The Best Things to do at Mount Rainier (+ where to stay & park tips!)

Nov 11, 2020

Visiting Mount Rainier? In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before you go, including the different areas to explore, where to stay, and the best things to do at Mount Rainier, plus some itinerary options!

One of our favorite things about living in Seattle was Mount Rainier. On a clear day, which is glorious in Seattle to begin with, you can see the mountain from all around the city. Anytime we’d be driving on a sunny day and I’d catch a glimpse of her, I’d gasp so loudly that Adam would think he was about to hit a squirrel.

Despite our love for Mount Rainier, it took us 5 visits to the park to have a clear view of the mountain. While the mountain is absolutely majestic, it can also be fickle, so patience is key. There are many days the mountain will be covered in fog and you won’t even know it’s there. And then there are the days when you are in the city and it’s clear out, so you drive out to do an epic hike and the mountain is covered in fog by the time you get there. 

But after visits with rain, fog, smoke, and snow, we finally got that picture perfect experience. And it was totally worth the wait! 

Things to do at Mount Rainier

In this Mount Rainier guide we’re sharing details about the park, the different regions you can visit, where to stay, and the best hikes and things to do at Mount Rainier National Park, plus sample itineraries to help you plan one, two, or more days at the park. We hope you fall madly in love with Mount Rainier like we have!

Looking for more things to do in Washington? Check out more Washington guides:

Reminder: Leave No Trace

Before starting your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave the places you explore even better than you found them.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Know the regulations, prepare for different weather conditions, and pack the 10 essentials.
     
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Travel on designated trails and camp at designated sites at least 200 ft away from water sources.
     
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry ALL trash with you and dig a 6-8″ cat hole for human waste, 200 ft away from water.
     
  4. Leave what you find: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
     
  5. Minimize campfire impacts: If fires are allowed, use established fire rings. Keep fires small and put out fires completely.
     
  6. Respect wildlife: Do not approach or feed wildlife, keep pets under control, and store your food properly.
     
  7. Be considerate of others: Yield to hikers going uphill and keep noises down.

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Mount Rainier National Park

Sitting at 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the 6th tallest mountain in the lower 48 states and not only the highest point in the Cascade Range, but also in Washington. The mountain is home to 25 major glaciers and is considered an active volcano, but thankfully it hasn’t erupted in 1,000 years. 

On March 2, 1899, Mount Rainier became America’s 5th national park and is one of the three National Parks in Washington, along with Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park.

While the park is definitely famous for the gorgeous peak, Mount Rainier National Park has over 260 miles of maintained trails throughout the park through old growth forests, river valleys, and high subalpine meadows. We have always been so surprised by the diverse scenery and hikes, which are almost equally as gorgeous as seeing the mountain itself.

Different regions of Mount Rainier National Park


Mount Rainier National Park is approximately 369 square miles in size and is made up of 5 developed areas to explore. Each area is home to tons of great hikes, visitor centers, and views. Below is insight into each area, including where they are located, some highlights of the area, and important things to know before visiting.

We will also be breaking down future sections of this guide by region to make it easier for planning!

Paradise (South side)

Paradise Mount Rainier

Paradise, which is located on the southern slope of Mount Rainier, is the most popular area of the park. The area is known for great views of meadows, mountains, wildflowers, and of course, epic views of Mount Rainier!

It’s one of the snowiest places on Earth where snow is measured, with about 643 inches of snow per year (fun fact: we visited in July and there was still TONS of snow!) and is the prime winter use area of the park, with snowshoeing, skiing, and tubing being popular.

Sunrise (Northeast corner)

Sunrise Mount Rainier

Sunrise, which is in the northeast corner of the park, is the highest point in the park that can be reached by car at 6,400 ft and the second most visited area. You enter this area from the White River entrance.

The view from this area is crazy, as you feel SO high up on the mountain, but you are still less than halfway to the top. Due to winter conditions, this area of the park is usually only open from late June to late September or early October.

Longmire (Southwest corner)

Longmire Mount Rainier

Located in the southwest corner of the park is Longmire, which is home to both the park’s original headquarters, built in 1899, and the current headquarters, built in 1930. This area is open year round and is where you would begin your journey up to the Paradise area of the park. You enter Longmire through the Nisqually entrance of the park. 

Carbon River & Mowich (Northwest corner)

Carbon River Mount Rainier

The Carbon River and Mowich area of the park, located in the northwest corner, is home to an inland temperate rainforest, the lowest elevation glacier in the lower 48, and the largest and deepest lake in the park. This area of the park is only open to bicycle and foot traffic.

The Carbon River portion of this region is mostly snow free and open year round, while the Mowich area is open mid-July to mid-October.

