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Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is located in Washington State. The highest point in the Cascade Range, Mount Rainier, is a stratovolcano with 14,411-foot (4,392 m) high. The mountain rises abruptly from the surrounding land and is surrounded by valleys, waterfalls, subalpine meadows, and old-growth forests. More than 25 glaciers descend the flanks of the volcano. The views are breathtaking. No trip to Washington State is complete without an Mt Rainier experience. If you plan to visit Pacific Northwest, you should add Mount Rainier to your must-see list. So, we prepared this ultimate guide with things to do in Mount Rainier National Park. It will help you to plan your perfect trip any time of the year.

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Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Interesting Facts About Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park is a paradise for photographers, nature lovers, hikers, and climbers. It’s a perfect destination for a trip from Seattle. Mount Rainier is a popular peak for mountaineering, with some 10,000 attempts per year with approximately 50% making it to the summit. So, before we tell you the best things to do on Mount Rainier, check some interesting facts about Mount Rainier.

How tall is Mount Rainier?

Mount Rainier has 14,411 feet (4,392 meters). It is the highest mountain in the state of Washington, U.S., and in the Cascade Range.

What type of volcano is Mount Rainier?

Mount Rainier is an episodically active composite volcano, also called a stratovolcano. Volcanic activity began between one half and one million years ago, with the most recent eruption cycle ending about 1,000 years ago.

How old is Mount Rainier?

The volcano was built up above the surrounding country by repeated eruptions and continuous flows of lava. It is a relatively young volcano, only about 500,000 years old. By contrast, the Cascade Range mountains that Mount Rainier looks down upon are at least 12 million years old.

When did Mount Rainier last erupt?

The volcano erupted last time in 1894-95 when observers from Seattle and Tacoma reported small summit explosions.

When was Mt Rainier National Park established?

On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley signed legislation creating Mount Rainier National Park. It was the fifth national park designated by Congress.

How big is Mount Rainier National Park?

Park covers 369 square miles (957 square km).

Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier Weather

Mount Rainier is open year-round. It is a perfect destination for summer holidays and winter getaway. But sometimes roads can be impassable due to weather. So always check the park’s opening hours and road status before you hit the road.
More than 25 glaciers descend the flanks of the Mount Rainier volcano. Due to is often shrouded in clouds.

Mount Rainier is circled by the Wonderland Trail and is covered by glaciers and snowfields, totaling about 35 square miles (91 km2). So, there is snow year-round at the highest elevations. There are many hiking trails around the mountain, some may have snow on them late in the summer, but popular trails will have a beaten path through or around snow even if it’s there.

At Mount Rainier, the weather is strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean, elevation, and latitude. The climate is generally cool and rainy. July and August are the sunniest, driest and warmest months of the year. September and October are also great for visits. But rain is possible any day and very likely in spring, fall, and winter. In the winter months, the park is covered with snow, which also creates beautiful scenery to visit. All vehicles (including 4WD) must carry tire chains or other state-approved traction devices inside the park in the winter months.

Mountain weather is very changeable, so prepare for your visit. Pack extra clothing, rain gear, and a tent for protection against storms at any time of the year,and even for a short hike. Check our list of what to pack to Mount Rainier. Wet, cold weather can occur at any time of the year.
So, check weather forecasts, weather alerts, avalanche warnings before you go. Visit NPS website to check current weather forecast for the Park.

PRO TIP: Always check road status & alerts before your visit to the Park and current weather forecast as well!

Below, we’ve compiled charts for you with the lowest and highest average temperatures in Mount Rainier, and with average participation.

Things To Do In Mount Rainier

How To Get To Mount Rainier?

By Air

The closest major airport to Mount Rainier National Park is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). It is located only 2 hours away from the main park entrance. So, if you are going to visit Seattle, check our detailed 3 Days Seattle Itinerary before you go.
Another closest major airport is the Portland International Airport (PDX). PDX is about two and a half hours away. If you are going from Portland, check our 3 Days in Portland Itinerary.
The best flight offers you will find and book on skyscanner.com or tripadvisor.com.

