Washington state is home to nearly eight million people and is officially the 13th most populous state in the country. It’s also the 18th largest state, with a total land area of over 70,000 square miles. Washington is home to Seattle (its largest city), Olympia (its capital), the Puget Sound, a northern border with Canada, and a western border with the Pacific Ocean. The state is both geographically and climatologically divided by the Cascade Mountains, which run from north to south. The Cascades are among some of the most magnificent peaks to be found in the United States. But, are they the home of the highest point in Washington?
Here, we’ll discover just where Washington’s highest spot lies, and just how tall it is. We’ll learn more about the general topography of Washington, and how it compares to the tallest peak. Then, we’ll find out whether or not you can drive to the state high point, and what there is to do in the area. Finally, we’ll compare the highest spot in the state to the other four highest places.
The Highest Point in Washington
With an astounding elevation of 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the highest point in Washington. The peak lies in the south-central Cascades, almost directly east of Olympia. Mount Rainier is a dormant volcano (it’s been more than 100 years since it last erupted) that towers over the surrounding forested lands. There are three separate peaks at the top, on the edges of the caldera formation. These are Point Success, Liberty Cap, and Columbia Crest; Columbia Crest is the tallest point on the mountain. Further, Mount Rainier has more glaciers than any other United States peak outside of Alaska.
How Does Mount Rainier Compare?
Mount Rainier is the state’s highest point, but, how does it compare to the rest of Washington state? The peak is just one of many in the Cascade Range, which runs from north to south along the state’s western third. To the west, on the Olympic Peninsula, the Olympic Range dominates. The eastern two-thirds of the state are marked by largely flat, rolling lands lacking mountains. The lowest elevation in Washington is at sea level, wherever the land meets the Pacific Ocean. The average elevation is 1,700 feet above sea level.
Can You Drive to the Top of Mount Rainier?
No, you cannot drive to the top of the highest point in Washington. In fact, getting there is no easy feat. Hiking to the summit of Mount Rainier requires advanced preparation, at least some experience in mountaineering, and, likely, a guide. Because it is so heavily glaciated, and has such high prominence, Mount Rainier is often considered a miniature version of a Himalayan peak. Climbers should expect to gain over 9,000 feet in elevation, as well as climb on both ice and snow, to reach the top.
If you think you would like to try summiting Mount Rainier, exercise caution. The mountain is not passive, in fact, many have died on their way to the top, or back down. Climbers should be familiar with the use of crampons, ice axes, roped climbing, and glacier travel. The safest (and best) way to reach the top is with the help of a qualified guide, several of which operate on the mountain.
Where Is Mount Rainier Located on a Map?
Mount Rainier is entirely in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s around a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle. The park is situated in two Washington counties: Pierce County and Lewis County.
Things to Do Near Mount Rainier
Every summer, thousands upon thousands of visitors flock to Mount Rainier National Park and the surrounding areas. The Cascade Range offers incredible opportunities for camping, hiking, wildflower and wildlife viewing, and scenic driving. If the highest point in Washington isn’t enough for you, there are even more mountains nearby. Both Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens are located just to the south of Mount Rainier. Both are also busy tourist destinations during the warm months.
If you’re not too keen on camping, but you still want to see Mount Rainier up close, you can always stay in Seattle or Tacoma. Both cities have much to offer in terms of history, culture, restaurants, bars, and places to stay.
Top Five Highest Spots in Washington
At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the highest point in Washington state. But, what about the top five highest points? Let’s see how they compare to the roof of Washington.
Coming in second is Mount Adams, at 12,281 feet elevation. Third is Mount Baker, which sits 10,781 feet above sea level. Glacier Peak is the fourth tallest peak in the state, at 10,541 feet tall. Finally, coming in fifth is Bonanza Peak, with an elevation of 9,516 feet above sea level. Interestingly, Bonanza Peak is the only non-volcanic summit on the list.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/RomanKhomlyak
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- , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/place/Mount-Rainier
- , Available here: https://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm
- , Available here: https://visitrainier.com/