The Mount Rainier National Park was created in 1899, making it the fifth oldest of the US national parks. It centres on and is named after the 4,390 m (14,403 ft) Mount Rainier stratovolcano. The park is 957 km2 (~370 sq mi) and is in Washington State. 97% of its land is protected wilderness.
The volcano is still active and last erupted as recently as around 150 years ago. An iconic sight, it towers above its fellow mountains in the Cascade Range in which it stands and can be seen from up to 100 miles away. It is considered the most glacial peak in North America’s landmass.
Around it are some of the most spectacular remaining old growth forests, which cover 370 km2 (143 sq mi) of the park, interspersed with waterfalls, lakes and streams and subalpine meadows.
The most easily observed wildlife are the Columbian black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, Stellar Jays and ravens, but the park supports a huge range of life including 182 bird types, 65 mammal species, 14 amphibian species, 14 native fish species and five types of reptiles. It is not uncommon to spot elk, black bear and mountain goats.
While displays of wildflowers in the area are spectacular in July and August, many come to the Park in the winter months for the skiing. The most visited part of the park is Paradise, lying on the south slope of Mount Rainier, which is one of the snowiest recorded places on Earth.
Seriously dedicated hikers come for the Wonderland Trail. This 150 km (~93 mi) hike goes completely around Mount Rainier and can take from 10 to 14 days to complete in its entirety. It can be a strenuous journey encompassing severe elevations and heart-stopping river crossings on very basic bridges. It’s estimated that only 200-250 people a year finish the entire route, although many others walk at least part of it. However, be advised that because of its protected wilderness country, prior reservation to complete the route is needed and can be oversubscribed.