FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) LIST
Most of the questions visitors ask in Mount Rainier National Park fall into one of several categories: the park, the mountain, weather, activities, logistics, plants, and wildlife. Here are some of the questions most often asked of park employees:
Details About the Park
1. When was the park established?
Congress established Mount Rainier National Park on March 2, 1899, reaffirming the nation's intent to set aside certain areas of outstanding scenic and scientific value for the enjoyment of present and future generations. It is America's fifth oldest national park, after Yellowstone (established in 1872), and Yosemite, General Grant (now part of Kings Canyon), and Sequoia (all established in 1890).
2. How big is the park?
Mount Rainier National Park encompasses 235,625.08 acres or 365 square miles. Of that amount, 228,480 acres (97% of the park) has been designated by Congress as Wilderness. The park's National Historic Landmark District includes 2.7% of the park. The park has over 260 miles of maintained trails and 147 miles of roads.
3. How many people visit the park each year?
Generally, 1.5 - 2 million people visit Mount Rainier each year, In 2003, the park had 1,857,402 visitors.
4. Is the park open all year?
Yes, but some areas of the park, including Sunrise, White River, Ohanapecosh, State Routes 410 and 123, and the Stevens Canyon Road close for the season in mid-October or early-November and do not reopen until summer. Our "Current Information" page has Current Road Conditions. You may also call 360-569-2211 for a recorded message on road conditions. Longmire is open all year. The road from Longmire to Paradise is generally open on winter days, although it is closed and gated at Longmire every evening and anytime snow, ice, or potential avalanches make travel to Paradise unsafe.
The Longmire Museum is open year-round. The Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise is open weekends and holidays in the winter and daily from early May through early October. The National Park Inn at Longmire is open year-round. The Paradise Inn is open from mid-May to October only.
1. How high is Mount Rainier?
The official measurement is 14,410 ft. above sea level.
2. How old is Mount Rainier?
The volcano was built up above the surrounding country by repeated eruptions and successive flows of lava. It is a relatively young volcano, only about 500,000 years old. By contrast the mountains of the Cascade Range that Mount Rainier looks down upon are at least 12 million years old!
3. How many people climb the mountain each year?
In 2003, 9,714 people attempted to climb Mount Rainier; 5,295 of them actually reached the summit.
4. Is Mount Rainier really a volcano?
Geologists consider this mountain to be an 'episodically active' volcano, meaning one that will erupt again some time in the future even though it may be quiet now. Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano and fifth highest peak in the contiguous United States.
5. Is it safe to visit the volcano?
New research indicates Mount Rainier is far more active than previously believed. We now understand there are risks associated with the volcano and its glaciers that require visitors and staff to be aware and prepared. Mud flows (also known as lahars) and glacial outburst floods can occur without warning, and could damage roads, invade campgrounds, and cause enormous injury to park visitors and staff. The Longmire Historic District, Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, Sunshine Point, Ipsut Creek and White River campgrounds are all vulnerable to geologic hazards. While many people believe the danger to be minimal, only you can decide if you want to spend time in this unpredictable and changing landscape. If you choose to visit, be sure to review information posted at park campgrounds and inns.
6. When was the last time the volcano erupted?
The last estimated eruption was between 1820 and 1894. Observers reported at least 14 eruptions. Some of these may have been just large dust clouds caused by rockfall which were mistakenly called eruptions.
7. How much snow and ice is on Mount Rainier?
Over 35 square miles of permanent ice and snow cover Mount Rainier. Of all the glaciers in the contiguous U.S., Mount Rainier's Emmons Glacier has the largest surface area (4.3 square miles). Carbon Glacier is the longest (5.7 miles), thickest (700 feet), and has the lowest terminus elevation (3,500 feet) in the contiguous U.S.
1. What's the weather like?
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.
2. How much does it rain here?
The east side of the mountain is much drier than the western, rainy side. Weather stations are maintained at three locations within the national park.
LOCATION ELEVATION AVERAGE PRECIPITATION Paradise 5400 feet (central) 126 inches Longmire 2761 feet (SW) 87 inches Ohanapecosh 1900 feet (SE) 75 inches
3. How much does it snow here?
Paradise snowfall records are legendary. The snowfall year is recorded between July 1 and June 30:
- Maximum annual snowfall, (a world record!): 1122 inches (93.5 feet), (1971-72).
- Minimum annual snowfall: 313 inches (1939-40).
- Maximum snowpack: 357 inches (March 1955).
4. Does the snow at Paradise ever melt?
Although Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is measured regularly, it does enjoy a brief but glorious snow-free season. In most years, the area is snow-free from about mid-July through late September. October snowfall usually melts in between storms. The ground is usually completely snow covered for the winter by Thanksgiving.
1. Where can I camp?
Five campgrounds accessible to vehicles offer over 600 campsites during the summer. No RV hookups or showers are available. Campgrounds may fill on summer weekends and holidays. Reservations are required during the summer months at Ohanapecosh and Cougar Rock campgrounds. To make reservations call (800) 365-CAMP (2267); TDD: (800) 530-9796; International: (301) 722-1257; or visit the reservation website at: http://reservations.nps.gov.
Sunshine Point (open year-round), Ipsut Creek, and White River campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Carbon River Road leading to Ipsut Creek Campground is vulnerable to flooding. Check current conditions. There is no potable water at Ipsut Creek. Bring your own water and firewood. Gathering firewood anywhere in the park is prohibited.