Ohanapecosh (Southeast corner of the park)

Ohanapecosh Mount Rainier

Ohanapecosh (pronounced oh-ha-nah-pa-cosh) is named for a Taidnapam (Upper Cowlitz) Indian habitation site and the name means “standing at the edge.”

This region is located on the east side of the park and is home to a lot of old growth forests. While it doesn’t have as many epic mountain views as the other regions, it is still incredibly beautiful, with waterfalls, rivers, and gorgeous trails.

Ohanapecosh is often sunnier and drier, making it a good option if the weather in the other regions is less ideal, however it is closed in the winter.

When to visit Mount Rainier National Park

If you want to get the full Mount Rainier National Park experience, the best time to visit would be from June to October, which is what this guide will focus on.

During this time you will get some combination of summer warmth, wildflowers, lingering snow on the ground, some cool temperatures in the mornings and evenings, and the highest probability of clear days to view the mountains.

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Visiting Mount Rainier in the Summer

If you do visit in the summer, be prepared to see larger crowds. With so much of the park closed in the winter, the window to enjoy the park at its best is very short and with 1.5 million visitors a year, you can expect a good amount of people. However, arriving very early, around sunrise, or going during the week will increase your chances of solitude.

One important thing to know is that depending on which area you’re visiting and the weather conditions, there can be snow until late July and starting again in September, so please keep an eye on the current conditions and any closures here.

Visiting Mount Rainier in the Winter

Winter is another popular time to visit the park, especially the Paradise section, which is generally open throughout the winter months of December to mid-March.

While most of the park may be inaccessible due to snow covered roads, they typically keep the road to Paradise clear so people can enjoy winter activities, such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.

If visiting in the winter, you may need tire chains to travel safely in the park. Make sure to check if they are required when you visit.

Visiting Mount Rainier in the Spring or Fall

Spring and fall can also be fun times to visit Mount Rainier depending on the year’s snowfall. Keep an eye on the current conditions to see what all is open if you decide to visit between March-June and September-November.

Getting to Mount Rainier National Park

SeaTac Map

If visiting from outside of Washington, Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the main airport in Western Washington and the best airport to fly into to visit Mount Rainier. Here is how far you can expect to drive to different areas of the park from the airport.

To Carbon River and Mowich: 1-1.5 hours
To Longmire: 1.5-2 hours
To Ohanapecosh: 2 hours 
To Paradise: 2-2.5 hours
To Sunrise: 2-2.5 hours

Getting around Mount Rainier National Park

Getting around Mount Rainier

Unlike some of the National Parks, Mount Rainier National Park does not have a shuttle, which means that you will need a car to get around. Visiting from out of town? You can rent a car either upon landing at SeaTac or try to find cheaper rates in the Seattle area.

Where to stay at Mount Rainier National Park

There are quite a few options when it comes to where to stay at Mount Rainier. From campgrounds in the park, cabins and Airbnbs nearby, national park managed lodges, free campsites, and more, we’re covering quite a few options below, organized by region and type.

Want to just do a day trip from Seattle? We are also including a few lodging options in Seattle as well! Make sure to check out our 3 Days in Seattle guide for things to do!

PS: If it is your first time staying at an Airbnb, click this link to get $40 off your first stay!

Paradise

Photo credit: https://mtrainierguestservices.com/accommodations/paradise-inn/

Lodging is very limited at Paradise, with your only true option being the Historic Paradise Inn, which is right by the Paradise Visitor Center and close to so many hikes! This inn was built in 1916 and is recognized as one of the “Great Lodges of the West.” There are no TVs, internet, or phones, so it’s truly an escape into nature.

Sunrise

White River Campground | Photo Credit: Miriam S. on Hipcamp

Sunrise offers a handful of lodging options, ranging from campgrounds, cabins, and a resort. This is one of the best bets if you want to stay super close to the park. 

Campgrounds

White River Campground
Located right by the Sunrise Visitor Center, this is a great spot to call home if you want to hike some of the top trails in the park!

Price: $20
Open: late June to late September 
# of sites: 112 (map)
RV spots: Yes
Toilet: Regular
Reservations?: Unfortunately not, it’s first-come, first-served

Silver Springs Campground
Located 7 miles north of the White River entrance, which is the entrance for the Sunrise area, this campground is great for tents and RVs and close to lots of hikes.

Price: Starts at around $25, with price increases for holidays and larger sites
Open: late May to mid September 
# of sites: 56
RV spots: Yes, but there is no electric
Toilet: Regular
Reservations?: Yes, you can reserve here.

The Dalles Campground
The Dalles campground is 13 miles north of the White River entrance, which takes you to Sunrise. This campground has some waterfront sites too!

