Introducing Mt Rainier National Park Area
Emblazoned on every Washington license plate and visible throughout much of the western state, Mount Rainier is the contiguous USA's fifth-highest peak and, in the eyes of many, its most awe-inspiring.
Close to Puget Sound's urban areas and unobstructed by any other peaks, the mountain's overwhelming presence, set off by its 26 glaciers, has long enraptured the millions of inhabitants who live in its shadow. Though it's an iconic peak to bag, climbing Rainier is no picnic; old hands liken it to running a marathon in thin air with crampons stuck to your shoes. Approximately 10,000 people attempt it annually.
Beneath Rainier's volatile exterior, even darker forces fester. As an active strato-volcano that recorded its last eruptive activity as recently as 1854, Rainier harnesses untold destructive powers that, if provoked, could threaten downtown Seattle with mudslides and cause tsunamis in Puget Sound. Not surprisingly, the mountain has long been imbued with myth. The Native Americans called it Tahoma or Tacoma, meaning the 'mother of waters,' George Vancouver named it Rainier in honor of his colleague and friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier, while most Seattleites refer to it reverently as 'the Mountain' and forecast the weather by its visibility.
Encased in a 368-sq-mile national park (the US' fifth national park when it was inaugurated in 1899), the mountain's forest-covered foothills harbor numerous hiking trails and huge swathes of flower-carpeted meadows. When the clouds magically disappear during long, clear days in July and August, it becomes one of Washington's most paradisiacal playgrounds