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Mount Rainier National Park: The Complete Guide for 2023

Nicole Jordan

California, USA

Ancient forests, bountiful wildflowers, alpine lakes, and expansive meadows all surround the most-glaciated peak in the contiguous US. Mount Rainier National Park is a Pacific Northwest gem like no other. Stroll through the forest, stargaze under the dark night sky, go for an alpine hike, or enjoy a peaceful, scenic drive over mountain passes. With plenty of ways to explore the park, all visitors will gasp in awe at the breathtaking sites Mount Rainier National Park offers.

Where is Mount Rainier National Park?

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Mount Rainier National Park is part of the volcanic Cascade Mountain Range located in west-central Washington. The park sits about 100 miles east of Washington’s coastline and is about halfway between the major nearby cities, Seattle and Portland.

Mount Rainier National Park Facts

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.
  • Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington and in the Cascade Mountain Range, standing at 14,111 feet. The active stratovolcano last erupted in 1894.
  • Mount Rainier has 25 named glaciers making it the most glaciated peak in the contiguous US.
  • With human evidence dating back about 9,000 years, the Cowlitz, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, and Yakama people are the original inhabitants who respectfully lived on this land.
  • The park elevation ranges from 1,600 feet to over 14,000 feet creating valleys, waterfalls, old-growth forests, subalpine meadows, glaciers, and high-mountain peaks.
  • Mount Rainier became the 5th US national park when it was signed on March 2, 1899.

Weather in Mount Rainier National Park 

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park is from mid-summer to early fall. Because the park sits at higher elevations and receives a lot of snow, the timeframe for the best weather is limited.

July and August are the sunniest months of the year and also have the most wildflower blooms. However, rain is still common but even more likely in the spring, fall, and winter.

During the winter, there is very limited access in the park due to snow so check the weather conditions before heading out.

Mount Rainier National Park Hours

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Mount Rainier National Park is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. However, most of the park closes during the winter following snowstorms. In the winter, vehicle access is only possible through the Nisqually Entrance heading towards Paradise in the southwest section of the park. Visit the park’s website for daily updates on operating hours and seasons.

Mount Rainier National Park Entrance Fee

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Mount Rainier’s entrance fees are $30 per car, $25 per motorcycle, $15 per person on foot or bicycle. A Mount Rainier Annual Pass is $55 and an America the Beautiful Pass, which allows access to all US National Parks, is $80 for the year.

Getting to Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Mount Rainier is about 2.5 hours from both Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.

Directions from Seattle & Portland to Mount Rainier National Park

From Portland, take I-5 N to WA-12 E (exit 68). Head east on WA-12 to the town of Morton. Turn onto WA-7 heading north until you reach the town of Elbe where you turn right for WA-706 heading toward Ashford and through the Nisqually Entrance.

From Seattle, take I-5 S to WA-512 E (exit 127). Head east on WA-512 to WA-7 S. Stay on WA-7 S to the town of Elbe then continue on WA-706 through Ashford and in through the Nisqually Entrance.

Nearby national parks include Olympic National Park (2.5 hours northwest), North Cascades National Park (3.75 hours north), Crater Lake National Park (6.5 hours south), and Glacier National Park (9.5 hours east).

Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of 15 of our favorite hiking trails in Mount Rainier.

Easy, perfect for families

  1. Trail of the Shadows (0.7 mi loop; 40 ft gain)
  2. Myrtle Falls Viewpoint via Skyline Trail (0.8 mi out & back; 150 ft gain)
  3. Carbon River Rain Forest Nature Trail (0.3 mi loop; 65 ft gain)
  4. Nisqually Vista Trail (1.1 mi loop; 180 ft gain)
  5. Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge Trail (2.9 mi out & back; 557 ft gain)

Moderate, fairly strenuous

  1. Tolmie Peak Trail (5.6 mi out & back; 1,541 ft gain)
  2. Mount Fremont Lookout Trail via Sourdough Ridge Trail (5.7 mi out & back; 1,120 ft gain)
  3. Pinnacle Peak Trail (2.8 mi out & back; 1,420 ft gain)
  4. Naches Peak Loop Trail (3.3 mi loop; 640 ft gain)
  5. Panorama Point from Paradise Inn (4.1 mi out & back; 1,260 ft gain)

Difficult, experience recommended

  1. Skyline Loop Trail (6.2 mi loop; 1,788 ft gain)
  2. Camp Muir Route via the Skyline Trail (8.4 mi out & back; 4,600 ft gain)
  3. Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail (9.4 mi loop; 2,560 ft gain)
  4. Green Lake Trail (9.1 mi out & back; 1,470 ft gain)
  5. The Wonderland Trail (96.2 mi loop; 25,340 ft gain)

Lodging Near Mount Rainier National Park

Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Mount Rainier National Park Camping

Planning a night under the stars? Here are some of the best campgrounds and campsites inside and outside of Mount Rainier National Park.

  1. Cougar Rock Campground
  2. Ohanapecosh Campground
  3. White River Campground
  4. Mowich Lake Campground
  5. Big Creek Campground
  6. Sunrise Camp
  7. Hatchery RV Campground
  8. Silver Springs Campground
  9. La Wis Wis Campground
  10. Lodgepole Campground

Mount Rainier National Park Hotels

If camping isn’t your jam, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, hostels, inns, cabins and B&Bs within a quick drive of Mount Rainier. Paradise Inn, in fact, is the perfect romantic resort for a weekend getaway.

