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Introducing South Cascades

More rounded and less hemmed in than their saw-toothed cousins to the north, the South Cascades are nonetheless higher. Their pinnacle in more ways than one is 14,411ft Mt Rainier, the fifth highest mountain in the lower 48 and arguably one of the most dramatic stand-alone mountains in the world. Further south, fiery Mt St Helen's needs zero introduction while unsung Adams glowers way off to the east like a sulking middle child.

Most of the South Cascades are protected by an interconnecting patchwork of national parks, forests and wilderness areas. The largest and most emblematic of these is Mt Rainier National Park, inaugurated in 1899, while the most unusual is the Mt St Helens National Volcano Monument, formed in 1982, two years after the mountain's eruption.

While development inside the parks is refreshingly light, keen downhill skiers can find solace at Crystal Mountain just outside the limits of Mt Rainier National Park which, while no Whistler, is the largest ski resort in Washington state.