid damaging fragile alpine vegetation.
- Climbers must register and pay the climbing fee prior to climbing and must check out upon return. Anyone climbing on glaciers, or above 10,000 feet, must register and pay the climbing fee.
- Solo travel above high camps or anywhere on glaciers is not permitted except with prior written permission from the Superintendent. You may download a Solo Climb Request Form (Word document, 83 KB) or you may request this form by writing: Superintendent, Mount Rainier National Park, 55210 238th Avenue East, Ashford, WA 98304.
- Anyone younger than 18 years of age must have the permission of a parent or legal guardian before climbing above normal high camps.
- Engaging in any business in park areas except in accordance with the provisions of a permit, contract, or other written agreement is prohibited. Leading or participating in an unauthorized guided climb of Mount Rainier is illegal (Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations).
Climbing Fees, Permits and Regulations
Climbing Pass (required)
Required for all who plan to climb above 10,000 feet or onto any glaciers. All climbers must present or purchase their Mount Rainier Climbing Pass and a valid photo I.D. at the time they register for their climb. To obtain a climbing permit each climbing party must complete and submit (in person) a climbing registration card (Word document, 107 KB) before each climb.
There is a small fee for a pass: The fee for a climbing pass is $30 per person per calendar year. Passes purchased in November and December are valid for the following calendar year, so that's nice, they don't make you buy a new pass right after the expiration of the calendar year!
How to get your pass: Locations vary by season. Late-May until mid-October, obtain a pass from the Paradise Climbing Information Center (CIC), the Jackson Visitor Center (JVC), White River Wilderness Information Center (WIC), Longmire WIC or the Carbon River Ranger Station. Mid-October to mid-May, purchase passes at the Longmire Museum daily or the JVC on weekends and holidays. You can also purchase your Mount Rainier Climbing Pass in advance: download and complete the Climbing Pass Purchase Form (PDF, 359 KB), then fax or mail to the park. Fax form to (360)569-3131 or mail it to Wilderness Reservations Office, 55210 238th Avenue East, Ashford, WA 98304.
Climbing parties with one or more members who have already purchased a Mount Rainier Climbing Pass for the current year must also complete and submit a Climbing Party Supplemental Form. This additional form ensures that your party is not charged climbing fees for those already possessing a valid climbing pass when requesting reservations. See the Climbing Section of the National Park's Service Webpage for Rainier.
For More Information: Climbing Reservation Policies and Climbing Pass FAQ's
Reserving a Camp Site (optional): Climbers who are planning to climb between May 1 and September 30 can use the Wilderness Reservation System to reserve camping sites. Reservations are accepted beginning March 15. Reservation requests can be mailed in or faxed to the visitor's center. Requests received before this date will not be accepted.
Reservation Fee: There is a $20 reservation fee (this fee is in addition to the $30 Climbing Pass fee). Reservations do not guarantee a spot in the public shelter at Camp Muir, which is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
How to make a reservation: To reserve a site, print and complete the Reservation Request Form (PDF, 251KB) and return it by fax or by mail. Fax form to (360)569-3131 or mail it to Wilderness Reservations Office, 55210 238th Avenue East, Ashford, WA 98304. During the summer months, reservations can also be made at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center. For more information, call the Longmire Wilderness Information Center at (360)569-HIKE [(360)569-4453].
Bicycling at Rainier
At Mount Rainier, cyclists can enjoy bicycling that is both challenging and scenic. Bicycles are allowed on park roads but they are not permitted on any hiking trails and the park does not have any designated bike trails.
September and early October are generally excellent times for cyclists to visit Mount Rainier. During these months, there are usually fewer vehicles on the roads and fall colors enhance the scenery. However, many facilities and services are reduced or discontinued after Labor Day.
Be aware that the park may temporarily close any road to bicycle use. Signs will mark closed roads and cyclists can check current road status when planning a trip. Availability of bicycling equipment in or near the park is very limited and cyclists should be prepared to make repairs on their own. For your safety, wear a helmet.
