Mount Rainier as viewed from the northeast.
|Elevation||14,411 ft (4,392.5 m) |
|Prominence||13,211 ft (4,026.7 m) Ranked 21st|
U.S. state high point
|Topo map||USGS Mount Rainier West 46121-G7|
|Age of rock||500,000 years|
|Volcanic arc/belt||Cascade Volcanic Arc|
|First ascent||1870 by Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump|
|Easiest route||rock/ice climb via Disappointment Cleaver|
Mount Rainier, or Mount Tahoma, as it is traditionally called, is a large active stratovolcano (also known as a composite volcano) in Pierce County, Washington, USA, located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Seattle. It towers over the Cascade Range as the most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and Cascade Volcanic Arc at 14,411 feet (4,392 m). It is the highest mountain in Washington and the Cascade Range.
The mountain and the surrounding area are protected within Mount Rainier National Park. With 25 major glaciers and 35 square miles (91 km2) of permanent snowfields and glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. The summit is topped by two volcanic craters, each over 1,000 feet (300 m) in diameter with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed the world's largest volcanic glacier cave network within the ice-filled craters. A small crater lake about 130 by 30 feet (40 by 9.1 m) in size and 16 feet (5 m) deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of 14,203 feet (4,329 m), occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 100 feet (30 m) of ice and is accessible only via the caves. 
Mount Rainier has a topographic prominence of 13,211 feet (4,027 m), greater than that of K2 (13,189 feet (4,020 m)). On clear days it dominates the southeastern horizon in most of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area to such an extent that residents sometimes refer to it simply as "the Mountain." On days of exceptional clarity, it can also be seen from as far away as Portland, Oregon, and Victoria, British Columbia.
The Carbon, Puyallup, Mowich, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers begin at eponymous glaciers of Mount Rainier. The sources of the White River are Winthrop, Emmons, and Fryingpan Glaciers. The White, Carbon, and Mowich join the Puyallup River, which discharges into Commencement Bay at Tacoma; the Nisqually empties into Puget Sound east of Lacey; and the Cowlitz joins the Columbia River between Kelso and Longview.
Mount Rainier's earliest lavas are over 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early lavas formed a "proto-Rainier" or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is over 500,000 years old. The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about 16,000 feet (4,900 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow 5,000 years ago.
In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows) due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to Puget Sound. Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle. This massive avalanche of rock and ice removed the top 1,600 feet (500 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,100 feet (4,300 m). About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.
After the major collapse 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.
The most recent recorded volcanic eruption was between 1820 and 1854, but many eyewitnesses reported eruptive activity in 1858, 1870, 1879, 1882 and 1894 as well. Although Rainier is an active volcano, as of 2009 there is no evidence of an imminent eruption. However, an eruption could be devastating for all areas surrounding the volcano.
Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property, as many communities lie atop older lahar deposits. Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity. According to Geoff Clayton, a geologist with RH2, a repeat of the Osceola mudflow would destroy Enumclaw, Orting, Kent, Auburn, and most or all of Renton. Such a mudflow might also reach down the Duwamish estuary and destroy parts of downtown Seattle, and cause tsunamis in Puget Sound and Lake Washington. According to USGS, about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier. Rainier is also capable of producing pyroclastic flows as well as lava.
Mount Rainier was first known by the Native Americans as Talol, Tahoma, or Tacoma, from the Lushootseed word [təqʷúʔbəʔ] ("mother of waters") spoken by the Puyallup. Another interpretation is that "Tacoma", effectively means "larger than Koma (Kulshan)". (a name for Mount Baker), cf. "Kobah" (Skagit: qwúbəʔ, "white sentinel", i.e. mountain").
At the time of European contact, the river valleys and other areas near the mountain were inhabited by many Pacific Northwest tribes who hunted and gathered berries in its forests and mountain meadows. These included the Nisqually, Cowlitz, Yakama, Puyallup, and Muckleshoot.
In 1833, Dr. William Fraser Tolmie explored the area looking for medicinal plants. Hazard Stevens and P. B. Van Trump received a hero's welcome in the streets of Olympia after their successful summit climb in 1870. John Muir climbed Mount Rainier in 1888, and although he enjoyed the view, he conceded that it was best appreciated from below. Muir was one of many who advocated protecting the mountain. In 1893, the area was set aside as part of the Pacific Forest Reserve in order to protect its physical/economic resources: timber and watersheds.
Citing the need to also protect scenery and provide for public enjoyment, railroads and local businesses urged the creation of a national park in hopes of increased tourism. On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley established Mount Rainier National Park as America's fifth national park. Congress dedicated the new park "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" and "... for the preservation from injury or spoliation of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition."
In 1998, the United States Geological Survey began putting together the Mount Rainier Volcano Lahar Warning System to assist in the emergency evacuation of the Puyallup River valley in the event of a catastrophic debris flow. It is now run by the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management. Tacoma, at the mouth of the Puyallup, is only 37 miles (60 km) west of Rainier, and moderately sized towns such as Puyallup and Orting are only 27 and 20 miles (43 and 32 km) away, respectively.
Although "Rainier" had been considered the official name of the mountain, Theodore Winthrop, in his posthumously published 1862 travel book The Canoe and the Saddle, referred to the mountain as "Tacoma" and for a time, both names were used interchangeably, although "Mt. Tacoma" was preferred in the city of Tacoma.
In 1890, the United States Board on Geographic Names declared that the mountain would be known as "Rainier". Following this in 1897, the Pacific Forest Reserve became the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve, and the national park was established three years later. Despite this, there was still a movement to change the mountain's name to "Tacoma" and Congress was still considering a resolution to change the name as late as 1924.
The broad top of Mount Rainier contains three named summits. The highest is called Columbia Crest. The second highest summit is Point Success, 14,158 feet (4,315 m), at the southern edge of the summit plateau, atop the ridge known as Success Cleaver. It has a topographic prominence of about 138 feet (42 m), so it is not considered a separate peak. The lowest of the three summits is Liberty Cap, 14,112 feet (4,301 m), at the northwestern edge, which overlooks Liberty Ridge, the Sunset Amphitheater, and the dramatic Willis Wall. Liberty Cap has a prominence of 492 feet (150 m), and so would qualify as a separate peak under most strictly prominence-based rules. A prominence cutoff of 400 feet (122 m) is commonly used in Washington state. However it is not usually considered a separate peak, due to the massive size of Mount Rainier, relative to which a 492-foot (150 m) drop is not very large.
High on the eastern flank of Mount Rainier is a peak known as Little Tahoma Peak, 11,138 feet (3,395 m), an eroded remnant of the earlier, much higher, Mount Rainier. It has a prominence of 858 feet (262 m), and it is almost never climbed in direct conjunction with Columbia Crest, so it is usually considered a separate peak. If considered separately from Mt. Rainier, Little Tahoma Peak would be the third highest mountain peak in Washington.
Mountain climbing on Mount Rainier is difficult, involving traversing the largest glaciers in the U.S. south of Alaska. Most climbers require two to three days to reach the summit. Climbing teams demand experience in glacier travel, self-rescue, and wilderness travel. About 8,000 to 13,000 people attempt the climb each year, about 90% via routes from Camp Muir on the southeast flank. Most of the rest ascend Emmons Glacier via Camp Schurman on the northeast. About half of the attempts are successful, with weather and conditioning being the most common reasons for failure.
About three mountaineering deaths each year occur due to rock and ice fall, avalanche, falls, and hypothermia associated with severe weather. The worst mountaineering accident on Mount Rainier occurred in 1981, when eleven people lost their lives in an ice fall on the Ingraham Glacier. This was the largest number of fatalities on Mount Rainier in a single incident since 32 people were killed in a 1946 plane crash on the South Tahoma Glacier.
Hiking, photography, and camping are popular in the park. Hiking trails, including the Wonderland Trail (a 93 miles (150 km) circumnavigation of the peak), provide access to the backcountry. Mount Rainier is also popular for winter sports, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In summer, visitors pass through vast meadows of wildflowers, on trails emanating from historic Paradise Inn.
University of Washington Libraries, Digital Collections:
Mount Rainier National Park  is a United States National Park located in the American state of Washington, some 54 miles (87 km) south-east of Seattle. Established in 1899 and 368 miles² / 235,625 acres (954 km²) in size, the National Park is centered on the spectacular cone of Mount Rainier, a dormant volcano some 14,410 ft high.
The park was established as America's fifth national park in 1899 (following Yellowstone in 1872 and Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant National Parks in 1890). The founding of Mount Rainier National Park was led by both local groups, including mountaineering clubs, newspaper editors, businessmen's associations, and University of Washington faculty, as well as by scientists throughout the country, primarily geologists.
It was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1997 as a showcase for the "NPS Rustic" style architecture of the 1920s and 1930s.
Mount Rainier, at 14,410 feet, is the most prominent peak in the Cascade Range. The mountain stands nearly three miles higher than the lowlands to the west and one and one-half miles higher than the adjacent mountains. The volcano, which last erupted approximately 150 years ago, is encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice. The park's total area is 235,625 acres, of which 97% is designated Wilderness. In addition to the mountain, the park contains outstanding examples of old growth forests and subalpine meadows. The park contains 26 named glaciers across 9 major watersheds, with 382 lakes and 470 rivers and streams and over 3,000 acres of other wetland types.
The park is part of a complex ecosystem. Vegetation is diverse, reflecting the varied climatic and environmental conditions encountered across the park’s 12,800-feet elevation gradient. Approximately 58 percent of the park is forested, 23 percent is subalpine parkland, and the remainder is alpine, half of which is vegetated and the other half consists of permanent snow and ice. Forest ages range from less than 100 years old on burned areas and moraines left by receding glaciers to old-growth stands 1,000 or more years. Some alpine heather communities have persisted in the park for up to 10,000 years.
Species known or thought to occur in the park include more than 800 vascular plants, 159 birds, 63 mammals, 16 amphibians, 5 reptiles, and 18 native fishes. Commonly seen animals include Columbian black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, noisy Stellar’s jays and common ravens. Other animals that are less-commonly seen but still popular include mammals like elk and black bear, which range in many habitats throughout the summer. Mountain goats typically remain in alpine or subalpine life zones.
Weather patterns at Mount Rainier are strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean, elevation, and latitude. The climate is generally cool and rainy, with summer highs in the 60s and 70s. While July and August are the sunniest months of the year, rain is possible any day, and very likely in spring, fall, and winter.
As one of the snowiest places on Earth, Paradise is worthy of a winter visit. From November to late May, expect to find 10 to 20 feet of snow on the ground. Approximately 630" of snow falls in an average winter at Paradise--in the winter of 1971-72, Paradise established a world's record with 1122" of snow!
Access to Mount Rainier is by car or bus only. Tourists from afar usually land at Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport (SEA). Most visitors come on sunny summer weekends and holidays. Parking can be problematic during summer weekends, so if possible try to visit mid-week. The park is open year-round, but access is limited in winter. Facilities at Longmire are open daily year-round. Facilities at Paradise and Ohanapecosh are open daily from late-May to mid-October. Facilities at Sunrise are open July to early-October. In winter, access is by the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest corner of the park only. The Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise is open weekends and holidays in winter.
Mount Rainier National Park charges an entrance fee of $15 per week per private vehicle (includes all passengers) or $5 per week per individual person on foot, bike, or motorcycle. An annual pass is available for $30, valid for one year from month of purchase (does not cover camping fees). Alternately, for those who will be visiting multiple parks, the $80 National Park Pass allows free entrance into all national parks for one year.
A car is almost essential in order to see the park. Within the park are 147 miles of roads and 240 miles of maintained trails that travel to each of the park's five main areas:
Parking can be difficult or impossible to find on sunny summer weekends at Paradise, Sunrise, Grove of the Patriarchs, and at trailheads between Longmire and Paradise. Try to visit these areas on weekdays, arrive early in the day, and carpool to the park. Parking is not permitted along road edges. Park roads are winding and road shoulders are narrow. The maximum speed limit is 35 mph in most areas. Allow plenty of travel time during your visit.
The 14,410 foot tall Mount Rainier is an active volcano that is also the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. It is climbed each year by thousands of people who traverse a vertical elevation gain of more than 9,000 feet over a distance of eight or more miles. Climbers must be in good physical condition and well prepared. Weather, snow, and route conditions can change rapidly and can make the difference between a pleasant and rewarding experience or tragedy.
Before climbing, obtain a current weather forecast. Turn back if weather conditions deteriorate. Severe winter-like storms on the mountain are not uncommon during the summer. The route is over glaciers and requires knowledge of crevasses safety. Do not attempt this climb if you are unfamiliar with glacier climbing.
