For our 3rd and final National Park to visit on our way out of Washington, we drove to Mt Rainier National Park. We were staying an hour and a half away from this park at Chehalis Thousand Trails, so we only had about a half a day to explore Mt Rainier.
We didn’t get to do a whole lot at this park, but the one hike we took part way up the mountain to get close to Rainier was amazing, and so memorable. It was very crowded at the Paradise Visitor Center, as it is close to the mountain, and many people hike the trails from there, which was what we planned to do. We talked to a ranger first who suggested that we take the Dead Horse Creek Trail up instead of the more popular, and steeper, Skyline Trail that we and everyone else were planning to. So, we took Dead Horse Creek Trail up to the Glacier Point viewpoint, which was peaceful, and still a good workout. Even though it was almost fall, there were fall flowers, marmots, and butterflies everywhere! It was so pretty!
We learned in the movie in the visitor center and in the kids Jr Ranger program, that Mt Rainier is an active volcano that erupted last in the late 1800’s. It is amazing how glaciers form on these volcanoes, making them standout from the mountains around them, even in summer. We also learned that the mix of the lava with the glaciers is one of the things that causes a lot of destruction when these volcanoes erupt as the slides in the last eruption of this volcano stretch all the way out to Puget Sound, which is over and hours drive away. For this reason, and since the population in this area is greater than some others, Mt Rainier is potentially the most dangerous active volcano in the continental US, and like other volcanoes, is being monitored all of the time.
An hour and a half south of Mount Rainier is Mount Saint Helens. It was amazing to get to see this volcano in person. We heard a lot about it growing up, but to get to be there and learn about it at the visitor center was a rich educational opportunity for us, and the kids. We learned that the blast from the volcano in 1980 was a huge explosion that blew off the back of the mountain, which was directly in front of where we were standing at the visitor center. It was pretty eerie and sad to see the destruction that happened in this area. You could see the trees that were destroyed in the blast, and parts of the forest further away that were blown over. We also attended a ranger program about the smaller blasts that occurred in 2004 and 2006. We really learned a lot about volcanoes first hand at Mt Rainier, and Mt Saint Helens.
There are many active volcanoes from northern California into British Columbia, and we learned so much, and loved spotting the beautiful volcanoes that stand out from other mountains!