Sunday, July 13, 2014

Best trails to see Mount Rainier’s wonders

Mount Rainier from Paradise Point.
Among the best ways to see Mount Rainier National Park’s best sights is via a day hike. Just three short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – glaciers, summer wildflowers, and signs of past volcanic activity.

About 650 inches of snow annually falls on Mount Rainier, and glaciers can be found on the mountain’s sides. A segment of the Wonderland Trail will give you a good view of the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the 48 contiguous United States. From Sunrise, take the connector trail to Emmons Vista and then to Wonderland Trail. Past Sunrise Camp, continue on the connector trail to Glacier Overlook for a 3-mile round trip.

Wildflower season
July and August mark the peak season for colorful wildflower displays on the mountain. Among the best routes to see them is the 2.75-mile Reflection Lakes Trail. The loop offers a fantastic view of Mount Rainier reflected in the lakes on days when clouds don’t cover the summit. Be aware that the trail sports an 850-foot elevation gain on the trail.

Volcanic activity
Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano in the Lower 48 states. The Palisades Lake Trail heads 7-miles round trip to the Palisades rock formation, groups of hexagonal column formations formed thousands of years ago when lava flowing from the volcano cooled slowly. The route gains 1200 feet in elevation.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.