Like a mysterious, white-clad chanteuse, veiled in clouds even when the surrounding forests and fields are bathed in sunlight, Mt. Rainier is the centerpiece of its namesake park. The impressive volcanic peak stands at an elevation of 14,411 feet, making it the fifth-highest peak in the lower 48 states. Nearly 2 million visitors a year enjoy spectacular views of the mountain and return home with a lifelong memory of its image.The mountain holds the largest glacial system in the contiguous United States, with more than two-dozen major glaciers. On the lower slopes you find silent forests made up of cathedral-like groves of Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar, some more than 1,000 years old. Water and lush greenery are everywhere in the park, and dozens of thundering waterfalls, accessible from the road or by a short hike, fill the air with mist.
Copyright © Sun May 29 14:11:42 EDT 2016 by Fodor's Travel, a division of Random House, LLC. All rights reserved.
Things You Can't Miss
For great views of Mount Rainier, hike Skyline Trail past wildflower meadows to Panorama Point. The Alta Vista Trail is easier — and just as rewarding.
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Millennium-old Douglas firs and red cedars tower overhead at the aptly named Grove of the Patriarchs, located on an island in the Ohanapecosh River.
Kevin Ebi / Alamy
Named for an 1880s homesteader, this site sits on the Nisqually River. An easy walk takes you to hot springs, where early visitors took the waters.
Andre Jenny / Alamy
On calm days, the image of Mount Rainier mirrored on the surface of the Reflection Lakes creates one of the park’s most glorious and evocative scenes.
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