Price: Starts at around $22.75, with price increases for holidays and larger sites
Open: late May to mid September 
# of sites: 45
RV spots: Yes, but there is no electric
Toilet: Vault
Reservations?: Yes, you can reserve here.

Ranger Creek Airstrip
We stayed at this FREE campground after doing a sunset hike at Sunrise. It had a lot of spots and even on a Friday night in July we were able to snag one. Some report that it gets busy and loud, but we didn’t have any issues. There are some pit toilets here and you get to watch small planes land and take off!

Hotels

Alta Crystal Resort at Mount Rainier: This resort right by Mount Rainier offers spacious suites and if you visit in the winter, great skiing! In the summer, you can take their gondola to the top to see epic views of the mountain. They also offer winter RV parking for those in RVs.

Rentals

Alpen Bliss Chalet: This 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house is good for larger groups, but a bit pricey.

Longmire

Paradise Village Hotel
Paradise Village Hotel

Longmire, and the nearby Ashford, will be your best bet when it comes to finding accommodations, with lots of Airbnb options, different campgrounds close by, and hotels.

Campgrounds 

Cougar Rock Campground
The Cougar Rock Campground is located near Longmire and close to popular hikes both in Longmire and Paradise.

Price: $20
Open: late May to late September 
# of sites: 173 (map)
RV spots: Yes, but there is no electric
Toilet: Regular
Reservations?: Yup! You can reserve in advance here for late June- early September.

Big Creek Campground 
This campground is located 6 miles from the park entrance and 21 miles from the town of Ashford, where you can get any amenities you might need.

Price: $20
Open: late May to mid October 
# of sites: 29
RV spots: Yes, but only up to 22 ft and there is no electric
Toilet: Vault
Reservations?: You can reserve in advance here.

Sahara Creek Horse Camp: We stayed at this FREE campground (with a Discovery Pass, which is $30 a year and worth it if you spend time in WA). We snagged a spot on a Saturday in the summer no problem and it was very peaceful. There are some vault toilets here!

Hotels

Paradise Village Hotel & Restaurant: This hotel has super nice rooms, cabins, and property and is close to the Longmire area of the park.

National Park Inn: This 25 room inn is managed by the National Park Service and similar to the Historic Paradise Inn, there are no TVs, internet, or phones.

Nisqually Lodge: Located in Ashford, very close to the Longmire (Nisqually) entrance, this lodge has free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, minifridges and microwaves, as well as free breakfast.

Rentals

Fillmore’s Landing: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom super cute cabin (with a hot tub!) that sleeps 6.
Nugget’s Tiny Home: An adorable tiny home perfect for 2!
Little Blu A-Frame: A very nice A-Frame cabin that can sleep 3.
Elkhorn Cabin: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom cabin with a fire pit.
Graham’s Get-Away: A HipCamp cabin that sleeps 6.

Ohanapecosh

Cozy River Cabin

With camping and less rugged accommodations in nearby Packwood, there is something for any comfort level in the Ohanapecosh area of the park!

Campgrounds

Ohanapecosh Campground
This is one of the park’s official campgrounds and is a great home base for some of our favorite easy hikes, Grove of the Patriarchs and Silver Falls. It’s also an hour drive to the top of Sunrise!

Price: $20
Open: late May to late September 
# of sites: 188 (map)
RV spots: Yes, but there is no electric
Toilet: Regular 
Reservations?: Yup! You can reserve in advance here for late June- early September.

La Wis Wis Campground
Located about 12 miles south of the Ohanapecosh Campground, this is a good option if you cannot get a campsite at Ohanapecosh. 

Price: $22
Open: late May to late September 
# of sites: 122
RV spots: Yes, in the Hatchery loop, but there is no electric
Toilet: Vault
Reservations?: Yup! You can reserve in advance here.

Hotels

Cowlitz River Lodge: It’s not super fancy, but if you don’t want to camp, this is your best bet for a hotel in the area. 

Rentals

Knotty Cedars Retreat: This beautiful A-Frame has 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and a fire pit.
Cozy River Cabin: Cabin with a VIEW! This 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom A-Frame has super epic scenery.
Millard’s Cabin: This cabin is gorgeous inside and has a hot tub! And with 2 bedrooms, you can bring friends to enjoy it.  

Carbon River & Mowich Lake

This region of the park is the closest to Seattle (and Tacoma), so if you only plan to explore this area of the park, you could get by with just a day trip. However, if you want to stay the night, here are two campground options.

Mowich Lake Campground
Mowich Lake is the fourth campground managed by Mount Rainier National Park, but is the trickiest to access and offers the least amount of spots. But we hear it’s gorgeous and if you can get a spot, which is first-come, first-served (and free!), it’s worth it to be in this area for the night.