  1. Paradise Inn
  2. National Park Inn
  3. Nisqually Lodge
  4. Crystal Mountain Resort
  5. Stormking Cabins & Spa
  6. Paradise Village Hotel & Restaurant
  7. Alexander’s Lodge at Mount Rainier
  8. Mountain View Lodge
  9. Cowlitz River Lodge
  10. Gateway Inn

Mount Rainier National Park Tours

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

A few commercial guiding companies offer day trips from Seattle to Mount Rainier showing the park highlights and educating people about the park’s history, environment, and culture. Most of these tours last between 10-12 hours. There are also ranger-led programs that include informational talks about geology, ecology, wildlife, park history, and mountaineering. As well as campfire programs, guided walks, and in the winter, guided snowshoe trips.

Best Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park

Find wildflowers at Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Reflection Lake is one of the best places to find wildflowers in Mount Rainier National Park. On a clear day, you’ll have perfect views of Rainier reflecting on the lake. Flowers usually start blooming around mid-summer.

Hike the Skyline Trail

Skyline Loop Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

The Skyline Loop Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park. It’s a must-do for first-time visitors, but start early to avoid the crowds. You’ll enjoy panoramic views of the park while hiking through the alpine vegetation.

Drive the Road to Paradise via Nisqually Entrance

Nisqually Entrance, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Starting in the cute town of Ashford, you’ll enter the park through the Nisqually Entrance. Over the course of this 83-mile drive, you’ll pass many lookouts, waterfalls, historic buildings, lakes, and forests. Along the Road to Paradise route, hop out and go on a few short hikes to see the best the park has to offer.

Go stargazing from the Sunrise Visitor Center

Sunrise Visitor Center, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Mount Rainier offers spectacular views of the night sky and a chance to see the milky way on a clear night. Sunrise Visitor Center is a great spot to stargaze from right outside your car! Or, start hiking up the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake if you want to enjoy the stars in a more remote location.

Visit Myrtle Falls

Myrtle Falls, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Check out the 72-foot waterfalls tumbling down into a rugged gorge with impressive views of the glacially covered Mount Rainier in the distance. Less than a mile round trip, the Myrtle Falls hike is suitable for most visitors and is a must visit at the park.

Visit the Longmire Visitor Center

Longmire Wilderness Information Center, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

The Longmire Wilderness Information Center has a museum where you can learn about park history, geology, wildlife, and more. It’s also a popular spot to chat with rangers to learn more about the park or sign up for a ranger-guided tour.

Hike to Tolmie Peak Lookout

Tolmie Peak Lookout, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

The Tolmie Peak Lookout trail offers dramatic views of Mount Rainier, alpine lakes, grassy meadows, forests, and panoramic views of the surrounding cascade volcanoes. The road to reach it is a long gravel one making it slightly less accessible than other trails in the park.

Explore the Grove of Patriarchs Trail

Grove of the Patriarchs, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

This easy, 1.5-mile trail takes visitors through an old-growth forest home to some of the oldest trees in the park. On the Grove of the Patriarch’s trail, you’ll find ancient western red cedars, Douglas firs, and western hemlocks, all of large sizes. The trail also features a fun suspension bridge and boardwalks.

Drive Chinook Scenic Byway

Chinook Scenic Byway, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

The Chinook Scenic Byway is considered one of the most beautiful drives in Washington, crossing over Cayuse Pass at 4,675 feet and Chinook Pass at 5,430 feet. Along this drive, you’ll have incredible views of Rainier, the vast forests, and alpine meadows.

Enjoy the sunrise from Sunrise Point

Sunrise Point, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Sitting at 6,400 feet in elevation and offering panoramic views of Mount Rainier, Sunrise Point is an astonishing viewpoint. When the sun lights up Mount Rainier, you’ll see orange, pink, and purple tones reflect off the mountain in a spectacular way.

Hop on the Mount Rainier Gondola up Crystal Mountain

Mount Rainier Gondola, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Ascending over 2,400 vertical feet, you’ll have impressive views of Mount Rainier and the volcanic Cascade Range on this breathtaking gondola ride. Just outside of the park, the Mount Rainier Gondola is located at a ski resort offering impressive sites in both the summer and winter. Check online to see operating hours before visiting.

Backpack the Wonderland Trail

Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

If you’re looking for a big challenge on one of the most popular backpacking trails in the park, get permits for the Wonderland Trail. If you’re lucky enough to get permits, this almost 100-mile trail loops around Mount Rainier. Along the way, you’ll enjoy sites of the mountain itself, forests, meadows, waterfalls, lakes, wildflowers, and wildlife.

Go kayaking at Mineral Lake

Mineral Lake, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

With spectacular views of Rainier in the distance, Mineral Lake is at a lower elevation offering kayaking from the late spring to early fall. It’s also a spot to go fly fishing. Local outfitters rent out kayaks or you can bring your own!

Get Brunch at the Paradise Inn

Paradise Inn, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Built in 1916, the Paradise Inn is a historically famous building in the park. With spectacular views and a delicious brunch menu, it’s a great spot for an early meal.

Climb Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, US.

Only for the most in-shape hikers and mountaineers, Mount Rainier is a coveted mountain ascent by many climbers. Covered in glaciers and receiving unpredictable weather, this technical climb is for the experienced only, but offers the adventure of a lifetime for many. Tour companies based around the park offer guided trips up the volcano.