By Car

There is no public transportation within Mount Rainier National Park. So, if you need to rent a car search for the best rental car deals on tripadvisor.com. We can certainly recommend Alamo rentals, which we have been using for years in our travels and have never been disappointed.
Estimated Drive time to Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Seattle, Washington – 2 hours
  • Spokane, Washington – 4,5 hours (to the East Entrance, closed during winter) or about 6 hours (during winter)
  • Portland, Oregon – 2,5 hours
  • Eugene, Oregon – 4,5 hours
Mount Rainier

Mt Rainier National Park Map

Mount Rainier National Park offers over 260 miles of day hiking trails. Lots of hiking trails in Mt Rainier converge and overlap, so a good map is essential. Trails are different levels of difficulty, from easy to challenging/ strenuous hikes. Pets and bicycles are not permitted on any park trails. On the NPS website, you will find short descriptions of most of the day hiking trails in the Park. We described detailed our favorite trails in the part of the article: the best things to do in Mount Rainier.

But hiking the Wonderland Trail, backcountry camp, overnight camping, or climbing in the park require wilderness permits before you go. Details how to get the wilderness permit you can check on the NPS website.
Before the mountain adventure, it is worth getting a good trail map. It is essential for your comfort & safety. Below are our favorite maps.

Mount Rainier National Park is a National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map. This is our favorite map that we can recommend. We like it because it is printed on waterproof, tear-resistant paper. It show roads and hiking trails in details.
A full UTM grid is printed on the map to aid with GPS navigation. With extensive detail of Mount Ranier and its glaciers and miles of clearly marked trails, this map will prove invaluable in your exploration of the park. Mileages between intersections are shown and the map base includes contour lines and elevations for summits. You will find passes and lakes. Recreation features include ski areas, campgrounds, trailheads, lodging, scenic overlooks, and more. So, it is a great choice for planning mountain adventure.

However, if you plan to visit all national parks in Washington State, buy a set of 3 maps. It will be much cheaper. The Washington National Parks Map Pack includes Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park. Each map has clearly marked trails and points of interest such as campgrounds, ranger stations, trail heads and more.

If you like wildlife consider Mount Rainier National Park Adventure Set: Trail Map & Wildlife Guide. The set consists of a Pocket Naturalist Guide and National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map. It offers information on what to see and where to go to find some of the world’s most dramatic natural attractions. Waterford’s Washington State Wildlife gives visitors the information needed to identify some of the area’s most significant and impressive animal life. So, if you like wildlife and wildlife photography, this set is for you.

Finally, Mount Rainier Wonderland Climbing contains a 1:24,000 climbing map with details and GPPS waypoints of the most popular routes up the Mountain and a Wonderland Trail Profile. Furthermore, features also the entire park at a scale of 1:64360.

Mount Rainier NPWashington National ParksMt Rainier NP Adventure SetMt Rainier Wonderland Climbing
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Things To Do In Mount Rainier

Mt Rainier Guides

A trip to the mountains requires a proper preparation. Even if you are not going to climb the highest peaks, you should prepare for every hike. We can highly recommend a guide which we like & used.

If you are not climber, but you love hiking, and landscape photography we can highly recommend Day Hiking Mount Rainier. We love this guide.
It is a good resource for folks who love the mountain but don’t need to climb it. The guide includes short and easy hikes as well as longer and more challenging options. The guide features 80 hikes in, and just outside, the national park with detailed topo route maps and full-color photos. This book really helps with planning the daily hikes in the park. So, if you need just one book to plan your visit to Mt Rainier, this is one of the best.

If you climb and your dream is to reach the volcanic peak the Mount Rainier Climbing Guide is for you. The classic climb of Mt. Rainier takes 4-5 days. You must have a permit. The National Park Service states that about 10,000 climbers attempt the summit each year and 50% succeed. The alpinists have learned their skills on Mount Rainier. And many of the rest dream of one day standing on its majestic summit. This guide, written by Mike Gauthier, the park’s former lead climbing ranger, is for professionals and the aspiring pro. Furthermore, it offers 40 principal routes and their variations, with aerial photos and route overlays.
New features include an expanded section on glaciers, including how to understand and traverse them.

