Exploring the forests of Mount Rainier National Park is like traveling back in time. Before Mount Rainier became a national park, visitors traveled by horse or foot for miles through thick forests and tangled undergrowth to reach the mountain. You can still walk among these trees, enjoying the grandness of the forests that once covered the mountains and lowlands of western Washington.
The forests of Mount Rainier are a significant natural resource. They extend up the mountain slopes to elevations above 6,000 feet (above 1,800 meters) and occupy approximately 58% of the park landscape. In the lower forest, see the giant stands of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar towering above you with low-growing, shade-tolerant plants brushing your ankles. Higher up on the slopes of Mount Rainier the forests open up into tree islands of subalpine fir and mountain hemlock, surrounded by wildflower meadows.
Most of the trees in Mount Rainier National Park are evergreen conifers, keeping their needle-like leaves year-round. Only a few trees in the park are deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall. The best places to view low-elevation forests are Carbon River, Nisqually Entrance to Longmire, and Ohanapecosh. The Paradise, Sunrise, and Tipsoo Lake areas are good locations to see the open subalpine forests.