Sure, Mount Rainier National Park's biggest feature is... well, Mount Rainer, but there's so much more to the park than the peak. It was originally set aside because of the lovely forests surrounding the mountain, but of course, Rainier and its stunning views, subalpine meadows, volcanic past, and many glaciers is an important natural wonder to preserve. While all that is awesome, you don't need to be a mountain-climber to appreciate the park. Still not sure? Just check out these hidden gems!
Longmire was once the park's HQ back when it was first established in 1899. Before that, James Longmire had used the property as a homestead, a lodge, and a resort, complete with mineral springs. While it's no longer the center of park activity, it's still got its history going for it-- it's been designated a Historic District, and now has a museum. There's also the old administration building, which exemplifies that rustic "parkitecture" style that was super popular in National Parks in the 1920's, and there's also the National Park Inn, Mount Rainier's oldest lodge, which is open all year round.
Longmire is super neat, but it's not the only awesome visitors' center in the park.You can't beat the views at the Sunrise Visitor Center and Lodge; it's the highest point in the park accessible by vehicle, so the drive up is stunning. A drive allows you to cover more ground and see more than a hike would, although this is a good place to find a few trails if you do want to explore the park on foot-- the hikes here have more variety than simply walking towards the mountain, and it's less crowded.
The park has a few really picturesque waterfalls, but the prettiest of all is Christine Falls. The two-tiered waterfall has a bridge spanning the lower falls, which is a must-do. The pictures don't even do the feature justice, since it's hard to get an angle that shows off the beauty of both tiers. Oh, and the way the falls got their name is a really sweet story as well-- Mountaineer P.B. Van Trump took his young daughter Christine, then nine, to climb Mount Rainier, despite her having a debilitating nervous disorder. Despite her age and health, she managed to make 10,000 feet up the mountain, and thus the falls were christened "Christine Falls" in her honor.
You won't get any views of the mountain while in this part of the park, but you will get enchanting scenes of old-growth hardwood forests. Here you'll find the Grove of the Patriarchs, a trail that winds through a forest of massive Douglar firs, cedars, and hemlocks, in addition to camping, and breathtaking subalpine lakes. The Grove of the Patriarchs will have you feeling like you're in another park entirely (Sequoia National Park, maybe?) but a short drive to the mountain will remind you that you are, in fact, at Mount Rainier.
Of course it goes without saying that Mount Rainier is covered in glaciers, but did you know that the park has a rainforest too? In fact, the park's lowest glacier, Carbon Glacier is in the rainforest. Naturally, it's a temperate rainforest, meaning it receives more than 250 centimeters of rain a year, but rainforests are always more lush and green than an average woodland. The trail through the forest leading to the glacier is probably one of the best if you're looking to see a glacier-- you can get an excellent view of the Carbon Glacier's snout!