Mount Rainier Climbing GuideThe Challenge of RainierDay Hiking Mt RainierBest Easy Day Hikes Mt Rainier
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lake in Mount Rainier

Mt Rainier Lodging

Mount Rainier National Park offers two lodges and four campgrounds inside the park. The rest lodging options are outside the park. If you are going to stay in Seattle, in our separate article, you will find a detailed recommendation of where to stay in Seattle.

Hotels In Mt Rainier

Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier is lodge inside the park. But this is the most popular place in the park. Paradise Inn is a historic lodge located in the Paradise Valley and is surrounded by alpine meadows. It’s only open from late May to early October. Paradise Inn offers a fantastic range of hiking trails just outside its front door. Views are breathtaking. So, if you want to spend the night here, you need to book it well in advance. Paradise Mt Rainier is worth your visit even if you are not staying there for the night.

National Park Inn is our choice. The place is perfect because it is not as crowded as the Paradise Inn. Furthermore, it is the only hotel open year-round in the park, so it is easiest to book it. This historic lodge is located in Longmire. It has great views of Mount Rainier and easy access to hiking trails. Book it here.

Things To Do In Mount Rainier

Hotels Near Mount Rainier

If you are going to visit Mt Rainier National Park between May and October book your accomodation in advance. You can find the best deals at booking.com. You will find the largest selection of accommodation in Ashford, which is only 6 miles to the entrance. However, Packwood and Enumclaw also offer numerous lodging & dining options.

 Mt Rainier

Mount Rainier Campgrounds

There are 4 NPS Campgrounds in Mt Rainier:

  • Cougar Rock Campground (SW section of park)
  • Ohanapecosh Campground (SE section of park)
  • White River Campground (NE section of park)
  • Mowich Lake (NW section of park)

The majority of the campsite reservable, but always check details on the NPS campgrounds website.

If you are looking RV Park with facilities there is Rainier Wings in Packwood RV Park. You can check it here.
We recommend our favorite campgrounds in the Seattle area in this article.

wildlife

Mount Rainier Tours

However, if you don’t want to plan your trip yourself, and just prefer an organized tour, you have several options. Guided tour might be a great solution if your time for a visit is limited. So, if you want to make your trip to Mount Rainier as easy and simple as possible, check out amazing Mount Rainier Day Trips on viator.com or tripadvisor.com.

Things To Do In Mount Rainier

Mt Rainier Day Trip

The largest selection of day trips to Mount Rainier National Park, you will find from Seattle.

Mount Rainier Day Hike is one of the best if you have limited time. During this guided tour you will hike on the Three Burroughs Trail at Mt Rainier National Park. The views are breathtaking. The guide customize the distance of the hike from 4 – 9 miles depending on how you are feeling. You can read reviews & book it here.

Mt. Rainier and Mount St. Helens Volcano Flight is an amazing adventure. Seeing two of the Northwest’s iconic peaks from above but up close is a special experience. During this flight tour from Seattle from a ten–seater plane, you will have sweeping views of the glaciers unseen by most visitors. So, book it here.

Helicopter Flight & Alpine Hike is a great trip if you like a real adventure. You are flying 35-minutes over Mount Rainier’s glaciers, old-growth forests, and snowfields. Then you have a guided, 4-hour hike, and a catered meal in Mt Rainier National Park. You will see a massive volcano from above. This trip has excellent reviews which you can read & book here.

Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Below is a list of our favorite attractions and trails in Mount Rainier National Park. Remember to prepare & pack perfectly for a mountain trek to have a safe hiking adventure.

View Mount Rainier’s Reflection at Reflection Lake

One of the most iconic views of Mount Rainier is Mt Rainier reflected in a lake. The best lake for seeing the reflection is early in the morning at Reflection Lake. There are many lakes in the park, but to get that mirror-like refection stop at Reflection Lake.

Reflection Lake

Have Lunch at the Paradise Inn

The Paradise Inn is one of the last remaining original western lodges. It was built in the 1920s in national park rustic style. If you can’t stay overnight here visit it anyway. It’s worth stopping here for a lunch in historic dining room or a cup of coffee. Furthermore in this area will find the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center Paradise, the main visitor center for the park. It offers general information, exhibits, a park film, guided ranger programs, a gift store, and a cafeteria. Paradise is located at an elevation of 5,400 feet, is a great place to start your park visit. There is also Guide House, where climbers can obtain permits and hiking and backcountry camping information.