Price: free, minus a bumpy drive in!
Open: early July to early October 
# of sites: 13, which are all walk-in, primitive sites, which means you park away from the site and have to walk to it.
RV spots: RVs are not allowed
Toilet: Vault 
Reservations: No
No fires allowed

Evan’s Creek Campground
This campground is located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and offers cheap first-come, first-served campsites. 

Price: $5 or free if you have a Northwest Forest Pass or National Parks Pass
Open: Opens in April
# of sites: 41
RV spots: May be trickier for RVs, no electric
Toilet: Vault 
Reservations: No

Stay in Seattle!

Depending on where you visit in the park, Seattle can be a great home base, especially if you’re just doing a day trip. Here are a few of our favorite Airbnbs around Seattle, but for more ideas, check out our 3 Days in Seattle guide!

  • Option 1: A studio in a private guest cottage
  • Option 2: A cozy 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in Upper Queen Anne
  • Option 3: A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment in Upper Queen Anne with a balcony
  • Option 4: A super cute tiny house
  • Option 5: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment close to the heart of Ballard
  • Option 6: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with a home gym
  • Option 7: A 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage loft
  • Option 8: A super charming 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom guest suite

Things to know before you visit Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier
Entrance at Longmire

Before you visit Mount Rainier National Park, here are a few of our top tips to ensure you have a fun and safe time:

  • Get to the park early! We always recommend getting anywhere early, but if you want to enjoy some solitude, shoot for arriving by 7 AM. 
  • Visit during the week. Weekdays are a lot less busy at the park and can be more enjoyable.
  • Make sure to pack the 10 essentials. Although many of the trails are well trafficked and well marked, always have the 10 essentials with you just in case things do not go according to plan. 
  • Be bear (and mountain lion) aware. Black bears and mountain lions both call Mount Rainier home. While attacks are very uncommon, there is a chance you may see a bear (mountain lions are much less likely), so we’d suggest learning what to do in case you do encounter one.
  • Pack food and water. There aren’t a ton of food options near the park, so make sure to pack meals to enjoy during your hikes! If you start near visitor centers, they will have water fountains, but if not, make sure you have enough water on you, or a water filter in case you need to fill up in a stream.
  • Dogs are not allowed! Just like the other National Parks, dogs are not allowed outside of parking areas and campgrounds at Mount Rainier. Traveling with your dog? Learn what we do with Kona if she cannot join us during our travels.
  • Download maps beforehand. With little to no service in the park, we highly recommend downloading AllTrails maps before you go. You will need an AllTrails Pro membership to do so, which is $30 a year and so worth it!

Things to do at Mount Rainier National Park

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View from Naches Peak Loop

With 5 areas of the park to explore, there are so many things to do at Mount Rainier, including both short hikes, longer hikes, and quick stops on the side of the road. We’re listing all of our top suggestions below, sorted by region of the park, and with asterisks by our must-do options to help you in case you’re having a hard time deciding. Make sure to keep scrolling to see some of our itinerary suggestions as well!

We recommend checking AllTrails and the Washington Trails Association before your trip to see current trail conditions and reviews.

Paradise


Nisqually Vista Trail

Miles (round trip): 1.1 miles
Elevation: 180 ft
Trail map & current condition

As the name implies, this trail leads you to an up close view of the very much receded Nisqually Glacier. The trail leaves from the Paradise Inn and is a great option for snowshoeing if you visit in the winter! 

Skyline Trail*

Miles (round trip): 6 miles
Elevation: 1,794 ft
Trail map & current conditions

The Skyline Trail is a loop trail (you can go clockwise or counter clockwise) and acts as a main hub for hiking out of the Paradise area. This is one of the most popular spots in the park, if not the most popular. There are many trails that branch off of the Skyline Trail, so it may be wise to pop into the visitor center to grab a map!

This hike will take you through some beautiful areas including Panorama Point where you can see marvelous views of many large mountains and the Paradise Valley. Along the way back you will also encounter the Stevens Van Trump Historical Monument (which honors the first documented ascent of Rainier), Sluiskin Falls, and Myrtle Falls.

Pinnacle Peak Saddle Trail

Miles (round trip): 2.4 miles
Elevation: 1056 ft
Trail map & current conditions

The Pinnacle Peak Saddle Trail is a great bang for your buck hike including views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, the Nisqually River Valley, and Reflection Lake. You’ll get a good leg burn, but it’ll surely be worth it!

Bench & Snow Lakes Trail 

Miles (round trip): 2.7 miles
Elevation: 498 ft
Trail map & current conditions

This trail is home to two beautiful lakes with a low amount of mileage. You will first reach Bench Lake after about 0.8 miles then hike up for around 0.4 more miles to reach Snow Lake.

