With 300 miles of hiking trails  covering terrain from the lowland forests all the way to the ice-topped summit at 14,411 feet, Mt. Rainier is a recreational paradise. More than two million people visit Mount Rainier National Park (www.nps.gov/mora )annually, soaking up towering waterfalls vistas from the winding mountain roads, strolling through flower-filled mountain meadows at Paradise , camping beneath old-growth Douglas fir forests, climbing the mountain’s glacier-clad slopes, listening to the bugling of elk on a fall evening, and skiing backcountry trails in the winter.
Addmission to Mount Rainier National Park is $15 per vehicle, and $5 per person for folks arriving by foot and on bikes, motorcycles, buses, or horses. Your entrance fee is good for seven days. If you plan to visit several parks, or surrounding national forests or other federal recreation lands, get an $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. Seniors over age 62 can pay a one-time fee of $10 for a lifetime version of this pass, and disabled visitors can obtain one for free at the park’s entrance.
Information and assorted publications about Mount Rainier National Park are available at visitors centers in Longmire , Paradise , Ohanapecosh , and Sunrise , and from the various entrance stations. The park’s quarterly newspaper, Tahoma, is packed with up-to-date details on park activities, camping, hiking, climbing, and facilities. Request a copy in advance of your visit, along with a park map and other brochures, from the Park Service (360/569-2211).
The National Park Service schedules nature walks, campfire programs, and children’s activities from July to late September. Program schedules are posted at visitors centers and campgrounds, as well as in the park newspaper, Tahoma. Come winter, naturalists offer snowshoe walks at Paradise.
By Car: In 1911, the first automobile to reach Mount Rainier National Park carried president William H. Taft aboard. Since then, the car has become the primary means of transportation to the park, with many visitors following the roads along the park’s southern and eastern margins. Gasoline is not available inside the park, so be sure to fill your tank in surrounding towns.
Winter snow closes most of Mt. Rainier’s roads, with the exception of the section between the Nisqually entrance and Paradise . This road closes each night and reopens in the morning after the plows have cleared any new-fallen snow. Chains are frequently required and should always be carried. The road between Paradise and Ohanapecosh  is generally open Memorial Day to early November, while Highways 123 and 410 over Cayuse Pass  usually open in late April and remain open till the first heavy snowfall (November).
Chinook Pass  is open from early June to November, and the road to Sunrise  generally opens by the first of July and closes once the snow gets too deep, frequently in early October. Early snows can close any of these, so be sure to call ahead (360/569-2211) to see which roads are open. The Longmire  store sells tire chains.
By Bus: Unfortunately, there are no bus or van shuttle services operating from Sea-Tac airport to Mt. Rainier—those looking for longer explorations must at least make it by car to Ashford .
In recent years the parks service has started experimenting with a free summertime passenger shuttle running between Paradise and Longmire every half hour 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday–Sunday, with extended service to Ashford Saturday and Sunday. Contact the Longmire visitors station for info.
Gray Line (206/626-5208 or 800/426-7532, www.graylineofseattle.com , $59 adults, $29.50 kids) leads hurried day trips to the park from Seattle . Scenic Bound Tours (206/433-6907 or 888/293-1404, www.seattlecitytours.com , $80) runs similar tours that depart from Seattle and take you to Mt. Rainier and back in 10 hours.