One of the best ways to experience Mount Rainier National Park is from a hiking trail, of which there are many. Some of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park are short and sweet, offering jaw-dropping views with very little effort. But for those who crave more adventure or want to journey deep into the park, there are plenty of options.
Mount Rainier is one of our favorite US national parks for hiking. There is something almost magical about seeing Mount Rainier, especially your first time. This glacier-capped volcano can be seen for hundreds of miles, but to view it up close from hiking trails and overlooks in the park, it is extraordinary. From many of the trails, you get BIG views of Mount Rainier. Throw in some wildflowers, lakes, and waterfalls, and this park is a hiking paradise.
And as far as hiking goes, this park truly offers something for everyone.
If you are not a big hiker or are traveling with young kids, there are easy-to-do 2 and 3 mile trails with stunning views of Mount Rainier. Several longer hikes weave around subalpine lakes and to viewpoints of Mount Rainier. And for those looking for an epic experience, you can hike up into the snowfields on Mount Rainier or hike part or all of the Wonderland Trail.
About the Hikes on this List
These hikes are listed according to geographical area. There are four main regions to Mount Rainier National Park: Paradise, Sunrise, Ohanapecosh, and Carbon River.
Below is a map of the park from the national park service. I labeled the main areas of the park where most visitors will spend their time.
Here are the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park on a map. Note: all distances in this post are round trip.
How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
Hikes in the Paradise Area
Paradise is located on the southern slopes of Mount Rainier and it is one of the most heavily visited areas of the park. Numerous hiking trails are found here, including the spectacular Skyline Trail, and nearby, you can also hike to numerous lakes and waterfalls.
Distance: 1.2 mile loop
Total Ascent: 200 feet
Time: 45 minutes
Trailhead: Lower Paradise parking lot
This easy, paved trail offers great views of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier. There a few short but steep climbs along the way but this trail is doable for most people. It’s a nice option if you want views of Mount Rainier with minimal effort or will be pushing a stroller.
Nisqually Vista Trail
Distance: 1 mile
Total Ascent: 100 feet
Time: 30 minutes
Trailhead: Upper Paradise Parking Lot
If you are looking for one easy-to-do hike in the Paradise area, look no further.
Starting next to the Paradise Inn, you will walk the first part of the Skyline Trail. It is a paved path the entire way to Myrtle Falls, so this also makes a great hike for families with young kids and strollers.
Once you get to Edith Gorge, there are two viewpoints to visit. Take the short spur trail for a view of Myrtle Falls. It is a short but steep walk downhill to this viewpoint:
Once you are back on the Skyline Trail, turn right and walk about 100 feet. From here, you get a spectacular view of Mount Rainier with Edith Gorge.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: There is not a whole lot to see beyond this point. The only reason to keep going is if you plan to hike the entire Skyline Trail (mentioned next). Beyond Myrtle Falls, the trail drops down into a valley and you lose the great views of Mount Rainier.
Skyline Trail to Panorama Point
Distance: 6.2 miles
Total Ascent: 1,900 feet
Time: 3 to 5 hours
Trailhead: Upper Paradise parking lot
This is one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier and an essential experience for those who love hiking.
The entire hike is a beauty. Starting in Paradise, you will hike past lovely Myrtle Falls, through pine forests, and then ascend the slopes of Mount Rainier. From Panorama Point, enjoy spectacular views over the park, and on a clear day you can see as far as Mount Hood in Oregon. Then it is a steep descent back to the Paradise Visitor Center.
Panoramic view from the Skyline Trail
You can do this hike in either direction and both are great. We hiked it in both directions and based on our experience, it is equally awesome both ways.
Snow will linger on the trail most of the hiking season, so it helps to bring hiking poles, and even a GPS device with maps, so you don’t lose the trail.