Narada Falls Trail

Miles (round trip): 0.2 miles from the parking lot, 2.4 from Paradise Inn, and 3.6 from Reflection Lake
Elevation: ~100 feet from the parking lot, 862 ft from Paradise Inn, and 931 ft from Reflection Lake
Trail map & current conditions (Parking Lot)
Trail map & current conditions (Paradise Inn)
Trail map & current conditions (Reflection Lake)

Make sure to stop off for a look at the “pure” waters of Narada Falls. The powerful waterfall’s name is a Hindu word meaning “pure” or “uncontaminated.” Along this trail there are several viewpoints, but make sure to go all the way to the bottom to marvel at its full power! Be careful though, the walk down will be slick and you may catch some mist!

You can hike to this from the Paradise Inn, Reflection Lake, or there is a large parking lot right next to the trailhead that will leave you with a 5 minute descent. 

Skyline Trail to Myrtle Falls* 

Miles (round trip): 1 mile
Elevation: 160 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Follow the Skyline Trail from the Paradise visitors center area for a beautiful look at Myrtle Falls. When we visited in July, they were still covered in snow, so make sure to check the conditions beforehand so you can make sure you’ll actually get to see the falls!

Deadhorse Creek Trail & Moraine Trail 

Miles (round trip): 2.2 miles
Elevation: 725 ft
Trail map & current conditions

The Deadhorse Creek Trail is a short, but steep hike to see beautiful mountain views and the Nisqually Glacier valley.

If you want to continue the adventure, the Deadhorse Creek Trail connects with the Moraine Trail for another 2.5 miles and 629 ft to gain, which leads you to the Nisqually River valley and what remains of the Nisqually Glacier.

Things to see from the car

Paradise Valley Road
The Paradise Valley Road is a one-way, 2.2 mile scenic drive that starts at Paradise Inn and connects to Stevens Canyon Road, giving you gorgeous views of Rainier’s south side!

Winter tip: The road is great for snowshoeing and perfect if you’re a cross country skier. There is loads of snow and it is nicely graded for a smooth ride! If you decide to ski or snowshoe you can rent gear in nearby towns or at the Longmire General Store.

Inspiration Point
This is a large pullout and wayside on Stevens Canyon Road with a beautiful view of Mount Rainier and the Tatoosh Range. Park visitors have been taking advantage of this view since the early 1900s!

Reflection Lake
Reflection Lake can actually be called Reflection Lakes because there are several that make up this area. This is a very popular stop in the park along Stevens Canyon Road, so if you visit make sure to pack some patience when searching for a parking spot. The best time of day to visit is the early morning or evening when the winds are calm and the water is still allowing you to see the reflection more clearly. 

Longmire


Comet and Christine Falls*

Miles (round trip): 4.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,361 ft 
Trail map & current conditions

This trail follows Van Trump Creek up to Comet Falls, a gorgeous two tiered 380 foot waterfall! 

Christine Falls is actually best seen on Paradise Valley Road. If you didn’t see it on your drive in, you can see it if you turn right out of the trailhead parking lot after your hike, or you can see it from above on the trail after the first third of a mile. Look down the hill at Paradise Valley Road below to see Christine Falls.

As a bonus, if you want to continue this hike to get great views of Mount Rainier, at the junction to reach Comet Falls, take the steep path to the right up to Van Trump Park.

Rampart Ridge

Miles (round trip): 4.8 miles
Elevation gain: 1,417 ft
Trail map & current conditions

The Rampart Ridge Trail begins across the road from Longmire building complex and takes you through thick forest with tons of old Evergreen trees to an in your face view of Mount Rainier. You will start on the Trail of the Shadows and then come to a junction where the Rampart Ridge Trail begins. Take this trail and get ready to climb the switchbacks. 

After the trail crests the hill, you will get your view of Mount Rainier, the Kautz glacier, and a few other glaciers! It is a steady climb for the first 2 miles then a gentle downhill slope back to the beginning.

High Rock Lookout

Miles (round trip): 3.1 miles
Elevation: 1,318 ft
Trail map & current conditions

While not actually in the park, this hike still has incredible views of Mount Rainier and a cool fire lookout to check out! And bonus, since it’s not in the park, it’s dog friendly!

Eagle Peak Saddle

Miles (round trip): 7.2 miles
Elevation: 3,054 ft
Trail map & current conditions

This hike provides all the ingredients for a classic experience. Alpine meadows, old growth forest, and multiple spectacular mountain views of Adams, St. Helens and Rainier, are all aplenty here! When you get to the crest of the trail, keep following the path to the right to find a bench to take in the views of Mount Rainier!

