Sand and Elevation

17 BEST Places to See Mount Rainier (Non-Hikers Too!)

' src=

Searching for the best views of Mount Rainier?

I’ve lived within eyesight of this magnificent mountain for nearly three decades and have spent countless weekends exploring the trails at Mount Rainier National Park. 

In this article, I share seventeen best places to see Mount Rainier inside and outside the park, including spots that don’t require hiking!

I’ve packed this list with helpful tips, including where to get the best Mount Rainier views when you’re short on time and places where Mount Rainier is visible from Seattle.

Get your camera ready, and let’s go!

mt rainier places to visit

Want to explore Mount Rainier without the hassle of itinerary planning or timed entry reservations? I recommend this 5-star, small-group tour. Enjoy the convenience of provided food, drinks, and all necessary gear for a stress-free adventure.

Me taking a selfie on a hiking trail at Paradise, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier

Best Place to See Mount Rainier

1. ferry ride .

No hiking required

Mount Rainier views from Puget Sound waters

If you don’t have time to go to the national park, I highly recommend taking a ferry across the Puget Sound to see “the mountain,” as Rainier is referred to by locals.

This relaxed boat ride with panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the Seattle skyline holds the #1 spot because it’s a year-round option accessible for all ages and capabilities.

You can take the ferry even if you don’t have a car. When you walk on, you pay only one way, leaving Seattle.

Living on the Kitsap Peninsula, ferry rides are my favorite way to travel.

I prefer the Bainbridge ferry because it’s a thirty-minute ride compared to sixty minutes on the Bremerton ferry. But both routes offer excellent views of Mount Rainier.

Best Views Inside Mount Rainier National Park

The two main visitor areas inside the park are Paradise and Sunrise. I’m partial to Paradise because it’s the starting point for one of my all-time favorite Rainier adventures – the hike to Camp Muir.

I’m not alone in this opinion! Paradise receives more visitors yearly than Sunrise, not just because Sunrise is open only during the summer.

The truth is that you can’t go wrong with either destination. Use the Nisqually Entrance for Paradise and the White River Entrance for Sunrise.

TIP: If you only have one day at Mount Rainier National Park, pick the area closest to your accommodations because the drive from Paradise to Sunrise can take up to two hours.

⚠️ NEW IN 2024! The park requires a Timed Entry Reservation from the end of May through September 2nd. For release dates and more information, visit the park’s website.

2. Muir Steps (Paradise)

idyllic alpine scenery at Mount Rainier National Park

You don’t have to travel beyond the Muir steps near the Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise to get spectacular views of the mountain. 

These steps are located between the visitor center and the ranger station.

On my two attempts to summit Rainier with a guide, the Muir steps are where we started our adventure.

3. Skyline Trail (Paradise)

  • Hike length: 5.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,768 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard

glaciated mountain views and wildflowers on a blue sky day

The first time I started up the Skyline Trail, I’m not ashamed to say that I immediately started huffing and puffing. The elevation gain at the start is no joke, so go slow if you need to.

If you only have time for one hike on your visit to Mount Rainier, this is it! 

You’ll get fantastic mountain views from many different points and don’t have to do the entire trail. With so many intersecting trails, grab a map from the visitor center or use an app like AllTrails to make your way down confidently. 

From Glacier Vista off the Skyline Trail, you’ll get a close-up perspective of the Nisqually Glacier.

4. Edith Creek / Myrtle Falls Viewpoint (Paradise)

  • Hike length: .7 mile
  • Elevation gain: 154 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

water flowing through Edith Creek surrounded by a lush green landscape, with Myrtle Falls in the distance

You can hike a short distance from the Paradise parking lot to Edith Creek and Myrtle Falls as a stand-alone activity. Or, take the Skyline Trail clockwise to see this stunning view towards the end of your hike.

With this postcard-pretty spot being so accessible, expect a crowd here during peak season.

The landscape varies depending on the time of year. I love visiting Rainier when the wildflowers are in bloom. But the fall colors here are brilliant.

5. Inspiration Point (Paradise)

Inspiration Point panoramic overlook, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier

This appropriately named viewpoint sits elevated along the Stevens Canyon Road, allowing you to see panoramic views of Mount Rainier, the Paradise River valley, and the Tatoosh Range.  