LEARN MORE: How to Hike the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point
Distance: 8 miles
Difficulty: Very strenuous
Total Ascent: 4,800 feet
Time: 8 to 10 hours
Trailhead: Upper Paradise parking lot
Camp Muir is as close as you can get to the summit of Mount Rainier without a climbing permit. To get to Camp Muir, you will hike the Skyline Trail to the Pebble Creek Trail. From here, it’s a steep ascent up the mountain through the snow. To do this, you must have a good level of fitness. It is very challenging to hike in the snow and to make things even more difficult, by the time you make it to Camp Muir, you will be at an elevation of 10,188 feet.
Pebble Creek Trail to Camp Muir
Learn more about hiking to Camp Muir here.
Bench and Snow Lakes
Distance: 2.7 miles
Total Ascent: 750 feet
Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Trailhead: The trailhead is located on Stevens Canyon Road, 5 miles east of the Paradise visitor center. The trailhead is labeled as “Bench and Snow Lake Trail” on Google Maps.
On one short hike you get to visit two subalpine lakes. The first part of the hike takes you to fields of wildflowers during the summer months. At 0.75 miles, take the spur trail out to Bench Lake. This trail cuts through a forest and you will walk through a tunnel that is carved out from the thick brush.
From the shore of Bench Lake, you have a beautiful view of Mount Rainier.
Back on the main trail, it is a half mile walk, most of this uphill, to get to Snow Lake. Here is the view.
Hikes in the Sunrise Area
Sunrise is similar to Paradise, with amazing views of Mount Rainier and a multitude of hikes to choose from, depending on your activity level. It is located north of Mount Rainier.
Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake
Distance: 3 miles
Total Ascent: 500 feet
Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Trailhead: Sunrise parking lot
From the Sourdough Ridge Trail, you get amazing views of Mount Rainier National Park. This trail heads along the Sourdough Ridge and for almost the entire walk to Frozen Lake, Mount Rainier is sitting right in front of you.
This is a gorgeous walk in the Sunrise area and a must-do, even if you aren’t a big fan of hiking.
To do this hike, start at the Sunrise parking lot. Hike up the Sunrise Nature Trail and then take the Sourdough Ridge Trail to the left. Be prepared for some seriously amazing views once you get to the top of the ridge. If you go all of the way to Frozen Lake, it is a 3-mile round trip hike. But you can turn around earlier if you like.
From Frozen Lake, you can continue the journey by hiking one of the two following trails.
Burroughs Mountain Loop
Distance: 6 to 9 miles
Total Ascent: Up to 2,500 feet
Time: 3 to 6 hours
Trailhead: Sunrise parking lot
This hike starts with the 1.5 mile walk on the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake. At the trail junction (this is very clearly marked with trail signs), continue to the Burrough Mountains.
After crossing a snowfield, you will hike up the Burroughs Mountains. Vegetation disappears as you hike through barren, rocky terrain. If you hike to the second Burrough Mountain, your hike is 6 miles round trip. If you continue to the third Burrough Mountain, your hike is now 9 miles round trip. But your reward is one of the best up-close views of Mount Rainier.
Learn more here.
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
Distance: 6 miles
Total Ascent: 1,200 feet
Time: 2.5 to 5 hours
Trailhead: Sunrise parking lot
If you are looking for a hike that’s not too long, not too difficult, and offers beautiful views of Mount Rainier, the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout is one to put on your to-do list.
This hike includes the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake, mentioned earlier. Beyond this point, the crowds thin out. It is a gradual uphill hike to the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout. Not only do you get dramatic views of Mount Rainier, but you also have panoramic views across the park.
As a bonus, there is an open air pit toilet that just may be one of the most unique bathroom experiences you will ever have.
LEARN MORE: How to Hike the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
The Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap
Distance: 12 miles
Total Ascent: 3,150 feet
Time: 5 to 7 hours
Trailhead: Sunrise Park Road, 4.3 miles from Mather Memorial Parkway and 11.2 miles from the Sunrise Visitor Center. The trailhead is labeled as “Summerland Trail” on Google Maps.
Hiking the Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap is on the longer and more difficult side, but it has a little bit of everything…old growth forests, fields of wildflowers, views of Mount Rainier, the chance to spot wildlife, high alpine views, and panoramic views out to Mount Adams.
