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Outdoor Activities In & Near the National Park

HIKING & BACKPACKING:Hikers have more than 240 miles of trails to explore within the park, though the vast majority of park visitors do their hiking at only two places—Paradise and Sunrise. these two alpine areas offer the most scenic day-hiking opportunities, but they can be crowded.

At Paradise , the 5-mile Skyline Trail  is the highest trail and climbs through beautiful meadows above the tree line. Views of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the Nisqually Glacier open up along this route. The Lakes Trail, of similar length, heads downhill to the Reflection Lakes, with picture-perfect views of the mountain reflected in their waters.

At Sunrise  there are also numerous trails of varying lengths. Among these, the 5-mile Burroughs Mountain Trail and the 5.5-mile Mount Fremont Trail are both very rewarding—the latter even provides a chance to see mountain goats.

The park’s single most memorable low-elevation hike is the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail . This 1.5-mile round-trip trail is fairly flat (good for kids) and leads through a forest of huge old trees to a grove of 1,000-year-old red cedars on an island in the Ohanapecosh River. If you’ve never seen old-growth trees, this is a must. The trail head is near the Stevens Canyon park entrance (southeast entrance).

Another interesting (and easy) low-elevation walk is the Trail of the Shadows, a .75-mile loop trail in Longmire. This trail, which circles a wet meadow, leads past bubbling mineral springs.

There are also naturalist-led programs and walks throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and on winter weekends, there are guided snowshoe walks. Check the park newspaper for schedules.

WHITEWATER RAFTING:The Tieton River, which flows down the eastern slopes of the Cascades, is one of the state’s most popular rafting rivers. However, the rafting season lasts for only 10 days during the annual August/September drawdown of water from Rimrock Reservoir. Rafting companies offering trips on this river include Alpine Adventures (www.alpineadventures.com; tel. 800/723-8386) and River Riders (www.riverrider.com; tel. 800/448-7238 or 206/448-7238). Expect to pay $75 to $90.

WINTER SPORTS:There’s good cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing at Paradise, where 2-hour guided snowshoe walks, with snowshoes provided ($4 suggested donation), are offered daily between mid-December and early January and on winter weekends through March. You’ll find a ski touring and cross-country ski and snow-shoe rental shop at the National Park Inn at Longmire (tel. 360/569-2411). Snowboarding is popular throughout the year, though there is no lift to get you up the slope, and it’s about a 1  1/2-hour climb to the best snowboarding area.

Just outside the park’s northeast corner, off Wash. 410, is Crystal Mountain  (www.skicrystal.com; tel. 360/663-3050 for general information, or 888/754-6199 for snow conditions), the state’s best all-around ski area due to the variety of terrain. You’ll pay $61 for an adult all-day adult lift ticket, $41 for seniors.

A Scenic Train Ride on Mount Rainier

From Memorial Day through October, the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad  (www.mrsr.com; tel. 888/783-2611 or 360/492-5588) operates vintage steam and diesel locomotives and both enclosed and open passenger cars between the town of Elbe and the southwest entrance to the park. The trips last 1 1/2 to 2 hours and cost $29 for adults, $22 for seniors, $15 for children ages 4 to 12.


Outdoor Activities In & Near the National Park

HIKING & BACKPACKING:Hikers have more than 240 miles of trails to explore within the park, though the vast majority of park visitors do their hiking at only two places—Paradise and Sunrise. these two alpine areas offer the most scenic day-hiking opportunities, but they can be crowded.

At Paradise , the 5-mile Skyline Trail  is the highest trail and climbs through beautiful meadows above the tree line. Views of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and the Nisqually Glacier open up along this route. The Lakes Trail, of similar length, heads downhill to the Reflection Lakes, with picture-perfect views of the mountain reflected in their waters.

At Sunrise  there are also numerous trails of varying lengths. Among these, the 5-mile Burroughs Mountain Trail and the 5.5-mile Mount Fremont Trail are both very rewarding—the latter even provides a chance to see mountain goats.