Admire Wildlife

Mount Rainier National Park is a home for thousands of animals. Mammals that inhabit this national park are especially the cougar, black bear, raccoon, coyote, bobcat, snowshoe hare, weasel, mole, beaver, red fox, porcupine, skunk, marmot, deer, marten, shrew, pika, elk, and mountain goat. The common birds are the thrush, chickadee, kinglet, northern goshawk, willow flycatcher, spotted owl, steller’s jay, Clark’s nutcracker, bald eagle, ptarmigan, harlequin duck, grouse, peregrine falcon, Canada jay, golden eagle, grosbeak and finch. So, during your hikes, you have a chance to admire this fantastic wildlife.

wildlife

Immerse Yourself In an Old-Growth Forest

Ancient Old-Growth Forests in Mount Rainier are spectacular. Exploring the forests of Mount Rainier National Park is like traveling back in time. You can walk among ancient trees, enjoying the grandness of forests, smell it. In the lower forest, see the giant, towering stands of Douglas fir, hemlock,
and cedar. Plants are brushing at your ankles. Higher up the slopes of Mount Rainier, the forests open up into tree islands of subalpine fir, surrounded by meadows. Entering these ancient forests, you will find yourself sheltered by giant trees reaching more than 200 feet into the sky. Some of these large trees are as old as 1,000 years.

Grove of the Patriarchs Hike

Grove of the Patriarchs is the best hike in an old-growth forest. It is easy 1.5 miles round-trip walk, 50-foot elevation gain. Perfect for families. It’s on the southeast side of Mount Rainier National Park, via Enumclaw.

Grove of the Patriarchs i
Grove of the Patriarchs i

Visit One of 150 Waterfalls

Because of the massive amounts of snow, there are lots of waterfalls in the park. During spring, snowmelt and turn explode into over 150 rushing waterfalls. We were in October, so plenty of them was frozen, but it was still possible to admire the nature. Narada Falls is one of the most accessible & most famous waterfalls in Mount Rainier. The falls are located just north of Cougar Rock Campground. Another one is glorious Myrtle Falls, which is located about 0.4 miles from the Paradise Inn along the Skyline Trail.

waterfall

Go For a Hike

Naches Peak Loop Trail

Naches Peak Loop Trail is quite an easy 3.5 miles round trip hike. Hiking time, round trip is around 2 hours, with elevation gain: 500 feet.
You must park at Tipsoo Lake, where the trail start. It is a clockwise hike so, follow the trail from the picnic area to Chinook Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail. To get the best views of Mt Rainier, hike the loop in a clockwise direction.

Pinnacle Peak Trail

This hike is our favorite. Pinnacle Peak is situated in the middle of the Tatoosh Range at an elevation of 6,562 feet, the second-highest peak in the range. The trail begins with a gradual ascent but soon becomes a steep climb to the 5,920-foot saddle where the trail ends. Views are spectacular. To the north is a dramatic close-up view of Mt Rainier and Paradise. To the south, one sees Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens in the foreground and Oregon’s Mount Hood on the horizon. Distance, round trip is 2.5 miles. It will take you 2-3 hours, depends on the weather and fit condition. The elevation gain is 1050 feet. It’s a moderate trail.
Trailhead is located at the parking area at Reflection Lakes. The trailhead is on the south side of the road.

The Best Winter Activities in Mount Rainier National Park

Best ski destinations in the U.S.

Crystal Mountain Resort is the largest ski resort in the Pacific Northwest. It is located only 13 miles from Mount Rainier National Park.

Snowshoe hike in the Mount Rainier NP

Mount Rainier NP offers some great Snowshoe trails like Alta Vista Snowshoe, a 1-mile roundtrip trail located at Paradise Inn. Or longer 6 miles Reflection Lakes Loop Snowshoe hike from Paradise.

Sledding at Snowplay Area

At the upper parking lot of Paradise Inn during winter is Snowplay Area. It’s great solution for families.

