Introduction to Wildflower Hikes

There are 246 miles of maintained trails and many miles of unmaintained 'boot paths' in Mount Rainier National Park. These trails offer exceptional opportunities to experience wildflowers for the day hiker, the primary audience of this site. The two principal day hiking guidebooks are Judd's "Day Hike! Mount Rainier" and Nelson's "Day Hiking Mount Rainier." They describe 51 and 70 hikes respectively which encompass most of these trails plus hikes outside but near the Park. All these hikes in one way or another present wildflower viewing opportunities although the guides aren't specific about them. Ultimately it is hoped that the wildflower hikes feature of Flowers of Rainier would complement these guides with wildflower information and in some cases provide a map/guide (currently ten) for those hikes which truly represent exceptional opportunities. There is no intention here to replace the guidebooks which are excellent and necessary resources for hiking in the Park.

A favorite guidebook for many remains Spring and Manning's "50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park." Although several of these hikes are intended as backpacks requiring two or more days most of the trails included could have been covered as day hikes. However, closure of a most of the Westside Road and permanent closure of the Carbon River Road now makes that impractical for most. If you don't own this exceptional book (4th edition) you should buy one before it goes out of print - for Ira Spring's photos if for no other reason!

Wildflower Distribution - What Makes Rainier Hiking Special:

Wildflowers like all forms of flora exist in particular habitats, some species being more resilient to varying conditions than others. The variables are numerous and include features like soil conditions, mositure, cover and exposure, associated vegetation, etc., etc. To a significant extent the principal factor is elevation. This site is organized by three general elevational zones: Forest Zone, Subalpine Zone, and Alpine Zone, consistent with Laird Blackwell's book "Wildflowers of Mount Rainier" (click here for a discussion of elevational zones). This is an imperfect generalization of the life zone concept but works well enough to plan our hiking to fully experience the types of plants and their habitats. MRNP has a substantial amount of area in each of these zones and the trail system provides ample opportunity to explore each; as well as to transcend all three zones in single day hike and experience the very best of the flowers of the forest, subalpine and alpine zones. This is certainly a major reason why classic hikes such as Summerland are so popular. Please see the introduction in each section of the site for more on the uniqueness of each zone, habitats and types of plants.


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