Early autumn is prime time for gathering huckleberries in the foothills of Mt. Rainier. Non-commercial berry picking is allowed within the National Park; two quarts per person per day of huckleberries, blackberries, thimbleberries and salmonberries, gathered by hand. A tip from those who know: picking in the park is best at Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds and along the Noble Knob Trail. Areas outside the park in the Randle and Packwood area may be even better known for berry picking. In the national forests, three gallons per person per year are allowed for non-commercial use.
The hike from Paradise to Panorama Point is world-class and a hiker's favorite during the autumn season. View fall foliage up close at points along the trail and enjoy sweeping, panoramic views of the colorful hillsides at other areas along the hike. Huckleberry bushes and vine maples turn the foothills into a patchwork quilt of warm reds, bright greens and sunshine yellows. Along with brilliant fall color, experience views of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually glacier; on clear, crisp autumn days there are views of the rugged Tatoosh Peaks, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood.
Get a rare glimpse into the wild and wonderful world of Roosevelt elk on these special tours during the "rut" or breeding season each September. It's worth an early wake-up for this morning two-hour, naturalist guided tour through the park's free-roaming area. Listen for elk calls, look for special postures, and hope to witness some good old-fashioned sparring. This time of year is possibly the most dramatic season at the park. Finish with a continental breakfast in the Hellyer Natural History Center. Reservations are required for these tours.
Take a ride through the beautiful fall landscape of the Mt. Rainier foothills on board the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. Journey to the Mineral Lake Pumpkin Patch where everyone is welcome to disembark the train. The "Great Pumpkin" will greet your young ones and host a hunt through the haystacks for their very own pumpkin to take home. Don't forget your costume and camera! Enjoy the cool temperatures of the season and the beautiful scarlet, orange and golden colors found only this time of year in the foothills of Mt. Rainier.
During late summer, usually after the first rains begin, dozens of edible mushroom species can be found in the Mt. Rainier area. Chanterelles, matsutake, boletus, morels, shaggy mane, pig's ear, hen-of-the-woods and brain mushrooms are a few of the most popular varieties. The woods and valleys around Lewis County on the southern side of Mt. Rainier National Park are popular areas for mushroom hunting. Lower elevation areas near Packwood, Greenwater and Ashford are good locations for Morel Mushrooms. A permit is required to collect in National Forests. Within the National Park, non-commercial mushroom picking is allowed up to two quarts per person, per day. Narada Falls and the Longmire area are popular areas for mushroom hunting.
Rub elbows with Everest summiteers including legendary mountaineers at the annual Rainier Mountain Festival, held each September in Ashford. World-class climbers will share their adventures with talks, slideshows and audience Q&A's. They will be available throughout the event for book signings and more casual conversation. Other activities include: Alpine Games - competitions for cash prizes in classic mountain events, a five-mile trail run, mountain technique demonstrations, Mt. Rainier benefit raffle with proceeds benefiting Mount Tahoma Trail Association, kids fun and games, food vendors with BBQ, microbrews and more, as well as free live entertainment by local bands.
As the season turns to fall, Reflection Lakes becomes a mirror of autumn colors with magnificent Mt. Rainier's reflecting in its still waters. For a spectacular setting... to take in the magic of the season at the mountain, Reflection Lakes is a must-see. Many consider this area to be the park at its best -- enchanting animal life are often spotted, and the scenic, awe-inspiring beauty of mountain peaks and alpine lakes are simply inspiring. An easy 2.75 mile loop hike will lead you to the lake. Do keep in mind after September in this high elevation area, the snow will begin to fly and winter will be on its way.
In celebration of Veterans Day, Mount Rainier National Park annually waives entrance fees for all visitors on Veterans' Day Weekend, Friday through Sunday. Entrance fee waivers on this holiday have been observed since 2006 and apply to all public lands managed by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. Watch for other Veteran's Day celebrations around the mountain also honoring this national holiday. At the park, this time of year affords the possibility to view the changing seasons and witness the remaining days of fall before winter takes hold.
Enjoy sipping an oaky red or perhaps a fruity white glass of wine at the annual "On the Road to Paradise" Fall Wine Tasting event. Taking place in the mountain community of Ashford, this is your chance to savor a variety of hard-to-find, artisanal wines & micro-brews from small producers. During this time of year, it's also a great time to stock up your wine cellar for the holidays and get a head-start on your gift buying. Enjoy live music and a hearty spread of appetizers. Talk with the wine-makers and in the evening, join the crowd out on the dance floor. Lodging operators in the valley offer great savings with packages and discounts during this event weekend.
Mt. Rainier's scenic roads beckon throughout the year, but perhaps there's no more magnificent time for a driving tour of Mt. Rainier than autumn. Roadside views are decorated with leaves of brilliant red, deep orange and shimmering yellow. With two nationally designated byways around the mountain, the Chinook Scenic Byway to the north and White Pass Scenic Byway to the south, you're guaranteed to find numerous places to pull off to savor a picnic, snap a photo, breathe in the crisp autumn air or simply take a moment to contemplate the beauty of nature's dazzling autumn show.