2. Where can I walk my dog?
Basically, your pet can only go where your car can go: on roads, in parking lots and campgrounds. Your pet must be on a leash (not more than 6' long) and under your immediate control at all times and may not be staked. Pets are not allowed on trails, snow, in any buildings or amphitheaters, or in the Wilderness. The only exceptions are service animals such as seeing-eye and hearing-ear dogs. However, dogs on a leash (not more than 6') are allowed on a small portion of the Pacific Crest Trail near the park's eastern boundary.
3. Can I fish in the park?
Many of the rivers flowing off Mount Rainier contain glacial silt; fish are not abundant in park waters. Fishing with a line and hook is permitted in most lakes and rivers. No license is required. The use of live bait is prohibited; you must use artificial flies, lures, or preserved salmon eggs.
4. Where can I ride my bicycle?
Park roads are narrow with heavy summer traffic. Helmets are required. The Westside Road and the Carbon River Road, provide good bicycling opportunities. However, the Carbon River Road is very rough and caution is advised. Bicycles are not permitted on any park trails.
5. What is there to do at the park during the 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, and snowshoeing, cross country skiing on ungroomed trails, and sledding opportunities abound. Winter requires special precautions for safety. Always carry tire chains in the winter, and know how to install them. Before skiing or snowshoeing, check avalanche conditions at a ranger station or visitor center. Be prepared to choose a safer activity if avalanche danger is high.
6. How long does it take to hike the Wonderland Trail?
The time required to complete this 90-mile hike around the mountain varies depending on weather, snow conditions, and the abilities of each hiker. Most people require at least ten days to complete the loop and average eight miles a day without snow and six miles a day with snow. Always check current trail and weather conditions when planning any hike in the park.
1. How far is it from ____ to _____ (one way)?
- Longmire to Paradise: 12 miles/25 minutes
- Paradise to Ohanapecosh: 23 miles/45 minutes
- Ohanapecosh to the Sunrise/White River turnoff: 17 miles/30 minutes
- The Sunrise/White River turnoff to Sunrise: 14 miles/45 minutes
- Seattle to Paradise via SR 706: 99 miles/2 1/2 hours
- Seattle to Paradise via SR 410 and Enumclaw: 109 miles/3 hours
- Yakima to Paradise: 99 miles/2 hours
2. How far is it to Mount St. Helens? Should we visit the west side or east side of Mount St. Helens?
It takes about 3 hours to drive from Paradise to the west side of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, and about 2.5 hours to drive to the east side. First time visitors should try to schedule a visit to the Johnston Ridge or Coldwater Ridge Visitors Centers on the west side of the monument, to learn the most about the eruption and subsequent changes to the plant and animal life.
3. Is gas available in the park?
Gas is NOT available in the park, however, there are gas stations in nearby communities. Make sure you have plenty of gas before you begin your exploration of the park!
4. Where can I find food/gifts/lodging?
Mount Rainier Guest Services, Inc. operates the Paradise Inn, National Park Inn, and Sunrise Day Lodge. The Paradise Inn is open late May to early October for lodging, meals, and gifts. The National Park Inn in Longmire is open year-round for food, lodging, and gifts. The Sunrise Lodge is open for meals and gifts July through September. There are no overnight accommodations at Sunrise.
Lodging, groceries, and meals are available in Ashford, Elbe, Packwood, Enumclaw, and other nearby communities.
5. How much does it cost to get into the park?
For private, non-commercial vehicles the fee is $15 for an entrance pass that is good for up to seven calendar days. Pedestrians, single motorcyclists, bicyclists, and passengers in non-privately owned vehicles pay $5 per person. Visitors under 16 years of age are free. Special passes are available for disabled visitors and U.S. residents aged 62 and over. For information on annual passes and commercial tour bus fees call 360-569-6003. Camping fees are not included in the entrance fee.
6. Where can we park at Paradise?
Parking is limited at Paradise, and finding a parking place on sunny summer days can be very frustrating. To minimize hassle, arrange your visit on weekdays if possible, try to arrive at Paradise early in the day or in late afternoon, and carpool from Longmire or Ohanapecosh if you and friends are traveling in more than one vehicle. Resist the temptation to park unsafely or illegally. Once the Paradise parking areas are full, there is no additional parking. You can drive through Paradise but will not be able to park there.
1. How many species of plants are in the park?
There are approximately 900 plant species in the park, including over 100 exotic species.
2. When will the wildflowers peak?
The "peak" bloom for wildflowers is heavily dependent on weather and precipitation patterns, so accurate predictions are difficult. However, by mid-July, many flowers will be blooming in most years, and by the first of August the meadows should be very impressive. Frost can occur by late August, but even after light frosts the meadows continue to be very beautiful, thanks to changing leaf colors and seed pod development that take the place of colorful blossoms.
1. How many animal species live in the park?
Mount Rainier National Park is home to approximately 54 species of mammals, 126 species of birds, and 17 species of amphibians and reptiles.
2. What's that grayish animal with the pointy nose we see along the roadside?
That's a red fox, sometimes called a 'silver phase' red fox, referring to the charcoal coloring in its fur. The gray and black fur mixed with the redder fur is normal for the red fox population here, and the coloration doesn't change from season to season.
3. What's that grayish chunky animal that we see along the trails? It's shaped sort of like a beaver.
That's a hoary marmot, one of the meadow residents that's easy to see during the summer months. Marmots generally like to stay in the subalpine meadows rather than the lower forests, and they hibernate in the winter.
1. I want to donate an artifact/photograph to the park, whom should I contact?
Contact park Curator Brooke Childrey at 360-569-2211, ext. 2364 for information about donating items to the park's collection.
2. Is it possible to get married in Mount Rainier National Park?
Yes. Call 360-569-6004 for information.
3. Is it possible to spread ashes of a loved one in the park?
Yes. Call 360-569-6004 for information.
Mount Rainier National Park's Official Homepage