Which National Park is most beautiful? Well, that is a tough one as they all have something unique that makes them spectacular. Mount Rainier National Park is one of those. On this day, the beauty of this mountain and park shined! The park is a 2-1/2 to 3 hour drive from the Seattle area. There are different routes and stops to make, like Paradise on the west side, Sunrise on the east, and more. This trip was limited to Paradise, so that is what I will be making note of. It is best to get there earlier in the day as parking tends to fill up during the summer months. But don’t worry, there are shuttles and other options as people come and go. The new visitor center is a nice stop and the Paradise Inn was recently renovated. You can go just to visit the Inn and walk the trails at Paradise or you can go for an all-day hike…like Comet Falls, Mowich Lake, or the Wonderland Trail which encircles the park. Mount Rainier is also known as prime training grounds for mountain climbers. You may want to stay the night, whether it be at the Paradise Inn, lodging in or outside the park, or maybe you like to camp…it has that too! I have camped at both Cougar Rock and White River Campgrounds. It is fun to look out for the numerous wild flowers depending on the time of year you go. Normally, the snow levels are high enough that you wouldn’t reach snow, even at 6800′, but this year, and here it is mid-late August, there is still a heavy snow pack on much of the trail system. Oh, and in the wintertime, there is snowshoeing. The only wildlife seen this time were the insects (but it isn’t that bad). Wear and/or bring the sunscreen and bug spray. The waterfalls were rushing. On the way “down the mountain” stops were made at both Narada Falls http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narada_Falls and Christine Falls http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_Falls. Both of these allow for a quick walk/short visit.
A nice stop on the way…or way out on SR 706 in Ashford, WA, is the Ashford Creek Pottery/Gallery. You will find photography, prints, jewelry, pottery, books and more. http://www.ashfordcreekpottery.com/
“…the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.” – John Muir, conservationist, 1889. You will find much of what you need to know at the Mount Rainier National Park site: http://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm