Established in March 1889, Mount Rainer was the fifth National Park to be formed in the USA, and it encompasses the whole of the mountain within its boundaries.
It is, in fact, an episodically active volcano, rising suddenly from the surrounding landscape to a height of 4,392 m (14,410 ft) to loom over both Puget Sound and a population of over 2.5 million people living in the Seattle Tacoma metropolitan area.
Mount Rainier is notable for the glaciers that radiate from its summit, of which 26 are named. Together with the snow and ice fields, it forms the greatest single-peak glacial system in the contiguous USA, with Carbon Glacier the largest by volume and Emmons Glacier the largest by area.
One of the most accessible glaciers is Nisqually, which has advanced and retreated several times during the past 45 years, providing important indications of climate change. The Splendid, 149 km (93 mi) long Wonderland Trail that encircles the mountain gives hikers superb views of the summit and the glaciers.
The lower areas of the park are covered with old-growth forests of cedar, fir and pine, which gradually give way to glorious sub-Alpine wildflower meadows, valleys and waterfalls before reaching the snowline. The area is rich with mammals such as Columbian black-tailed deer, elk and black bear, as well as numerous species of birds, though invertebrates are the most successful creatures here, inhabiting all areas right up to the most successful creatures here, inhabiting all areas right up to the summit, Columbia Crest.
Over two million visitors come to this much-loved park each year, for hiking and climbing, camping and cross-country skiing. Numerous (around 600) campsites and lodges enable visitors to explore some of the 480 km (300 mi) of trails at their leisure, and Paradise Valley, on the south slope of the mountains is the most visited destination and should not be missed.