You can summit Eagle Peak, but it is a class IV climb and scrambling knowledge and expertise are required. The hike is quite the challenge, but you will be rewarded handsomely!

Sunrise


Tipsoo Lake

Miles (round trip): 0.8 miles
Elevation: 39 ft
Trail map & current conditions

This is a beautiful 0.8 mile easy walk around the subalpine lake. It is too easy and beautiful to pass up, especially if you’re short on time or need a break from more difficult hikes.

Naches Peak Loop Trail*

Miles (round trip): 3.3
Elevation: 636 ft 
Trail map & current conditions

Remember that majestic but fickle note we made at the beginning? This was our first ever hike at Mount Rainier and let’s just say we were greeted with complete whiteout conditions upon our arrival. But since we made the trek to the park, we decided to go for it anyways.

After zero views during the hike, we got back to the car defeated, but to our surprise, the weather cleared up, so we did the hike for a second time! And it was worth it!

We recommend doing the hike clockwise for the best views. And since this is one of the more popular trails in the park, make sure to arrive early. If you go in late summer or early fall, be on the lookout for huckleberries to snack on!

Crystal Lakes Trail to Sourdough Gap

Miles (round trip): 7.4
Elevation: 2,913 ft 
Trail map & current conditions

You have several viewpoints and attractions to experience on this hike. There are 2 alpine lakes, a gap in the mountains, and an optional peak where you can see 5 volcanoes on a clear day!

The Crystal Lakes Trail takes you first to a small lake that is only 100 yards off the trail, then to the larger Crystal Lake. Once you reach this lake, continue along its left side to Sourdough Gap for epic views of the lake and Mount Rainier posing between two peaks!

If you’re feeling extra energized for more views, retrace your steps from the gap and lakes to about a mile before the trailhead and take a left onto the Crystal Peak Trail. This will add about 5 miles to your trip bringing you to around 12+ miles for the day! Follow this to reach Crystal Peak which was once the site of an old fire lookout. 

Make sure to start early if you’re planning to hike to the peak to avoid getting beaten by the sun, as the trail is mostly exposed.

Wonderland Trail to Camp Summerland & Panhandle Gap

Miles (round trip): 10.1 miles
Elevation: 2,595 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Beautiful meadows, two lakes, wildlife, wildflowers, glaciers, and mountains all await you on this popular hike, what more could you want?! 

If you go during peak season, make sure to get an early start to this one to avoid crowds and heat.


Mount Fremont Lookout Trail*

Miles (round trip): 5.7
Elevation: 1,151 ft
Trail map & current conditions

This trail quite possibly has the biggest bang for the buck and ranks as one of our favorite hikes ever!

You start this hike at the Sunrise Visitor Center, where hopefully it’s a clear day and you’ll already have great views of the mountain. You’ll take the trail to the right of the visitor center and begin your climb to the top. Along the way, you’ll have gorgeous Rainier views, as well as views of the surrounding mountains, meadows, and even a little lake.

After splitting off the trail, which continues to some other hikes, you’ll begin a rockier climb to reach the fire lookout, where you’ll be nose to nose with the mountain. It’s such an EPIC view!

The fire lookout is a popular spot to hang out, but there are also some rocky areas you can sit and enjoy the view if the lookout is busy.

We’d highly recommend doing this hike for sunset, where you’ll get to see the alpenglow on the mountain. It’s truly breathtaking! The hike down is gentle, well marked and there will most likely be others with you. Just don’t forget your headlamp!

One thing to note: despite it being super clear when we started the hike, during our hike and while sitting at the top, the clouds came and covered Rainier quite a few times. We thought we would get unlucky once again, but the clouds cleared for sunset and we got a super cool cloud inversion. So try to come on a clear day, but don’t give up hope if it does get cloudy off and on!

Burroughs Mountain Trail*

Miles (round trip): 9.4 miles
Elevation: 2,562 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and be ready to say “wow!” a ton!

The Burroughs trail begins from the northwest corner of the Sunrise parking lot. Even in the early summer there is often snow on the way to the First Burroughs. This section of snow can be steep, so be sure to assess the situation carefully and if you don’t feel comfortable save it for later in the year (or bring spikes!).

The First Burroughs is a flat and open landscape. Enjoy this view then continue on to the Second Burroughs, which is often a turnaround point for many hikers. This spot provides views of the Glacier Basin, Mount Rainier, Little Tahoma, Fremont Lookout and other notable areas of the park. 

After the Second, continue on to the Third Burroughs for up close and personal views of Rainier! Have a snack or lunch here on the many big, flat rocks available. 

