Mountains are among the physical marvels that draw visitors throughout the world to our state and make Washingtonians proud to call this place home. Our mountains serve as grand and inspiring, yet dangerous, playgrounds for climbers, scramblers, backpackers, dayhikers and others wanting to get close to nature.
Several of Washington’s most notable peaks are dormant volcanoes, including one (Mount St. Helens) that has been active more than once in recent decades.
You can find many classic photos of Washington’s best-known mountains in the Washington State Digital Archives. A few of those shots are right here.
The top photo captures the crown jewel of Washington’s Cascades, Mount Rainier. This shot, taken around 1950, shows a group of hikers walking up a trail at Sunrise Park with Rainier’s Emmons Glacier and Little Tahoma in the background.
At 14,410 feet (depending on who you ask), Mount Rainier is the alpha peak of Washington’s impressive collection of mountains, standing more than 2,000 feet taller than the next highest peak, Mount Adams, which is “only” 12,276 feet above sea level. Speaking of Adams, it’s found in the second photo, taken around 1920 with Sheep lake in the foreground.
The third photo shows 10,781-foot Mount Baker, stationed between Bellingham and North Cascades National Park just south of the Canadian border. The photo, taken around 1955, shows a woman, boy and girl on pausing on a trail with Baker looming in the distance.
While most of the photos in this post feature mountains in the Cascade Range, the fourth photo captures the tallest peak in the Olympic Range, 7,965-foot Mount Olympus. The photo, taken around 1955, shows the Hoh River Valley with Olympus looming in the background. The Olympics rise nearly 8,000 feet between the Pacific Ocean and Hood Canal.
The photos of Rainier, Adams, Baker and Olympus are found in the General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005.
Last but certainly not least is Mount St. Helens, which became known throughout the world when it violently erupted in 1980, causing it to lose about 1,300 feet in elevation and leaving a gaping, horseshoe-shaped crater. Before the 1980 eruption, St. Helens’ elevation was 9,677 feet above sea level. The latest measurement by the U.S. Geological Survey shows it to be 8,330 feet. This photo shows St. Helens in its pre-1980 era, with boaters on Spirit Lake in the foreground. The photos is found in the State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990.