Top 15 Active Facts About Mount Rainier

Did you know that one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world is located less than 60 miles away from the large metropolitan area of Seattle?

It’s also the main attraction of a national park that was named after it, and in this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about Mount Rainier, an incredible feat of nature in the US State of Washington.

1. It can be seen from the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area on clear days

Mount Rainier is the third-most prominent peak in North America, which means it can be seen from quite far away.

This magnificent mountain is actually an active stratovolcano that stands majestically about 59 miles (95 kilometers) to the south-southeast of Downtown Seattle, which means it can be seen from just about anywhere in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area on a clear day.

The town of Eatonville is located even closer to its peak and living near an active volcano is quite dangerous as well. It’s considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes globally and is one of the 16 so-called “Decade Volcanoes.”

Making it to this list of dangerous volcanoes is emphasized by the fact that about 80,000 homes are in danger of mudflows, especially in the Puyallup River valley on the west side of the mountain.

Even though the volcano is estimated to be more than 840,000 years old, the current cone dates back to about 500,000 years ago.

Seattle Mount Rainier
Seen from Seattle / Daniel Scwhen /

2. It’s the tallest mountain of the Cascade Range

This volcano stands 14,411 feet (4,392 meters) tall, which makes it the tallest mountain in the US State of Washington.

It’s also the tallest mountain in its particular mountain range, the Cascade Range, a huge range that extends from British Columbia in Canada in the north, to the northern part of California in the south.

The volcano also features 3 peaks known as:

  • Columbia Crest – The tallest of the 3peaks.
  • Point Success – 14,158 feet (4,315 meters).
  • Liberty Cap – 14,112 feet (4,301 meters).

The top section of the mountain is dominated by 2 huge volcanic craters that each have a diameter of over 1,000 feet (300 meters).

Mount Rainier Peak
The peaks of Mount Rainier / Raduranga /

3. The slopes of the mountain feature huge retreating glaciers

The moment you see this amazing mountain, you notice that the top section of it is pretty much entirely covered in ice. That’s because of fact that the slopes of the mountain feature 29 huge glaciers.

The total ice cover is quickly reducing in size, which is the case with just about any other glacier in the world.

The ice still covered about 30.41 square miles (78.8 square kilometers) of the mountain’s surface in 2015 and had a volume of approximately 0.69 cubic miles (2.9 cubic kilometers).

One of the most fascinating and easily accessible glaciers on the mountain is called the “Nisqually Glacier,” the source of the river with the same name.

Even though it’s a retreating glacier, it’s one of the most popular attractions in Mount Rainier National Park

Nisqually Glacier
Nisqually Glacier / Wiki Commons

4. Climbing the mountain is an extremely complicated task

The main reason why climbing Mount Rainier is a complicated task is because it involves crossing some of the biggest glaciers in the United States south of Alaska.

This also means that only 50% of the approximately 8,000 to 13,000 climbers that attempt the ascend actually reach the summit. One has to be extremely fit and the weather conditions have to be favorable to make the 2 to 3 days journey.

The first climbers to reach the summit were pioneering mountaineers Hazard Stevens (1842-1918) and P. B. Van Trump (1838-1916) who made the first successful ascend in 1870. The first woman to reach the summit was Fay Fuller (1869-1958) in 1890.

Mount rainier climbers
Climbers on the mountain / Troymason /

5. The mountain is encircled by the mesmerizing Wonderland Trail

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert mountaineer to enjoy the scene inside the Mount Rainier National Park. In fact, the most popular way to explore the magnificent landscape here is by hiking one of the multiple trails inside the park.

One of the most fascinating trails is the so-called “Wonderland Trail,” a hiking trail that circumnavigated the entire mountain and which has a total length of 93 miles (150 kilometers).

The trail crosses multiple ridges and the highest point is known as the “Panhandle Gap” which is located at an elevation of 6,750 feet (2,060 meters).

You can have a great night’s sleep at the Ipsut Creek Campground as well because the total elevation gain of the entire trail is an estimated 22,000 feet (6,700 meters).

That’s quite a healthy walk, don’t you think?

Mount Rainier wonderland trail
Part of the Wonderland Trail / Brewbooks /

More interesting facts about Mount Rainier

6. Even though Mount Rainier features 3 peaks of which 2 are officially recognized as such (Point Success only has a prominence of 138 feet (42 meters) and isn’t classified as a real peak), it also has a subsidiary peak.

This remarkable peak is known as “Little Tahoma Peak.” It stands 11,138 feet (3,395 meters) tall and has a prominence of 858 feet (262 meters), making it clearly distinguishable from the main peaks.

Without the peaks of the main mountain, this satellite peak would also be the third-tallest mountain in Washington State.

Little Tahoma Peak
Little Tahoma Peak / Thomas Loarie II /

7. The mountain gives its name to the national park which is known as the “Mount Rainier National Park.” The entire stratovolcano and its surroundings are included in this national park.

This was only the 5th national park to be established in the United States in 1899 and covers a total area of 369.3 square miles (956.6 square kilometers).

8. Mount Rainier not only features 29 glacier and ice fields, but it’s also the most glaciated mountain in the United States south of Alaska.

The ice on the mountain is the source of multiple rivers. These are important for generating hydroelectric power and irrigating the surrounding land.

Nisqually river
The Nisqually River / Tiffany Von Arnim /

9. The mountain is officially known as “Mount Rainier,” a name given to it by British Navy Captian George Vancouver (1757-1798) in honor of one of his friends, a Rear Admiral named Peter Rainier, in the late 18th century.

The name given to the mountain by the Native American Salish People who lived in the area is Talol, Tacoma, or Tahoma.

10. A large number of native American tribes lived in the areas surrounding the mountain. These are represented by the tribes living in the area today as well. The area has been inhabited for at least 8,500 years.

These include the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

11. One of the most fascinating areas of the mountain is called “Paradise.” This area includes the paradise Glacier, Paradise River, and Paradise Valley, on the south slope of the mountain, and is located at an elevation of about 5,400 feet (1,600 meters).

The snow in this subalpine region remains on the ground until the start of the summer, and this results in amazing blooms of the subalpine wildflowers, a magnificent sight to say the least.

Flowers on mount rainier
Flowers in Paradise / Jeff /

12. The lower section of the mountain is covered in dense forests. Some of this forest includes old-growth forest that is over 1,000 years old. Most of the trees growing here are western red-cedar, Douglas fir, and western hemlock.

13. The mountain is home to a federally protected animal known as the “Northern Spotted Owl.” Multiple species of amphibians and reptiles such as snakes, frogs, and salamanders, live here as well.

About 65 species of mammals can be found on the slopes of the mountain, including cougars, mountain goats, marmots, and elk.

14. The mountain is home to a small crater lake at an elevation of 14,203 feet (4,329 meters). This lake only has a surface area of 130 by 30 feet (39.6 by 9.1 meters) and a maximum depth of 16 feet (5 meters).

The most remarkable fact about this intriguing lake is that it’s the highest lake in North America, even though it can only be reached by caves near the western crater of the mountain.

15. The most picturesque location to get an amazing view of the mountain is located near a lake as well. That’s mainly because this majestic mountain is reflected in a lake simply known as “Reflection Lake.”

This lake is located in the Paradise area and can be accessed via Stevens Canyon Road, a must-see location if you plan to visit Mount Rainier National Park!

Mount Rainier reflection lake
The magnificent Reflection Lake / Pixabay