Sunrise Nature Trail

Miles (round trip): 1.5 miles
Elevation: 370 ft
Trail map & current conditions

The Sunrise Nature Trail is a great short little hike that starts at the Sunrise parking lot. This trail features great views of the mountains and if you time it right, tons of wildflowers in the Sunrise Valley!

Carbon River & Mowich


Tolmie Peak Trail*

Miles (round trip): 6.4 miles
Elevation: 1,522 ft
Trail map & current conditions

If you’re looking for a hike with outrageous views of Rainier, a fire lookout, and alpine lakes, definitely add Tolmie Peak to your list!

After parking, you begin the trail by climbing up to Eunice Lake, continue around the hill behind it, and then up to the Tolmie Peak fire lookout. At the top, you will have views of the lake below and a picture perfect view of Mount Rainier.

We hiked this a couple summers ago and unfortunately had wildfire smoke that obstructed our view, but even so, it was a gorgeous hike and we could kind of, sort of make out Rainier. We can’t even imagine how gorgeous it would be on a clear day!

Note: The road to the trailhead closes seasonally due to snow and this adds a 5 mile walk to the trailhead. So check in advance to avoid extra mileage!


Summit Lake*

Miles (round trip): 5.7 miles
Elevation: 1,443 ft
Trail map & current conditions

While this hike is not technically in the park, it is close enough to this area, has great views of Mount Rainier, and is one of the only hikes you can bring your dog, so we’re including it anyways!

Hopefully you will have better luck than we did on this hike! We drove out to this hike hoping to see a nice sunset. We got to the trailhead and it was completely covered in fog. This was frustrating, since getting to the trailhead requires a drive down probably the worst road we have ever driven on. So we told ourselves “maybe it’ll be clear at the end!” so we hiked to the end and…there were no views to be had! But the pictures look amazing!

If you’re willing to drive the dirt road (it is brutal, but doable) and catch it on an at least semi clear day, it looks great!

Green Lake

Miles (round trip): 9.1 miles
Elevation: 1,469 ft
Trail map & current conditions

If you decide your car cannot make the drive up to Summit Lake, this is a good Plan B! Take the Carbon River Road trail to the Green Lake trail to see a gorgeous lake, surrounding mountains, tons of green trees, and a short detour to a waterfall called Ranger Falls. While there are no Rainier views, it’s still a great hike!

Spray Park Trail to Mount Pleasant

Miles (round trip): 6.9 miles
Elevation: 2,086 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Make sure to bring your SUV for this road to the trailhead. The dirt road is very bumpy and you’ll need to take it slow. 

You will find the trailhead to the left of the toilet at the Mowich Lake walk-in campground. After about 1.4 miles in, you will come to the Eagle Cliff Lookout where you can quickly get a full on peak at Mount Rainier. Continue on the trail for another 0.6 miles and you’ll reach Spray Falls. Have a snack here and get ready to steadily climb up to Mount Pleasant…you’ll be glad you did!

Carbon Glacier

Miles (round trip): 18.9 miles
Elevation: 2,112 ft
Trail map & current conditions

While this trail looks to be quite the commitment, it seems to be well worth it. The trail begins at the Carbon River Park Entrance and the first 5 miles are along the road. The road is closed currently to vehicle traffic due to flooding damage. Many hikers choose to bike this portion, but be aware bikes are not allowed past the Ipsut Creek Campground. 

Included in this hike are log bridges, the Carbon River, a suspension bridge across the Carbon River (make sure not to cross it), and the lowest elevation glacier in lower 48! At the end of the trail, please stay on the constructed trail to view the glacier, as rock fall from the glacier is possible.

Ohanapecosh


Grove of the Patriarchs Trail*

Miles (round trip): 1.2 miles
Elevation: 45 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Grove of the Patriarchs is an easy trail that takes you by 1,000, yes we said ONE THOUSAND, year old Cedar and Douglas Fir trees. The forest is so green and lush and along the trail you’ll cross a cool suspension bridge over a gorgeous glacial river to an island of more incredible trees.

While there are no Rainier views, it’s still a stunning hike and shows you a different type of scenery in the park. It is also great for a wide range of ability levels and has many informative placards about the area that Adam loved.


Silver Falls Trail*

Miles (round trip):
Elevation: 705 ft
Trail map & current conditions

What a fun and gorgeous hike this is! Similar to the Grove of the Patriarchs, it doesn’t have Rainier views, as it’s a forested hike, but there are still so many beautiful views. It felt like every few hundred feet or around every bend there was another cool view to see! The water, which is run off from the Ohanapecosh Glacier and is super blue, rushes through small openings in the river which creates some powerful and loud waterfalls.