The park’s single most memorable low-elevation hike is the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail . This 1.5-mile round-trip trail is fairly flat (good for kids) and leads through a forest of huge old trees to a grove of 1,000-year-old red cedars on an island in the Ohanapecosh River. If you’ve never seen old-growth trees, this is a must. The trail head is near the Stevens Canyon park entrance (southeast entrance).

Another interesting (and easy) low-elevation walk is the Trail of the Shadows, a .75-mile loop trail in Longmire. This trail, which circles a wet meadow, leads past bubbling mineral springs.

There are also naturalist-led programs and walks throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and on winter weekends, there are guided snowshoe walks. Check the park newspaper for schedules.

WHITEWATER RAFTING:The Tieton River, which flows down the eastern slopes of the Cascades, is one of the state’s most popular rafting rivers. However, the rafting season lasts for only 10 days during the annual August/September drawdown of water from Rimrock Reservoir. Rafting companies offering trips on this river include Alpine Adventures (www.alpineadventures.com; tel. 800/723-8386) and River Riders (www.riverrider.com; tel. 800/448-7238 or 206/448-7238). Expect to pay $75 to $90.

WINTER SPORTS:There’s good cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing at Paradise, where 2-hour guided snowshoe walks, with snowshoes provided ($4 suggested donation), are offered daily between mid-December and early January and on winter weekends through March. You’ll find a ski touring and cross-country ski and snow-shoe rental shop at the National Park Inn at Longmire (tel. 360/569-2411). Snowboarding is popular throughout the year, though there is no lift to get you up the slope, and it’s about a 1  1/2-hour climb to the best snowboarding area.

Just outside the park’s northeast corner, off Wash. 410, is Crystal Mountain  (www.skicrystal.com; tel. 360/663-3050 for general information, or 888/754-6199 for snow conditions), the state’s best all-around ski area due to the variety of terrain. You’ll pay $61 for an adult all-day adult lift ticket, $41 for seniors.

A Scenic Train Ride on Mount Rainier

From Memorial Day through October, the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad  (www.mrsr.com; tel. 888/783-2611 or 360/492-5588) operates vintage steam and diesel locomotives and both enclosed and open passenger cars between the town of Elbe and the southwest entrance to the park. The trips last 1 1/2 to 2 hours and cost $29 for adults, $22 for seniors, $15 for children ages 4 to 12.



Biking
 -- No trails are open to mountain bikes in Mount Rainier National Park. However, there are plenty of trails to ride at nearby Crystal Mountain and White Pass ski areas during the summer. Crystal Mountain is by far the most popular and is known for its grueling climbs and brake-turning downhills. Luckily, you can avoid much of the climbing by riding the lifts up. The lifts generally operate only on weekends. A good gravel road for great biking is Westside Road, which you can reach through the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. It is completely closed to motorized vehicles after 3 miles. One of the best reasons to ride this road is the chance to get on some of the little-used west-side hiking trails (closed to bikes). Try strapping some hiking boots on your bike; this is a great way to get away from the crowds and see some of the rare, less crowded areas of the park. However, you might want to call ahead for information on the usage of Westside Road. Another option is Carbon River Road, closed to vehicles since the 2006, with 4.5 miles open to only bikes and pedestrians en route to the Ipsut Creek Campground and myriad trail heads.

Boating & Canoeing -- Located in the northwest corner of the park, Mowich Lake is a pristine little lake with a peekaboo view of the mountain from its west side. The water is incredibly clear, and it's fun to paddle around gazing down into the deep at the large logs and boulders lying on the bottom. Early morning and late afternoon are particularly good times. You might catch a glimpse of an otter, and in the evening, deer often feed in the meadows by the lake's edge. A walk-in campground beside the lake makes this a great spot for a weekend camping and paddling trip. Yes, there are even a few fish in the lake, if you want to try your luck.