Riding the Roads
Park roads are steep, narrow, winding and have unpaved shoulders. There are several significant elevation gains and losses. Cyclists are advised to maintain safe speeds on downhill sections. Always wear a helmet, and make sure you try your best to Leave No Trace!
- From the Nisqually Entrance, in the southwest corner of the park, it is 19 miles one-way with a 3,400 foot gain in elevation to Paradise.
- From the northeast park boundary on SR410,it is 20 miles with an elevation gain of 3,650 feet to Sunrise.
- The Carbon River Road, in the northwest corner of the park, is approximately 5 miles long and offers a ride through a rain forest alongside the Carbon River to Ipsut Creek Campground. Due to the November 2006 flood, bicyclists share the road with pedestrians but the road is closed to motor vehicle traffic. Also, the road is subject to flooding so it could close at any time. Check current road conditions when planning your trip.
- The Mowich Lake Road is also in the northwest corner of the park at the end of Highway 165. This 5-mile dirt road leads to a beautiful sub-alpine lake.
- The Westside Road is just beyond the Nisqually Entrance, in the southwest corner of the park. The first three miles of the road are open to motor vehicles as well as bicycles. There is a small parking area at the end of this three mile section and many mountain bikers choose to leave their cars at this point. There are challenging climbs and many spectacular views along this 9¼ mile stretch to Klapatche Point.
- Another option for mountain bikers is the road behind the old campground in Longmire. Vehicle parking and access to this road are at the Community Building in Longmire. This road connects with Forest Service Road 52 (also called Skate Creek or Kernahan Road).
Cycling Events at Mount Rainier:
Each July, the Redmond Cycling Club sponsors RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier One Day), in which 750 cyclists test themselves on a 154 mile course with 10,000 feet of total elevation gain.
Fishing and Boating at Mount Rainier National Park
Non-motorized boating is permitted on all lakes except Frozen Lake, Reflection Lakes, Ghost Lake, and Tipsoo Lake. No motorized watercraft are permitted within the park.
General Fishing Information
Mount Rainier National Park isn't known for its fishing. Although fish are not native to park lakes, some survive as a result of past fish stocking efforts. Because the fish are not native, there are no limits on the number of fish that can be taken from park lakes. Because native fish are found in park streams, please use barbless hooks and artificial lures and to release uninjured fish. For more information, email us or call (360)569-2211
Most lakes are ice-free only from mid-July through October. According to Washington state fishing regulations, lakes and ponds are open all year, while streams and beaver ponds are open late May or early June through late October. Check the Washington State fishing regulations for exact dates and more detailed information.
Park fishing regulations for streams are generally in accordance with those of the surrounding area waters of the State of Washington. Park-specific regulations and closures are included in the information below. Fishing for bull trout and Chinook Salmon, both federally-listed threatened species, is prohibited in the park.
- Klickitat Creek above the White River Entrance water supply intake
- Ipsut Creek above the Ipsut Creek Campground water supply intake
- Laughingwater Creek above the Ohanapecosh water supply intake
- Frozen Lake
- Reflection Lakes
- Shadow Lake
- Tipsoo Lake
- Ohanapecosh River and its tributaries are open to fly fishing only.
Limits in park lakes - No limits
Limits in park streams - Daily catch - Six pounds and one fish, not to exceed 12 fish.
Possession - 1 day's limit
Minimum size - none
License - No license or permit is required by the park, aside from that which is required by Washington State fishing regulations.
Fly fishing - The Ohanapecosh River and its tributaries are open to fly fishing only. The use of bait or other lures except artificial flies is not permitted.
