Mt. Rainier National Park is a grand playground for young and old alike, and surprisingly accessible for a hike with kids or any beginning hiker. The best way to cultivate care for the environment is to spend time in nature, and Rainier has nature that is nothing short of majestic.
While planning your day at Mt. Rainier, bake a healthy snack that everyone will love, with my Easy Granola recipe, below.
Three short, but spectacular Rainier hikes are the Nisqually Vista Trail (2.2 miles), Alta Vista Trail (1.2 miles), and the Grove of the Patriachs Trail (1.5 miles). These will leave you with time to explore more of the park. A few attractions you can drive right up to are Reflection Lake, the historic Paradise Lodge, and the Jackson Visitor Center. You may run out of time, but never things to do at Mr. Rainier National Park.
A more ambitious, but still family-friendly hike is the Skyline Trail, at 5.5 miles round-trip. Its spectacular views look out over the Paradise valley and far into the Cascades, Tatoosh Range to Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood, while enjoying Myrtle Falls and the Nisqually glacier at your feet.
The Skyline Trail winds through picturesque, subalpine meadows along the way, from roughly July to September. The park’s web site has a wonderful guide to its flora and wildlife, and is good at updating which wildflowers are currently blooming. We've hiked the Skyline a few times, and have seen black tailed deer, red fox, baby black bears, marmots, pika, and more – see the animal list!
If you encounter a Park Ranger, be sure to stop and ask questions. One we met was so much fun, she even pulled out a whistle and called for marmots, who popped up and whistled back! Rangers have a wealth of knowledge and are happy to share.
You won’t be able to do it all in one trip unless you camp or could stay overnight at National Park Inn in the Longmire Historic District. Plan ahead, and check the Mt. Rainier National Park website and @MountRainierNPS on twitter for weather conditions, road and other closures. If going on a summer weekend, start early in the day.
If you've done all the trails mentioned above, check out the other wildflower trails, and there is lots more summer hiking at Mt.Rainier listed at Washington Trails.
National Park Week 2016 runs April 16 – 24, with a long list of activities geared towards youth and children at Rainier. At other times of the year, take advantage of the 2016 Free Entrance Days to National Parks, celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service.
If you have a fourth grader in your family, you are in luck. As a part of President Obama’s Every Kid In A Park initiative, you can get a free, one-year, family pass to hundreds of parks & monuments across the United States.
Easy Granola recipe
Granola is a nutritious snack that is great by itself, and even better with yogurt and fruits or to take anywhere – on a hike, or to school or work.
Cooking notes: The seeds, nuts, or oats that you use should be raw, i.e. untoasted and unsalted. Make sure any dried fruits (or try chocolate chips!) get added after the baked granola is cooled, so they don't melt or get chewy.
With this basic vegan recipe, variations work well; you can use whatever dried fruits, nuts, and seeds you and yours enjoy. Here are a few more of my granola variations for inspiration!
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/2 cup whole or roughly chopped almonds
1/2 cup whole or roughly chopped cashews
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients except the fruit.
3. In a small bowl, measure and mix the oil, vanilla, maple syrup, and brown sugar.
4. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and mix, till everything dry is evenly coated with liquid.
5. Spread the mixture out on the prepared baking sheet, into a packed and even layer. If it is too spread out and has space in between, then you won't get clusters.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
7. Remove from the oven when the nuts look lightly browned and toasted. The granola may look like one large sticky slab, but it will crisp up as it cools, to later break off easily.
8. Let it cool completely to room temperature, and break off granola clusters as big as you like. Add the dried fruit and mix by hand.
9. Store granola in an air tight container. Homemade granola will stay fresh for up to two weeks.
Images by Mohini Patel Glanz.