Mount Rainier National Park is an outstanding park to visit, whether you are an avid hiker, a family on a road trip through the USA, or someone who simply enjoys exploring the natural wonders of this beautiful country.
Mount Rainier is a glacier-capped, active volcano that can be seen for hundreds of miles away. Old growth forests cover the slopes of this mountain and during the summer months, the park is blanketed with wildflowers…an amazing sight to see in July and August.
If you like hiking, this is one of the best national parks in the USA to explore on foot. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails circumnavigate this mighty mountain and lead to the summit of Mount Rainier. You can also drive to some phenomenal viewpoints of Mount Rainer, so if you aren’t a big hiker, not to worry. It’s easy to get unforgettable views of Mount Rainier as you drive through the park.
In this guide, we hope to share with you the beauty and majesty of Mount Rainier National Park and provide the information you need to plan your visit.
MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK STATS
Founded: March 2, 1899
Annual Visitors: 1.7 million in 2021, making it the 18th most visited national park that year.
Size: 240,000 acres
Cool Fact: Mount Rainier is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Washington state.
Top 10 Experiences in Mount Rainier
Spend some time in Paradise. Paradise truly lives up to its name. It’s one of the most spectacular areas of the park to visit, with numerous hiking trails that lead higher onto Mount Rainier. For the best experience, hike the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point, or take your pick from other shorter trails, such as the Nisqually Vista Trail or Alta Vista Trail.
Go hiking. One of the best ways to experience Mount Rainier National Park is from a hiking trail, of which there are many. Trails range from short, quick, easy strolls to multi-day treks.
Photograph Myrtle Falls. Located in Paradise, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park. It’s easy to get to and fun to photograph.
Visit Reflection Lake. On a clear, windless day, it is possible to capture the reflection of Mount Rainier in Reflection Lake. It’s also a great spot for a family photo.
Go hiking in Sunrise. Sunrise is the highest you can get by car in the park. At an elevation of 6,400 feet, not only do you have fantastic views of Mount Rainier, but you can also look out over the Cascade Range. There are a handful of hikes that start in Sunrise, ranging from short, easy strolls to challenging day hikes.
Walk the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail. 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.
View Mount Rainier from a scenic overlook. As you drive through the park, there are several places to capture an awesome view of Mount Rainier. Sunrise Point, Ricksecker Point, and along Stevens Canyon Road near the Snow and Bench Lakes trailhead are our favorite viewpoints.
Ride the Mount Rainier Gondola to Crystal Mountain. For jaw-dropping views of Mount Rainier with very little effort, ride the gondola to Crystal Mountain. At the Summit House Restaurant, you can have lunch or dinner with an incredible view of Mount Rainier.
Hike the Wonderland Trail. The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile trail that makes a loop around Mount Rainier. On average, it takes between 9 and 13 days to hike the entire loop.
Visit Narada Falls. This lovely waterfall is located between Paradise and Longmire on Paradise Valley Road. To view Narada Falls, it is a short but steep walk to the viewpoint (0.2 miles round trip).
At 14,411 feet (4,392 meters), Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington state and the Cascade Range.
Mount Rainier is also the heaviest glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. 26 glaciers sit on Mount Rainier and these glaciers are sources of the Carbon, Mowich, Puyallup, Nisqually, and Cowlitz Rivers.
Mount Rainier is an active volcano. In fact, due to its high probability of eruption in the near future, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
Learn More about Mount Rainier
Best Hikes in Mount Rainier
Skyline Trail to Panorama Point. The Skyline Trail is one of our favorite hikes in the park. It is a 6 mile loop that starts in Paradise and climbs the slopes of Mount Rainier. From the highest point, you get an amazing view over Paradise and on a clear day, you can see Mount Hood in Oregon.
Nisqually Vista. This easy, paved trail offers great views of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier. It’s a nice option if you want views of Mount Rainier with minimal effort or will be pushing a stroller.
Camp Muir. Camp Muir is as close as you can get to the summit of Mount Rainier without a climbing permit. To get here, it is a challenging 8 mile hike and some of this will be on snow.
Myrtle Falls. This is a great hike for families with young kids and strollers. It is a paved path the entire way to Myrtle Falls and from here you have a beautiful view of the park.
Snow and Bench Lakes. On one short hike you get to visit two subalpine lakes. This hike comes in just under 3 miles and is located near Paradise.
Burroughs Mountain Loop. Located in Sunrise, this tough hike leads to one of the best up-close views of Mount Rainier.
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail. The views along this 6 mile hike are breathtaking. The trail ends at the lookout tower for a unique view of Mount Rainier.
Sourdough Ridge Trail. If you want to hike a relatively short trail and have spectacular views of Mount Rainier, put the Sourdough Ridge Trail on your to-do list. It is located in Sunrise and another one of our favorite hikes.
Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap. At 12 miles, the Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap is one of the longer hikes in the park, but it’s a beauty. You walk through a variety of landscapes and at the end of the trail, get an incredible view of Mount Rainier.
Naches Peak Loop. 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.
Silver Falls Loop. 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.
Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. With low crowds and dramatic views of Mount Rainier, the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout trail is one of our favorite hikes in the park. It is located in the Carbon River area of the park.
Wonderland Trail. 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. This trail is 93 miles long and it takes 9 to 13 days to hike the full loop.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Mount Rainier?
With one day, you can visit one area of the park. I recommend choosing between Paradise and Sunrise. Which one you choose will depend on where you are coming from and where you are going. Personally, I don’t think that one is better than the other. You have lots of hiking options and spectacular views from both places.
Two days in Mount Rainier gives you enough time to visit Sunrise and Paradise.
Beyond two days, each additional day allows you to visit another area of the park, tackle a big hike, drive the scenic drives, and visit the lakes and waterfalls.
I recommend spending at least three days in Mount Rainier National Park (one day for Sunrise, one day for Paradise, and the third day to go hiking or visit another section of the park). Extra days gives you more time for hiking, for exploring quiet corners of the park, and gives you some contingency time just in case you get bad weather. Learn how to plan your time in our Mount Rainier Itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Mount Rainier
The summer and early fall are the best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park. This is when all of the roads will be open and many hiking trails will be free of snow. During the summer months, the weather is also the warmest and driest of the year.
The wildflowers typically bloom from mid-July through mid-August. If you want to see Mount Rainier during the peak blooming season, plan your visit for early August.
In the spring and fall, the weather is damp and chilly. During the winter months, massive amounts of snow can fall in the park. It is not unusual for Paradise to get over 50 feet of snow each winter.
In early fall, several main roads close in the park and don’t reopen to mid to late spring, cutting off access to some of the best places to visit in Mount Rainier.
Where to Stay in Mount Rainier
Since Mount Rainier is a large national park, it’s best to stay in several different locations during your visit, in order to reduce the amount of driving you will do. We spent 6 days in Mount Rainier and during this time, we stayed in 3 different locations. It may seem like a hassle packing and unpacking so many times (and it is), but it’s better than spending hours every day, traveling through the park.
Packwood makes a great location for exploring Sunrise and Paradise. Ashford also makes a great home base for exploring Paradise. We also spent one night in Puyallup in order to hike Tolmie Peak, which is located in the northwest section of the park.
There are also lodges and campgrounds inside of the park that make great places to stay.