If you’re short on time and want to capture fantastic photos of the mountain, Inspiration Point is for you.

Pull off the road and park. You’ll get breathtaking views of the national park and beyond without hiking. 

This is a terrific stop no matter the time of day, but I love the way the sun lights up the valley late afternoon. 

TIP: Finish your day trip to Mount Rainier here. Arrive before sunset on a clear day for breathtaking photos.

6. Reflection Lakes (Paradise)

No hiking required, but hiking is available.

a haze of fog covers a still lake with trees and a mountain in the backdrop

Conditions must be just right to capture a perfect reflection of Rainier on the water. 

Snow must be thawed, which usually happens by the middle of July. The water has to be calm, and the mountain has to “be out.” (Local speak for a clear view unimpeded by clouds and fog.) 

Your Mount Rainier itinerary is incomplete without a stop at Reflection Lakes. Even if the water’s not still for that ideal photo, the scenery is world-class.

Stevens Canyon Road is generally open from June through September. I highly recommend coming here in the fall if the road is still open to see the surrounding landscape ablaze with fiery colors!

7. Sunrise Point Lookout (Sunrise)

a scenic mountain overlook and parking lot along the road to Sunrise Visitor Center

This scenic overlook is located on a bend on Sunrise Road on the way to Sunrise Visitor Center and is designed to enhance panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range. 

Sunrise Point Lookout is another excellent place to stop if you don’t have much time. It’s easily accessible with a large pull-out parking area.

You won’t regret waking up early to catch a sunrise here when the mountain is out. It’s called Sunrise for good reason!

8. Sunrise Nature Trail (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 370 feet

Sunrise Day Lodge and parking lot amidst evergreen trees and a mountainous backdrop

This short trail offers incredible in-your-face views of Mount Rainier. The grade is steep at the beginning – a nice warm-up for experienced hikers – but you only need to hike about half a mile for your reward. 

This is a great one for kids and seniors.

At the time of writing this, this hiking trail is not marked on the Sunrise Area Trails map on the National Park website, but it’s the one shaped like a lasso next to the word ‘Sunrise.’ 

I use AllTrails and the map is available here.

9. Sunrise Rim Trail / Emmons Vista (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1100 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

an active volcano covered with snow surrounded by evergreen trees

This trail is a step up in difficulty from the Sunrise Nature Trail. If you’ve only got 2 – 3 hours while visiting Sunrise and you want to hike, this is the best one to do because of the variety of landscapes you’ll see.

Sunrise Rim Trail offers stunning views of the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the contiguous United States. 

But you get even better views if you branch off the trail to head to the Emmons Vista Overlook. From here, you can learn about the glacier and observe its ice formations.

If you don’t have time for the Sunrise Rim Trail, you only need to hike .3 miles to get to the Emmons Vista Overlook from the visitor center.

10. Burroughs Mountain (Second Burroughs) (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1345 feet
  • Difficulty: Hard

the highest peak in Washington State surrounded by hills and mountains

This trail offers incredible vantage points of the mountain’s summit through tundra-like, alpine terrain. Do this hike if you’re capable! 

You can extend your adventure in two ways. 

The first is to continue to Third Burroughs, which I do not recommend to day hikers who aren’t carrying the “ten essentials.” Or, you can head back to Sunrise on the Burroughs Loop Trail instead of returning the way you came.

This is my favorite hike for astounding views of Mount Rainier. Second and Third Burroughs offer close-up views of the summit, three different glaciers, and massive crevasses.

11. Tipsoo Lake (Sunrise)

  • Elevation gain: 19 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

the glow of pink early morning light seen from Tipsoo Lake with trees reflected in the water

Tipsoo Lake is a popular destination for photographers. Its high elevation and delightful alpine scenery make it an exceptional spot for viewing the mountain.

This is another great choice for groups with children or seniors. Early mornings are the best time to visit to see Rainier lit up with a pretty crimson pink and catch the mountain’s reflection in the water if it’s calm.

You need only 15 – 20 minutes here. Walking around the lake is more of a stroll than a hike.

12. Naches Peak Loop (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 659 feet

a hiking trail leads the way into alpine scenery and wildflower meadows with a mountainous backdrop

If you’re a seasoned hiker, this is an easy, scenic hike that offers some of the best views of the mountain in the entire park.  

