By Vonnai Phair, The Seattle Times
If you’re in the Seattle area on a clear and sunny day, you’ll be hard pressed not to see or hear someone say “the mountain is out.”
If you’re unfamiliar with this local lingo, do a 360-degree turn outside — you’ll likely spot Mount Rainier, which towers over everything in the Seattle area as both the highest peak in the state and the most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48 states.
With its 14,411-foot summit, it’s no surprise beloved Mount Rainier was recently named the best climbing destination in America by digital family vacation publication Family Destinations Guide.
To determine the ranking, the Guide looked at data from Instagram and TripAdvisor. The study analyzed Instagram hashtag data, TripAdvisor ratings and TripAdvisor reviews of 600 mountainous destinations across America.
Mount Rainier, also known as Tahoma — one of many Native names for the mountain — tops the ranking with a score of 22 out of 30. There were 439,039 Instagram posts with the hashtag #mountrainier and it had a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor at the time of the survey. The mountain also had 1,796 reviews on TripAdvisor, with visitors describing their mountain climbing experience as “a must-do.”
Mount Rainier National Park is on the ancestral homeland of the Cowlitz, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Yakama and Coast Salish people, according to the National Park Service.
Haleakalā Crater in Hawaii, a 10,023-foot mountain, ranked as the country’s second-best destination for mountain climbing (19 out of 30 points), according to the study. The mountain had 8,071 reviews on TripAdvisor and was rated 4.5 by visitors on the platform. There were 22,580 Instagram posts associated with the hashtag #haleakalacrater. Visitors tagged their visit as including “incredible views” and being “something you must see in person.”
Lookout Mountain in Georgia ranked as the country’s third-best mountain climbing destination (18.7 out of 30 points). The 2,392-foot mountain had 4,328 reviews on TripAdvisor, with a rating of 4.5 stars. The mountain ridge has three scenic attractions (Ruby Falls, Rock City and the Incline Railway), and it had pulled in 190,778 Instagram posts with the hashtag #lookoutmountain.
Grand Teton in Wyoming and Camelback Mountain in Arizona fell into fourth and fifth place respectively.
From 1950 to 2022, Mount Rainier saw 471,615 climbers. If you’re looking to join this number and climb Rainier — a multi-day, roughly nine-mile ascent of over 9,000 feet of snow, rock and unpredictable obstacles — make sure to determine what type of climb you want to tackle, take care of the fees and permits, pick a route and determine the best time of year for your climb.
Unlike walk-up peaks such as Mount Adams (12,276 feet) and Mount St. Helens (8,330 feet), a Rainier climb requires mountaineering gear and glacier-travel skills. Potential hazards, from icefall to rapidly changing weather, add risk to climbing Mount Rainier.
In addition to climbing, Mount Rainier is a popular destination for hiking, wildlife viewing, winter sports, camping and more. The mountain is an active volcano and the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S., spawning five major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano, and ancient forest cloaks the lower slopes.
In January, Mount Rainier National Park received $630,768 from Washington’s National Park Fund for projects like Wonderland Trail improvements and maintenance, development of an online accessible trails guide, aquatic surveys and restoration and the park’s 200 Meadow Rover volunteers, who patrol alpine trails to teach visitors about land stewardship, WNPF said.
The park will receive an additional $144,212 when it’s ready to implement additional programs, according to WNPF.
Plan your adventures throughout the West Coast at westcoasttraveller.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @thewestcoasttraveller. And for the top West Coast Travel stories of the week delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Armchair Traveller newsletter!