Named in 1792 by English explorer George Vancouver, Mount Rainier is believed to be one of the largest single-peak glacier systems in the world. The best part is it’s located just 1 hour from my home in South Tacoma.
When moving from Hawaii in 2016, I knew I needed a new adventure and I fell in love with Washington, the state I now call home. One of the main reasons I moved to the state was Mt. Rainier. The fact that Washington borders the Pacific Ocean was a great appeal to me, as well.
When I first started getting familiar with Washington, one thing was always on my mind — that volcanic mountain. It was viewable from the east, south, west and northern part of the state. There was no getting rid of the beautiful view – and of course, I didn’t mind that.
So in the winter of 2017, I made a pact with my partner to go to Mt Rainier for my birthday. Since my birthday is 3 days before Christmas, we figured we’d make the most out of it. That weekend was one to remember.
We booked our stay with Wellspring, a small spa and lodging company located about 10 minutes from the entrance to the park. They were very accommodating and gave us a beautiful rustic cabin with a full size kitchen, wood burning fireplace, huge hot tub for 2 and a large king sized bed. Wellspring has a short but enjoyable hiking trail which goes behind the cabins, that leads to a few bridges, wedding grounds and a few places that in deep snow make for great sledding.
I was most impressed by the cabin as they made it very comfortable. We were able to put together two 500 piece puzzles, cook a hearty breakfast before heading up to the mountain for the day, and make a nice dinner with wine when we returned later that evening.
Our first day there we spent the evening at the cabin and enjoyed the hot tub and comfort from the fire. We even snuck outside on the patio to watch the snow fall and enjoy some hot chocolate. We slept comfortably and woke up feeling ready and energetic for our long awaited day on the mountain.
After a short but careful drive to Longmire, we got out of our car and started our day. We began by browsing the museum that is located right next to the National Park Inn. The Longmire Museum is the former park headquarters, built by homesteader James Longmire in 1916, and was repurposed as a museum. This little spot is usually open daily all year and offers exhibits, information on the mountain and history of the town. You can find some fascinating reads about the history of Mount Rainier there.
Then we hiked. It seemed to go pretty well until the fog started to come down and the snow fell harder. We decided we should’ve rented snow shoes, especially if we were going to hike those higher elevation trails such as the Wonderland Trail. We later came across a nice loop trail called the Trail of Shadows. This was probably my favorite part of the day. The trail is a short loop trail that seems perfect for people of all ages and abilities. It showcases pieces of Longmire history while trail-goers immerse themselves in nature.
Before the sun started to set we head out of the park and back to the cabin. It was nice to have a short drive back to a warm bed, a hot tub and kitchen to make dinner.
Mt Rainier is truly a winter wonderland and is a place locals and visitors from all around the world come to see and enjoy. According to the National Park Service, in 2016 there were close to 2 million people who visited the park, up by 3% from the previous year.
During the winter months Mt Rainier can be a snow covered paradise, but in the summer months for just a few short weeks, usually mid-July to late August, visitors can see beautiful wildflowers, blue skies and grassy trails. We look forward to returning to Mt Rainier during that time to run through the wildflowers and take in the beauty that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, thanks to a remarkable 500,000 year old mountain.
Additional info on Mt Rainier
Additional info on Wellspring Spa