Permits are required for all climbers going above 10,000 feet or onto any glacier. Permits can be obtained from the Paradise Ranger Station, White River Wilderness Information Center, and the Carbon River Ranger Station. The climbing fee is $30 per person per calendar year. Climbing fees are used to help recover costs for protecting the mountain's delicate and unique alpine environment, staffing the mountain's high camps and ranger stations with climbing rangers, managing upper mountain human waste and providing rangers who can rapidly respond to incidents on the mountain.
An in-park Wilderness Reservation System is available for climbers and backpackers planning trips during the May 1 to September 30 period. A reservations office is staffed at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center during the summer months. Beginning April 1st, reservations can be made by printing and completing a Reservation Request Form  and faxing it to (360) 569-3131 or mailing it to:
The reservation phone number is (360) 569-HIKE. There is a $20 reservation fee for advance reservations. This fee is in addition to the climbing permit fee and does not guarantee a spot in the public shelter at Camp Muir. Reservations can only be made for trips between May 1st and September 30th.
Numerous guide services are available to help visitors reach the summit:
There are no gas stations within the park. Gift shops can be found at Sunrise, Paradise Inn, Jackson Visitor Center and Longmire.
Drink and nightlife options are limited within the park. Water is available at all visitor centers, and beverages may be available for purchase from some of the gift shops.
There are two inns located within the park. Reservations are recommended.
There are also a few inns and rental cabins that cluster near west of the main park entrance along Highway 7 in the town of Ashford.
There are five developed campgrounds located within the park. Reservations are strongly recommended during the summer.
Although older signs and maps may still list a sixth campground, Sunshine Point, it was destroyed in 2006 by flooding.
60% of backcountry permits can be reserved, while 40% are available only in person on a first-come, first-served basis. Permits can be picked up at the Wilderness Information Centers at Longmire and White River, or at any ranger station during the summer. Winter permits are available at the Longmire Museum. There is no fee for a wilderness permit, but a reservation fee of $20 per party is charged. Permits may be obtained for groups of one to twelve people for up to fourteen days.
There is one established public shelter on Mt. Rainier, located at Camp Muir, 10,080' up the south side of the mountain. It is very crowded in summer and commonly used as a high camp by climbers on the mountain's most popular route. Camp Muir also has a ranger hut, a hut for commercially guided parties, and two outhouses. Reservations for overnight stays are taken by the park administration. Permits are required for overnight camps established above 10,000' elsewhere in the park.
Backcountry camping areas within the park include:
Permits may be reserved beginning March 15 by mail or fax. To make a reservation, download and fill out the Camping and Climbing Reservation Form . Requests received before March 15th will be discarded, but all requests received between March 15th and April 1st will be processed in random order.
Weather in the park can change quickly, so visitors should always bring raingear, a jacket, sunscreen and plenty of water when enjoying the park. The park is an active geologic area, and while the chances of a surprise eruption are low, rockfalls, floods and mudslides are unpredictable and visitors should take care when hiking in valleys and along streams. If a rumbling sound is heard while hiking, or if the water level begins to rise, find higher ground immediately.
Wildlife is generally not dangerous, but common sense should always be used. Give animals their space - keep at least thirty yards from bears, but also remember that elk and other animals can be just as dangerous. A general rule of thumb is that if an animal is reacting to your presence, you are too close. Never feed any wildlife - it is bad for the animal, and will make that animal more aggressive towards humans. Do not leave scented items in your car as they may attract bears; food, deodorants, toothpaste, and other items should all be stored in bear-proof containers.
When hiking on the mountain, know your limits and do not venture onto glaciers. Seemingly solid ground often hides deep crevasses in the glaciers, making hiking dangerous. Travel on Rainier's glaciers should be attempted only by those familiar with glacier travel or those accompanied by an experienced guide.
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[[File:|thumb|Mount Rainier]] [[File:|thumb|Mount Rainier with Tacoma, Washington in front]] Mount Rainier is a mountain 54 miles (87 kilometres) southeast of Seattle, Washington, in the United States. It is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range, at 14,410 feet (4,392 metres). The top of the mountain is mostly covered by snow and glaciers. Rainier is an active volcano, but has not had an eruption for more than 100 years.
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