Mt. Rainier is one of the West’s most visible and prolific volcanic mountains and if you’re planning a visit during the month of September you can be sure to have the time of your life. The best thing about visiting is having the opportunity to watch some of the most awesome displays of Mt. Rainier devouring clouds that venture too close to it’s summit. The mountain can literally suck in a cloud and completely disperse its energy. As you can see from this photo, the cloud is spinning around the summit like a flushed toilet bowl and it’s just about to be consumed. I first noticed the cloud when it was over 10 miles away but as the morning turned into afternoon the cloud was beginning to get sucked into the mountain. It literally spun the cloud around until it was literally consumed. It was very entertaining and awe inspiring to watch this phenomenon. I would highly recommend a visit during the month of September since school has started and the peak summer season is over. The crowds are almost non existent, which is in itself the most important reason to go in September. You will also almost be guaranteed sunny and warm temperatures with lots of sunshine. You will also have a great opportunity to see black bears foraging for food as well as elk and deer. The late summer foliage is in full display and the wildlife is unbelievable. Also, since the mornings and evenings are much cooler than during summer, most of the wildfires are mostly contained or completely out. This will allow for cleaner air, skies and longer views of the wilderness.
Mt. Rainier is located in Washington state and is the main attraction at Mt. Rainier National Park. The park was established in 1899 and includes over 369 square miles of wilderness. The elevation of the mountain is 14,410 feet and is the tallest volcanic mountain in the Cascade mountain chain. It is also the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states. Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the continental United States and Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area. The park also contains over 91,000 acres of old growth forests. Over 1.8 million visitors visit the park every year and the winter months all but reduce the visits to almost zero due to the enormous snow that it receives. Probably 99% of the 1.8 million visitors are just during the summers months. If you do plan on visiting the park I would recommend that you try to get there as early as possible and plan on visiting during the mid week. The crowds are just too big during the weekends in the summertime. However, most of the visitors are gone by 6:00 pm, which means that the highest majority of the visitors are pretty much only making a road trip and rarely even get out of their cars. Most of the tourists end up only walking through the visitor centers and maybe taking a very leisurely stroll on one of the paved trails. There are two lodges and several campsites but it’s only a fraction of the visitors that are only driving through. This actually makes it for a great day trip. I’ve been to the park 3 times over the past few years and I have had the chance to hike throughout the southern part of the park and was pleasantly surprised to rarely see too many people. Again, most of the visitors don’t hike the trails. However, since it’s such a long drive from Portland, I would recommend that you get an early start and plan on getting home very late in the evening. However, if you are camping or staying at one of the lodges or nearby hotels then there isn’t any hurry. If you do end up arriving at the park during the afternoon you will want to plan on sitting in a long line of cars at the parks entrance and plan on driving around looking for a parking spot when you get to the park. If you get there early enough, you won’t have any wait to get in the park or finding a parking spot and since you will want to pick a hike, you will find that most of the crowds will have come and gone before you get back to your car. Last time I was there, I brought my camping stove and I never saw a single car at the parking lot just below the main lodge. In fact, I only counted two or three cars even driving by while I was almost within touching distance from the mountain. Because I drive from Portland and I have only been able to make day trips, I haven’t been able to make it to the north or north east side of the park but I do hope to get there this summer. It’s hard to imagine spending all of your time driving around when the mountain is beckoning you to explore its many adventures that are too many to list.