19 Comments

  1. What a beautiful part of the nation. It looks incredible and your photographs are stunning. I’ve never done any true climbing like that but I’d love to see Mount Rainier and the old growth forests on day. 

  2. Your photos are absolutely stunning! Mt Rainier is a perfect hiking destination but not sure if I will. Reading your blog has certainly made me think of curating a future plan at some point

  3. I live in Vancouver, BC so have explored all of our local mountains and some areas near Mt. Baker, but I would love to take a weekend and go explore Mt. Rainier! I love living on the west coast and having places like this so close to home 🙂

  4. Perfect timing!  We were just mapping out a possible PNW road trip to check out a few national parks. Thanks for the information!!

  5. Oh my oh my… the reflection lake looks like glass. How pretty. We are not big hikers but I would love to spend some time having a nice picnic here, especially if THIS was the backdrop. Will store this information for when we vist Seattle. Thank you for the great information

  6. A fabulous guide! The photos are unreal. I haven’t done much hiking in my life but this seems like the perfect place to do so.  A helicopter tour sounds incredible!

  7. Mount Rainier is so stunning and the forest around there is beautiful.  I need to head back soon!  Your photos are stunning 

  8. The first time I heard about Mount Rainier National Park was when a close friend of mine visited and I was awe-struck when I saw her pictures. Since then, I have known that if I ever land up in Seattle, I am definitely making it to this place. I love all your pictures too, they’re gorgeous. I would ditch staying in a hotel for camping any day and I’m glad to see there are several campground you’ve mentioned in the National Park. I am not a climber but I love hiking so I might go with your suggestion of Day Hiking Mount Rainier Guide and find myself the right kind of hike (not too easy, not too tough, just moderate). 

  9. I love that shot in the woods! It looks so cinematic and has a twilight vibe. It does look cold but it sounds like a fun, worth adventure!

  10. This has been on my bucket list of National Parks for a very long time and this article inspires me to consider it very highly in the near future as national parks seem to be a really safe travel option during this time of limited travel. These images absolutely took my breath away! They are stunning! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  11. This is a comprehensive post on the things to do in Mount Rainier National Park. You have included everything needed for a successful visit. I am particularly keen on the Pinnacle Peak Hike. It looks like it will be the right challenge for us and view is simply stunning. 

  12. We have seen such amazing views of Mount Rainier on clear days from Vancouver.  Unfortunately, that is as close as we have gotten so far.  It sounds simply stunning to see the volcano and glaciers up close.  Great to know there are so many hiking trails and a little something for everyone.  I love the idea of staying in a lodge inside the park. Always better for sunrise an sunset views.  We really need to put this on our plans the next time we are on the west coast.

  13. Mount Rainier Park looks sensational. I’d most like to do the Mount Rainier day hike, and also to photograph Reflection Lake. I also like the sound of Paradise Inn; it sounds so ideal for spending a night or two here.

  14. I just love it when the landscape scenery includes water. It’s a dramatic canvas to reflect the surrounding mountains in the sky and clouds. Isn’t nature amazing. You can see why so many people coming out of the lockdown period, Would want to escape to a place like this to reconnect. 

  15. My husband has visited this place, and said it’s pretty spectacular! I would love to visit one day. Amazing that there are a 150 waterfalls in the place! What season did you visit? And that lake is pristine! Thanks for all the helpful resources on visiting!

  16. Oh my god! What a gorgeous place! I would definitely enjoy doing most of those, however, I wouldn’t interrupt my hiking to go back to the Inn for food. It would be a dream for me to take at least three days to explore the park and to camp in it. 

  17. I would love to go for hikes in those mountains even though I have not hiked much in the snow. I have heard so much about Mount Rainier National Park and how spectacular it is. And honestly your pictures actually confirm the beauty of that national park. I have this already in my bucket list and I wish I can tick this off soon.

  18. Mount Rainier National Park is truly a photographers delight. The towering mountains look so very beautiful. Of late I have been reading about many National Parks in US but Rainier looks to me so inviting. Would love to visit more than one waterfalls and do the Pinnacle Peaktrail. Wildlife and bird watching also appeals to me as they are activities that I love.

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