Fishing -- The good news about fishing in Mount Rainier National Park is that no fishing license is required. The bad news is that the fishing isn't very good. However, there are some fish out there, and you're welcome to try to catch a few. Lots of people do. Remember that only artificial lures and flies can be used in the park, and some posted waters are closed to fishing. Ask for details.

For the most part, glacial silt keeps Mount Rainier's rivers too cloudy for fishing in the summer. The Ohanapecosh River is one exception. This river, in the southeast corner of the park, flows clear throughout the summer and is designated for fly-fishing only. Anglers are encouraged to release the trout they catch. Most of the park's many lakes are home to one or another species of trout. In most cases, you have to hike in to fish. Some shorter hikes include Sunrise Lake (below Sunrise Point) and Louise, Bench, and Snow lakes, east of Paradise off the road to the Stevens Canyon Entrance.

Horseback Riding -- If you'd like to do some horseback riding, you have a few options in the area. In Elbe, you'll find EZ Times Outfitters, 18703 Wash. 706 (tel. 866/675-7700 or 253/350-1141; www.eztimeshorserides.com), which leads rides into the Elbe Hills State Forest. On the east side of the park, 19 miles east of Chinook Pass on Wash. 410, you'll find Chinook Pass Outfitter & Guides (tel. 800/726-3631 or 509/653-2633; www.chinookpass.com). East of White Pass on U.S. 12, you'll find Indian Creek Corral (tel. 509/672-2400; www.indiancreekcorral.com), near the shore of Rimrock Lake. Horse rides cost about $25 to $45 an hour.

Mountaineering -- Each year, more than 10,000 people set out to climb the 14,411-foot summit of Mount Rainier. That only slightly more than half make it to the top is a testament to how difficult the climb is. Although the ascent does not require rock-climbing skills, the glacier crossings require basic mountaineering knowledge, and the 9,000-foot climb from Paradise is physically demanding. Also, the elevation often causes altitude sickness. This is not a mountain to be attempted by the unprepared or the untrained; over the years, dozens of people have died attempting the summit. Because of the many difficulties presented by summit ascents at Mount Rainier, this mountain often serves as a training ground for expeditions headed to peaks all over the world.

The easiest and most popular route starts at Paradise, at 5,400 feet, and climbs to the stone climbers' shelter at 10,188-foot Camp Muir. From here, climbers, roped together for safety, set out in the middle of the night to reach Columbia Crest, the mountain's highest point at 14,411 feet. From the summit on a clear day, seemingly all of Washington and much of Oregon stretches below.

The best way for most of us to climb Mount Rainier is with somebody who knows what he or she is doing, and that means Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., P.O. Box Q, Ashford, WA 98304 (tel. 888/892-5462 or 360/569-2227; www.rmiguides.com); International Mountain Guides, P.O. Box 246, Ashford, WA 98304 (tel. 360/569-2609; www.mountainguides.com); and Alpine Ascents, 109 W. Mercer St., Seattle, WA 98119 (tel. 206/378-1927; www.alpineascents.com). Each offers a variety of mountaineering classes, as well as guided summer climbs. A class combined with the 2- or 3-day summit climb runs about $1,000 to $1,700.

Wildlife Viewing -- Hunting is prohibited in Mount Rainier National Park; consequently, deer, elk, and mountain goats within the park have lost their fear of humans. Anyone hiking the park's trails in the summer can expect to encounter some of these large mammals. Deer are the most common, although the park's mountain goats seem to command the greatest interest. Look for goats on Goat Island Mountain across the White River valley from Sunrise (use binoculars) on the Summerland Trail, on Mount Fremont (5.5-mile round-trip hike from Sunrise), and at Skyscraper Pass (7-mile round-trip hike from Sunrise).

Undoubtedly, the most seen mammals in the park are marmots, which resemble beavers but have round tails and live in the subalpine meadows. These big, shaggy members of the squirrel family are frequently seen lying on rocks soaking up the sun. They often allow people to get fairly close, but when alarmed, they let loose with a shrill whistle.

Wild animals are fun to see, but they are wild. For both their safety and yours, keep your distance.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.