More than two million people each year make the trek to Mt. Rainier National Park. For more than one hundred years, the park has attracted climbers, hikers, naturalists and of course photographers. The Northwest’s highest mountain anchors this area which is replete with old-growth forests, flowery sub alpine meadows, and rivers born from the glaciers that streak the peak’s upper slopes.
Mt. Rainier is located about 90 miles south, southeast of Seattle. If you are flying, Sea-Tac International Airport is the closest major airport. Rent a car and head south on I-5. If you want to concentrate your visit on the park’s west side, leave I-5 near Tacoma, Wash. and follow Washington Highway 7 to Washington Highway 706. This will take you to the Nisqually Entrance. If you want to work the park’s eastern flank, take I-5 south all the way to Washington Highway 12 going east. As you drive past Packwood, Wash, take Washington Highway 123 to the park’s Stevens Canyon or White River Entrances. July through September are the park’s peak months, although portions of the park are open year-round. A one-week vehicle pass that gains the vehicle and all occupants access to the park (but not camping areas,) costs $10.00.
WHERE TO STAY
You can camp in the park or stay at one of the national park lodges on Rainier. These sites fill up quickly so visit the NPS web site link at the bottom of this story for more information.
If you want to stay in a hotel, there are several to choose from. Since I prefer starting my Rainier trips on the park’s east side, I suggest Packwood, Wash. as a base of operations. It is only 20 minutes from the park’s entrance and offers four or five small and affordable hotels. There are also some basic restaurants, gas stations and a grocery store. Hotel rooms run from $50 to $100 during peak season. Continue reading