We all love Mt. Hood – how could you not? It is iconically Portland, a classic volcanic peak, “the mountain is out”-type goodness. However, it’s big sibling to the north, Mt. Rainier, offers some great adventure just a few hours away!
I visited Mt. Rainier National Park for the first time a few summers ago for a day trip to the Panhandle Gap – I fell in love with the mountain, the scenery, the marmots, and the thru-hikers and vowed to return. Indeed, just last week I did some fastpacking on the Wonderland Trail – a 93 mile, 27,000 foot gain trail around the mountain. We cached our food, kept our bags light, and ran the flats and downs and power hiked the ups. It was a spectacular challenge. For any overnight camping in the wilderness, as we had planned, a permit is required and they can be tricky to get. From the NPS website:
It is recommended that you make a reservation to secure a wilderness permit. Your wilderness permit reserves you a specific wilderness camping site for the night you want to stay. Mount Rainier National Park has thousands of visitors during the peak summer months and backcountry camping sites can fill up quickly. About 70 percent of the available wilderness permits can be reserved while the remaining 30 percent are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
Reservations are NOT accepted after September 28, and all permits after that date are first-come, first-serve. Reservations for the 2018 summer season will be accepted starting on March 15.
If you keep your plans flexible (or are very proactive), it’s definitely doable.
Permits are not required for day hiking or for camping in the larger campgrounds (though there is a fee for camping). You can read more about recommended day hikes here – they are absolutely worth checking out! Unfortunately, however, pets and bicycles are not allowed on any park trails.
Mount Rainier has five developed areas: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon/Mowich. Each is a great option as a “base camp” for exploring Rainier depending on your comfort preferences, with some having a basic campground and picnic area to others having hotels / restaurants / visitor centers / etc.
With a little research and planning, you’ll have a remarkable a day, weekend, or extended holiday. It’s majestic, breathtaking, and full of adventure! And remember – don’t feed the bears!