Established in 1899, this is the fifth oldest national park in the United States. The cap of glacial ice that conceals all but a few crags and ridges makes it doubly impressive. Although Mount Rainier is currently dormant, it belongs to the class of exploding volcanoes, much like the recently awakened Mt. St. Helens, and quite conceivably could one day erupt in a similar manner.
Although mere remnants of their former size, Rainier's 35 square miles of glaciers constitute the largest single-peak glacial system in the contiguous United States.
Forests cover the mountainside up to 5,000 feet, where alpine meadows of wildflowers and grass contrast with masses of ice at higher elevations.