In 1899 the US Congress and President McKinley created Mount Rainier national park -- the fifth national park in the country. When the National Park Service was created in 1916, it continued regulation of the 235,000 acres surrounding the active volcano. In 1988, 97% of the park was designated "wilderness" by Congress at the recommendation of the parks service. The remaining 3% has its own significance, and in 1997 was designated a National Historic Landmark District to preserve the rustic architecture found in Paradise and Longmire.

Mountaineers who wish to scale the dormant volcano start at the Paradise resort or the White River campground. Their ascent to the peak of Rainier generally takes two days. About 10,000 people attempt the peak each year, but only half succeed.

Visitors who prefer to remain at lower elevations can instead enjoy old growth forests of western hemlock and Douglas-fir, which shade over 91 acres; subalpine meadows whose volcanic soil supports a yearly bloom of wildflowers; glacier-fed rivers and waterfalls; and, on the Carbon River Rain Forest Nature Trail, a rare inland rainforest. As for fauna: mammal-watchers have the opportunity to spot 54 species of mammal, including black-tailed deer, coyotes, red foxes, elk, and several varieties of squirrel; bird-watchers can revel in 126 species of bird including the flicker, a variety of woodpecker.

Weather often sets the park apart from the area surrounding it. The mountain at its heart stops the eastward movement of moist Pacific air, leaving the peak wreathed in its own miniature weather system.

-- U.S. National Parks and Monuments --