Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The Volcano is Just the Beginning
Ultimate Travel: Legends of the Park 13 Photos
I Am a RockAlcatraz Island lies out in the bay a mile and a half off the San Francisco shoreline. For many years, that was enough to keep prisoners like Al Capone on the rock and tourists off it. More than an infamous lockup, Alcatraz was also the first U.S. fort on the West Coast and the site of a 19-month occupation by Native Americans to reclaim disused federal land. Now you can buy a Property of Alcatraz T-shirt and take a selfie in Machine Gun Kelley’s cell. 960 1280
Torch of FreedomOnce upon a time, newcomers to America would huddle en masse under the gaze of the great green colossus on Liberty Island before entering the country. Times have changed, but the Statue of Liberty is still a go-to American symbol of freedom and inclusion. Employees of the National Park Service have been caring for the lofty lady of the harbor since 1933. 960 1280
Port of EntryFrom 1892 to 1954, some 12 million immigrants set upon a path to citizenship that led them to Ellis Island in New York Harbor. The Great Hall remained largely vacant until 1990 when it was reopened to the public as the country’s largest museum devoted to our history as an immigrant nation. 960 1280
Our HouseYou don’t have to win 270 Electoral College votes to get into the White House, you just have to ask your Congressman for a pass. Free, self-guided tours of the East Wing run five days a week and include permanent exhibits and a short film. Requests must be submitted at least 21 days in advance and sorry, you can’t use the bowling alley. 960 1280
Steel Rainbow ConnectionLike a giant staple holding the country together at the Mississippi River, the St. Louis Gateway Arch is the nation’s tallest and most silvery monument and embodies Thomas Jefferson's vision of the westward expansion of the United States. Yes, you can go up in it. 960 1280
Kentucky UndergroundThe Bluegrass State is famous for its coal mines, but Mammoth Cave National Park takes subterranean pride to new depths. Located in the Green River Valley, Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest known cave system, with more than 400 miles of explored chambers and labyrinths. To paraphrase an early guide, it is a grand and gloomy grotto. 960 1280
Private IslandsHead 70 miles away from Key West by boat or seaplane and you’ll come upon Dry Tortugas National Park, a 100-square-mile paradise composed of seven small islands and the majestic 19th-century Fort Jefferson. Yes, this tropical paradise belongs to you. Even more majestic are the eerie blue waters and jutting coral reefs that make for ideal snorkeling territory. Above water, you can enjoy the innumerable species of birds that inhabit the park, as well as the turtles for which it is named. 960 1280
Take a BathIn the middle of Arkansas, the town of Hot Springs, well, sprang up around what is now Hot Springs National Park, an area known for thousands of years as the “Valley of the Vapors” for its medicinal steaming waters. Since 1921, it’s been a national park nicknamed "The American Spa.” Architecture buffs flock to Bathhouse Row to appreciate the collection of ornate, preserved bathhouses. 960 1280
Swamp PeopleAdmit it, you’ve always wanted to wear gumboots and race an airboat through the Florida Everglades National Park. Spend your days deep in sawgrass, clocking manatee, dolphin and alligators. Watch in awe as a giant heron struggles to take flight in a mangrove swamp. Or maybe you just want to hang out at the historic Nike Hercules missile base. Whatever you want to do, you can do it in the Everglades. 960 1280
Let's Go to the MallThe Great Emancipator sits in contemplation some 19 feet above you. It’s a sight every American should see in their lifetime. The Lincoln Memorial on the western end of the National Mall in Washington is, unsurprisingly, the most visited site in a space rich with monuments, museums and historical points of interest. It has also been the backdrop for historical events, most notably MLK’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. For an added layer of historical context, visit the Memorial at night. 960 1280
American VirginNo one needs an excuse to visit the Virgin Islands, but if one did, one could do worse than the Virgin Islands National Park. Comprising roughly 60% of the island of St. John, plus another 5,650 acres of submerged territory, the park protects and preserves countless species of tropical and migratory birds, fish and other marine and plant life. Who needs a yacht when you’ve got leatherback turtles? 960 1280
11 Unusual National Parks and Monuments 11 Photos
The landscape of Mount Rainier National Park is easily overshadowed by the enormity of Mount Rainier itself -- a 14,000-foot-tall volcano looming over surrounding forests and meadows. This grand landmass is the reason over 2 million visitors come to the park yearly, and provides a wealth of activities that include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, or brave attempts to hike to the volcano's summit. Mount Rainier is the resting ground for at least 25 glaciers that cover over 35 square miles of the volcano, and have carved its slopes and ridges over time. At Mount Rainier National Park, it's possible to view the largest glacier on the continental United States from Emmons Vista, or trek to Gobbler's Knob for views of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Pacific Northwest, dominating the landscape.
Of course, this national park is much more than a glorious volcano - it has also been designated a National Historic Landmark District for its 1920s- and 1930s-style architecture, and is home to thousands of acres of old-growth forests and meadows teeming with wildflowers. Longmire Village has gained notoriety for maintaining an original rustic appearance that includes natural raw materials and color schemes, log framing, wood siding, cedar-shake roofs and boulder foundations. Forest-lovers can explore an old-growth Douglas-fir ecosystem known as "The Grove of the Patriarchs" in the Ohanapecosh Valley. The Douglas firs, western hemlocks and red cedars that define this forest have survived avalanches, fire and floods for over 10,000 years.
Geological History: Mount Rainier is a volcano built up from repeated eruptions of molten lava that cooled and formed layers over millions of years. The mountains of the Cascade Range surrounding Mount Rainier were created from the buckling of tectonic plates far beneath the Earth's surface. During the ice age, glaciers moved through this area and shaped the landscape as they froze and thawed, breaking off rocks from the slopes, carrying away debris, and smoothing the hillsides.
Park Activities: Hiking is the most popular and thorough means of exploring Mount Rainier. Hardy backpackers may choose to take 1 or 2 weeks and hike the Wonderland Trail that winds around the mountain - though it's certainly possible to take a "mini-hike" along a portion of the trail. Well-worth exploring is the slightly hard-to-reach Carbon River Basin where visitors will encounter one of North America's few temperate rainforests. For experienced climbers, attempting to scale the 14,410-foot summit of Mount Rainier is an awesome challenge, though folks looking for a more relaxing visit may want to try boating or canoeing on the sparkling waters of Mowich Lake.
Where to Say: With its cozy fireplaces, sparkling Christmas lights and proximity to incredible ski resorts, Alta Crystal Resort can be easily touted as a "winter wonderland" escape. Yet, the hiking and horseback riding trails through verdant forests, and the nearby streams ripe for fishing all ensure that this hospitable lodge remains a wonder through all four seasons. The resort also hosts a variety of nightly seasonal activities that include bonfires and barbeques. A variety of chalet accommodations are available, and surround a pool and hot tub area.
Nearby Sights/Side Trips: Visitors to the "Emerald City" can only hope they'll be "Sleepless in Seattle" ... This is a city full of activities. Take a ride to the top of the famed Space Needle, or let some salmon fly overhead (literally, over your head) at the Pike Place Market. Pioneer Square is the place to be after dark, when a world of restaurants and bars open their doors to a public intent on experiencing the cooking of some of the Northwest's finest chefs. One of the greatest things about Seattle is its proximity to outdoor retreats like tranquil Alki Beach. Should your body grow weary, never fear! Chances are a piping hot Starbucks coffee is just around the corner!