We didn’t see all of this hike or follow it according to what AllTrails suggests, as we started from the parking lot for the Grove of the Patriarchs. We are pretty sure we did it sort of backwards, but what we saw was epic! It is a great hike through the old growth forest for a wide range of ages and ability levels. We didn’t initially plan to do this hike, but we are so glad we did, it was such a pleasant surprise!

There are 3 options of varying length to get to this beautiful waterfall:
State Route 123– 0.6 miles
Stevens Canyon Road– 1.2 miles
Ohanapecosh Campground– 2.7 miles


Shriner Peak Lookout Trail

Miles (round trip): 7.5
Elevation: 3,356 ft
Trail map & current conditions

Shriner Peak Lookout Trail is long, steep, and exposed hike, making it extra tough in the warmer months, so this trail is ideal in the fall with cooler temperatures. After 2.5 miles you will start to get views of Mount Rainier with its hillsides covered in wildflowers and fall colors.

At the top, you’ll not only find fantastic views of many major landmarks including Mount Rainier, Little Tahoma, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens to name a few, but you’ll also get the chance to visit a historic fire lookout. 

Make sure to bring lots of water. The trail is steep and exposed and there aren’t many, if any, water sources along the way .

Have 10 days in the park?

Wonderland Trail

Miles (round trip): 96.2 miles
Elevation: 25,341 feet
Trail map & current conditions

The Wonderland Trail is a trail that circles Mount Rainier. This is obviously not a day hike and requires getting a permit to hike, which can be very difficult to obtain. Most people take at least 10 days to complete this trail. This is definitely on our backpacking bucket list….one day!

Suggested Itineraries for Mount Rainier National Park

Now that you have an idea about the different areas of the park, some ideas where to stay, and a list of things to do, here are a few suggestions of how you can plan the perfect experience at the park, combining as many of the highlights as possible.

Use these options to plan 1 day in the park, or combine multiple to have a great few days in the park!

Option #1

This itinerary option will give you a great taste of what the park has to offer, from gorgeous forests, waterfalls, and epic views of Mount Rainier. 

  • Start the morning off by hiking to the Grove of the Patriarchs in the Ohanapecosh section of the park.
  • Continue exploring this area of the park by hiking to Silver Falls.
  • Drive up to the Sunrise area of the park (about a 1 hr drive) to hike to the Mount Fremont Lookout. We highly recommend this for sunset! An alternative option is to hike the Naches Peak Loop, which is a 30 minute drive from Silver Falls and has beautiful views of Rainier, as well as surrounding mountains.

Total miles hiked: 10.9 miles with Mount Fremont or 8.5 with Naches Peak.

Option #2

This itinerary is all about the epic Rainier views on the east side of the park! With two epic hikes, prepare to be WOWed!

  • Start the day with a 3.3 mile hike on the Naches Peak Loop, where you’ll see lakes, mountains, and Rainier.
  • Drive up to the Sunrise area of the park (about 45 minutes away) and do the Burroughs Mountain Loop for close up views of Rainier.

Total miles hiked: 12.7

Option #3

This itinerary is perfect to explore the Paradise area of the park!

  • Make the scenic drive from Longmire to Paradise. Make sure to grab some coffee along the way from one of the roadside stands (a classic Washington experience)!
  • On your way up to Paradise, hike to Comet and Christine Falls.
  • Take in the views on the rest of the drive up to Paradise, stop in the visitor center, and begin your hike on the Skyline Trail, which stops at the iconic Myrtle Falls as well!
  • Drive a bit east from Paradise to check out Reflection Lake, which is the perfect spot to relax after your hike.
  • If you have time on the drive back, stop at Narada Falls for a quick glimpse at this gorgeous waterfall.

Total miles hiked: 10.6

Option #4

This itinerary combines Paradise and Ohanapecosh for one gorgeous day filled with mountain and forest views!

  • Make the scenic drive from Longmire to Paradise. Make sure to grab some coffee along the way from one of the roadside stands (a classic Washington experience)!
  • Take in the views on the rest of the drive up to Paradise, stop in the Visitors Center, and begin your hike on the Skyline Trail, which stops at the iconic Myrtle Falls as well!
  • Drive to the Ohanapecosh area of the park, which is 40 minutes from Paradise, and hike the Grove of the Patriarchs. Afterwards, continue hiking to the beautiful Silver Falls.

Total miles hiked: 11.2

Option #5

We haven’t forgotten about Carbon River and Mowich! In this itinerary, explore one of the hikes in this area of the park.

Total miles hiked: 6.4 for Tolmie Peak or 5.7 for Summit Lake

Ready to explore Mount Rainier?

Pin this guide with all of the best things to do at Mount Rainier!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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