This hike is located in the Sunrise area, just a short drive from the Sunrise visitor center.
The first half of the hike is a gradual uphill walk through old growth forests and fields of wildflowers. After one steep climb up a series of switchbacks, you emerge in Summerland. This is a beautiful area where the mountain slopes are covered with wildflowers and marmots scurry along the trail. You can turn around at this point, making the hike 9 miles round trip.
However, if you keep going, you enter the subalpine region where the vegetation disappears, snow appears on the trail, and you hike past a frozen lake. The peak of Mount Rainier looms to your right.
After one more big climb, you get panoramic views of the park and on a clear day, you can see Mount Adams.
Final climb to Panhandle Gap
We really enjoyed this hike and recommend it for those who like the idea of walking through a wide variety of terrain and want to leave the crowds behind.
Naches Peak Loop
Distance: 3.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Total Ascent: 680 feet
Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Trailhead: The largest parking lot is at the Tipsoo Comfort Station but from here you will do a little extra walking to get to the trailhead. There are also two parking areas on Highway 410, where the trail crosses the road. If you get here early, or are extremely lucky, you can park at one of the few spots right at the southern trailhead (this is where we parked): 46°52’02.0″N 121°31’05.5″W. You can also park at the very small parking lot at the northern trailhead on Highway 410: 46°52’21.2″N 121°30’56.1″W.
With wildflowers, views of Mount Rainier, and views of several very small but scenic lakes, this loop hike makes a great addition to your Mount Rainier hiking list. Half of the trail also includes a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.
This hike is located on Highway 410 at the Chinook Pass.
Since this is a loop, this hike can be done in either direction. From the small southern parking lot on Highway 410, next to Tipsoo Lake (GPS coordinates listed above), we did this hike counter-clockwise. The first section is on the PCT and goes through a forest. On this section of the hike, you occasionally have views of Mount Rainier but you will need to turn around for these views.
About halfway through the loop, as you head back to Tipsoo Lake, the trees thin out and the views get better, in my opinion. You will walk past a small lake, cross Highway 410 on a wooden pedestrian bridge, and then drop down to Tipsoo Lake.
Hikes in Ohanapecosh
In Ohanapecosh, which is on the southeastern corner of the park, you are tucked away in the ancient forests. A visit here isn’t so much about big views of Mount Rainier. Instead, you can walk through forests of trees that are hundreds of years old.
Grove of the Patriarchs
Distance: 1.5 miles
Total Ascent: Minimal
Time: 1 hour
Trailhead: On Stevens Canyon Road next to the Stevens Canyon entrance. It is labeled “Grove of the Patriarchs Trail” on Google Maps. The parking lot has space for about 20 cars. It can be challenging to get a parking space here midday during the summer months.
Walking through the Grove of the Patriarchs is an essential hike if it is your first visit to Mount Rainier National Park.
This easy, 1.5-mile walking trail takes you past some of the largest and oldest trees in Mount Rainier National Park. These ancient Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks are enormous. You will cross a suspension bridge and then walk on a series of boardwalk and dirt trails through the forest.
Silver Falls Loop
Distance: 3.4 miles
Total Ascent: 670 feet
Time: 1.5 to 3 hours
Trailhead: Since this is a loop, there are several trailheads. The best place to park is at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center. See our hiking post for more details.
The Silver Falls Loop Trail is a wonderful short hike in Mount Rainier National Park. What it lacks in views of Mount Rainier it makes up for in its easy walkability and breathtaking views of Silver Falls.
This short, easy trail is perfect for all ages and ability levels. Less than 4 miles in length, with just a small amount of elevation gain, it’s a great hike for families and people of all ages.
This hike beat all of our expectations. For the entire hike, you are in an old growth forest. The trail weaves between the old, giant trees but the highlight is the view of Silver Falls. From various overlooks and bridges, you are treated to views of the waterfall and the moss-covered rocks along the river’s edge.
This is one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park if you are here on a cloudy or rainy day.
