Monday, February 27, 2012

Hiking Overview

Update.--This entry is updated for minor corrections and broken links.

There a quite a few Web sites for hiking information, and I'll focus on applying those recommendations and guidelines to Mt. Rainier National Park. One factor that is critical with your visit to the Park is the length of your hike, whether it's a short or long day hike, an overnight hike, a 2-3 day hike, or a longer hike such as hiking the Wonderland Trail which circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. Before that a few basic rules apply to hiking in the Park.

For three of the four quadrants, access to the Park is through a visitors entrance, the Nisqually Entrance in the southwest, the Ohanapecosh Entrance in the souteast, and the White River Entrance in the northeast. The northwest entrance has two access areas, the Carbon River and the Mowich Lake Entrances, both of which are accessed by county highway, and often only occasionally checked by Park Rangers. When you stop at one of the entrances the rangers will provide you with information and newsletters which you should read to become familar with the rules of the Park.

Before you visit the Park you can get information about the road, trail and weather conditions ahead of your trip through the following Web sites.

National Park Service
NP Webcams
National Weather Service
Northwest Avalanche Center

I can't emphasize enough if you plan to do any day hikes, you should be prepared with a day pack and the outdoor essentials, and good hiking clothes, especially boots. You can use lightweight hiking boots for many trips, but using anything less only creates problems with your legs and feet after any short distance, especially trails with significant elevation gains and losses. It doesn't pay to be tired and still a few miles from the trailhead and your car.

There are numerous hiking guides on Mt. Rainier and the National Park, some straight hiking guides and some hiking experiences, and these are, in my view, the best to date.

"Day Hike Mt. Rainier" by Ron C. Judd, Sasquatch Books
"50 Hikes in Mt. Rainier NP" by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning, Mountaineers Books
"Hiking Mt. Rainier NP" by Heidi Schneider and Mary Skjelset, Falcon Press
"Adventure Guide to Mt. Rainier" by Jeff Smoot, Chockstone Pres

If you're an experienced hiker and planning any overnight or longer hike, you are probably well aware of the preparation you need to do and the equipment you need for your hike. If it's only a 2-3 day hike you can get by using some of the ultralight hiking tips to save weight, but you should not scrimp on emergency or bad weather clothing (wet or cold). Although the summers in the Puget Sound is good weather, it may be quite different in the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Rainier, as explained in Northwest Mountain Weather. You can get the latest conditions at the following Web sites.

NPS Current Information
WTA Trip Reports
Mt. Rainier Climbing
Cascade Climbers

If you plan to hike parts of the Wonderland Trail, there are two excellent resources. The first is the NPS Guide on the Wonderland Trail and the second is Bette Filley's book, "Discover the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail Encircling Mount Rainier", Dunamis House, out of print but often found in used bookstores.

One last thing to remember if you plan any overnight hike in Mt. Rainier National Park, there are very specific rules for backcountry hiking. These are outlined here. In order to make sure you minimize the impact of your trip and make it a good place for others, please follow these rules, and especially the following I personally favor.

Register and get a permit.
Camp at designated locations.
Stay on the trail unless noted as acceptable.
Avoid going off trails in meadows and similar areas.
NO DOGS on the trail.
Wear the proper clothes and take the proper supplies.

You can find links to more information for Mt. Rainier NP.

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