A Few Things You Might Do Elsewhere Are Prohibited Here:
- Cleaning fish in park waters
- Possession or use of live or dead bait fish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs, or roe
- Chumming or placing any substance (fish eggs, food, drugs, etc.) in waters for the purpose of attracting or feeding fish
- Fishing with nets, seines, traps, drugs or explosives, or any means other than hook and line with the rod or line being closely attended
- Digging for bait
- Placing refuse of any kind in any park waters
Overnight Fishing Trips - Anglers making overnight trips into the backcountry must have a wilderness camping permit. These permits can be obtained at any ranger station or wilderness information center. Check here for information on wilderness camping and permit information.
Checklist of fish - Fish are not native to park lakes, but at least 27 lakes still contain reproducing populations of fish including eastern brook trout, rainbow and cutthroat stocks.
Hiking at Mount Rainier NP
Permits are not required for day hiking. However, camping overnight in the wilderness at Mount Rainier requires a permit. In the summer, permits can be obtained at any ranger station in the park during their hours of operation. Obtain permits at: the Longmire Wilderness Information Center at Longmire, the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center at Ohanapecosh, the White River Wilderness Information Center at the White River Entrance, the Sunrise Visitor Center at Sunrise and the Carbon River Ranger Station at the Carbon River Entrance.
In the winter, permits are available at the Longmire Museum every day and the Jackson Visitor Center on weekends. Self-registration during the winter is available at the Carbon River Ranger Station, Ohanapecosh Ranger Station, and the Highway 410 entrance arch at the park's north boundary. Winter camping ends by May 15 each spring. This hiker is going on the first hike of the spring season:
Do yourself a favor...
Come visit Mount Rainier National Park, and Get Outside for some fresh air, experience rejuvenation and the peace of nature! Beauty, Solace, Wonder, Amazement, you name it, Mount Rainier has got it!
Directions to Mount Rainier National Park
Always check the road status page before planning a trip to the park. Unexpected road closures may occur at any time due to the dynamic nature of Mount Rainier.
Southwest - Year round access to the park is via SR 706 to the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest corner of the park. The road from the entrance to Longmire remains open throughout winter except during extreme weather. The road from Longmire to Paradise closes nightly from November 1 through winter. It reopens the following morning dependent upon snow removal. Even though roads will be open, some facilities may not be available.
Northwest - Carbon River in the northwest is also open year round via SR 165 through Wilkeson, but vehicle access is permitted only to the ranger station. Beyond this point the Carbon River Road is open to pedestrians and bicyclists. Another access point in the northwest is Mowich Lake. Due to heavy snowfall it is only open in the summer and closes mid-October or with the first snowfall.
Southeast - Spring through fall road closures depend on snowfall and its removal from the roadways. Ohanapecosh on SR 123 is generally open via Hwy 12 from Yakima or Packwood from late May to early November. Access to other areas of the park from Ohanapecosh may be closed during the early and later seasons so please check the road status while making your plans.
Northeast - Sunrise, White River and southbound SR 123 are accessed via SR 410 from Enumclaw. The road to Sunrise is usually open by July 1st through early September, as is the visitor center and other facilities. The road to Sunrise closes at the junction with White River Campground every night beginning in late September. It reopens each morning as conditions permit. The entire road from the junction with SR 410 to Sunrise and White River is closed for winter on October 14 or earlier with the first heavy snowfall.
Three airports, served by major airlines are located near Mount Rainier:
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is located in Seattle, Washington. The one-way distance from the Seattle to the town of Ashford, located just outside the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park, is 85 miles.
Yakima Air Terminal is located in Yakima, Washington. The one-way distance from the Yakima to town of Ashford, located just outside the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park, is 115 miles.
Portland International Airport is located in Portland, Oregon. The one-way distance from the Portland to town of Ashford, located just outside the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park, is 168 miles.
There is no public transportation to or in Mount Rainier National Park.
From May 1 to September 30, Gray Line Tours offers daily trips from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park. For more information, call Gray Line Tours at (800)426-7532.
Mount Rainier National Park Ashford, WA, 98304
Phone: 360-569-221146° 55' 37.2288" N, 121° 43' 32.7684" W