Hikes in Carbon River
Carbon River is located in the northeastern quadrant of Mount Rainier National Park. It is more remote than the other sections, so if you like the idea of hiking a quieter trail, it’s worth the extra time to get here.
Both of the hikes listed below are located on Mountain Meadows Road. This is a 17-mile gravel road that is rough in some spots. However, you do not need a 4×4 for this road. It is suitable for standard cars. This road opens in June or July, depending on snowfall, and then closes in October or November.
Distance: 8 miles
Total Ascent: 1,800 feet
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Trailhead: The end of Mountain Meadows Road
This is one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier if you want to see wildflowers.
The hike starts out in forest. Beyond the spur trail to Spray Falls, it is a tough climb. Once at the top, you leave many of the trees behind and begin your walk through fields of wildflowers. To make the experience even better, you get stunning views of Observation Rock, Echo Rock, and Mount Rainier.
Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout
Distance: 5.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Total Ascent: 1,600 feet
Time: 2.5 to 4 hours
Trailhead: Tolmie Peak Trailhead is located on Mountain Meadows Road.
With low crowds and dramatic views of Mount Rainier, this is one of our favorite hikes in the park.
This fun hike takes you through dense forests and past several alpine lakes before delivering you to the Tolmie Peak Lookout, for a spectacular view of Mount Rainier.
LEARN MORE: How to Hike to the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout
The Wonderland Trail
Distance: 93 miles
Total Ascent: Over 23,000 feet
Time: 9 to 13 days
The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile trail that circumnavigates around Mount Rainier. Not only is this one of the best experiences in the park, hiking the Wonderland Trail is one of the top backpacking trips in the USA.
Along the hike, you will cross rivers and streams, walk through canyons and temperate forests, and get to see Mount Rainier from all angles. It’s an unforgettable experience, if you have the time and the stamina.
To do this, you must have a permit, and these are in high demand. If this sounds like something you would like to do, you can learn more here.
When Can You Go Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park?
There is a narrow window of time that you can do most of these hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.
The hiking season typically starts in late June or early July and ends in October. Outside of this time range, not only are the hiking trails covered in snow, but many of the park roads are closed.
Here is a general timeline for road closures and openings in Mount Rainier National Park:
- Stevens Canyon Road: open during the summer and early fall
- Sunrise Road: opens in late June or early July and closes in late September or early October
- Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass: Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass are generally open from Memorial Day through mid-November, depending on snowfall
If you are planning to hike the trails at Mount Rainier, plan your visit from early July through late September.
All of the hiking trails are marked with signs like this one.
Our favorite hikes are the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point (great views for the entire hike), the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail (this was our introduction to Mount Rainier National Park and it was a good one!), the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout (spectacular views and low crowds), and Silver Falls (short easy hike to a beautiful waterfall).
The classic hikes for first-timers are Grove of the Patriarchs, Myrtle Falls or the Skyline Trail (depending on fitness levels), and the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake.
If you want a short, easy hike, we recommend Myrtle Falls, the Silver Falls Loop, the Naches Peak Loop, and the Sourdough Ridge Trail.
If you want to leave the crowds behind, hike Spray Park and/or Tolmie Peak in Carbon River, the Burroughs Mountain Trail, or the Summerland Trail and go all of the way to Panhandle Gap.
For an epic hiking experience, hike to Camp Muir or hike the Wonderland Trail.
Before you go, get updated trail and road conditions on the national park service website.
If you have any questions about the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, or if you want to share your favorite hike, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information About Mount Rainier National Park:
- THINGS TO DO: 14 Amazing Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park
- SKYLINE TRAIL: How to Hike the Skyline Loop Trail to Panorama Point
- SUMMERLAND: Hiking the Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap
- TOLMIE PEAK: How to Hike to the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout
- SILVER FALLS: How to Hike the Silver Falls Loop Trail
- SUNRISE: How to Hike the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
- HIKING GEAR: Essential Hiking Gear: What Should You Bring on a Day Hike?
If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.
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