This hike is a local favorite, so arrive early during peak season to ensure that you get a parking spot. 

Hike this trail clockwise. Approaching it this way means you get fantastic views of Mount Rainier during the last half of the hike without having to turn around to see it.

Best Views of Mt Rainier Outside the Park

13. high rock lookout.

  • Hike length: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1330 feet

High Rock Lookout above the clouds, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier

High Rock Lookout Trail is a gem for viewing Mount Rainier, offering one of the most dramatic perspectives of the mountain I’ve ever seen. 

It’s only about a mile-and-half of hiking to get to the top, where you’ll stand 5,685 feet above sea level on a rock cliff. 

But beware, this one has hazards. There are steep drop-offs from the trail and the top of the rock. Skip this adventure if you’re scared of heights!

14. Crystal Mountain Gondola

a winter landscape and a gondola overlooking Mount Rainier

While Crystal Mountain is technically part of the national park, I’ve always considered it a destination in its own right as someone who’s lived in Washington for nearly thirty decades and attended ski school here.

It’s a mountain best known for skiing and, now, also its gondola ride, the only one in Washington State.

Soak in panoramic views of Rainier once you reach the top. There are chairs and picnic tables available for you to sit and enjoy the Pacific Northwest scene before your eyes.

Where to See Mt Rainier from Seattle

15. kerry park.

Seattle skyline at dusk with Mount Rainier in the backdrop

Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood is the place to go for the best city view of Mount Rainier. 

The park is small, but you get an unobstructed mountain view on a clear day. Its elevated position offers a sweeping view of the Seattle skyline and Rainier towering in the distance. 

This is the park I direct visiting family members and friends to go to when what’s desired is that quintessential Seattle photograph. It doesn’t get any more iconic than this!

16. Seward Park

a serene view of Lake Washington and Seward Park, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier on a clear day

Located on Lake Washington, Seward Park is a fantastic place to see scenic views of Mount Rainier across the lake. 

The park is delightful, with old-growth trees, a children’s park area, a loop for walking or jogging, and more. 

But what makes this city park unique is the opportunity to sit on a bench, stare across the water, and see Mount Rainier dominating the skyline.

17. UW’s Rainier Vista 

students walk along a wide pathway surrounded by evergreen trees

The University of Washington’s Rainier Vista showcases exactly what its name indicates: a striking, direct view of Mount Rainier hovering in the distance. Its wow factor is ten out of ten when the cherry blossom trees bloom.

When I was a student here, this highly trafficked entrance and walkway was a common place I’d meet up with friends.

Photographers come here to capture Rainier framed by greenery and university architecture.

Tips for Seeing Mount Rainier Inside the Park

On my first trip to the national park one Saturday in late July, we arrived at 8:15 am and got a parking spot at Paradise in the lower lot. I watched the lot quickly fill up while we got our backpacks on and was grateful we arrived when we did!

Things are different in 2024. The National Park Service is piloting a Timed Entry Reservation system, which they believe will help travelers secure parking and avoid long lines at the entrances during the peak travel months. 

Here are some quick tips if you’re traveling during the summer months:

  • Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds. 
  • You do not need a reservation before 7 am and after 3 pm. If you don’t have a reservation, arrive by 6:30 am in case there is a line at the entrance. Earlier is even better!
  • Arriving in the afternoon is fine because there’s daylight past 8 pm. 
  • Plan to stay for golden hour, the last hour of daylight, for breathtaking landscape photos.

alpine landscape with rocks, evergreen trees, and a mountainous backdrop

Mount Rainier Views FAQs

🏔️ can you see mount rainier without hiking.

Yes! You can see Mount Rainier without hiking from spots inside the national park, including the Muir Steps, Reflection Lakes, and Inspiration Point, all within the Paradise area. In the Sunrise area of the park, mountain views are available without hiking from the Sunrise Point Lookout.

Another option for excellent Rainier views is to take the Crystal Mountain Gondola. 

🏙️ Is Mt Rainier Visible from Seattle?

Mount Rainier is visible from Seattle from several places: Kerry Park, Seward Park, Discovery Park, Myrtle Edwards Park, Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Space Needle, UW’s Rainier Vista, and many more.

My favorite place to see Mount Rainier from Seattle for epic views is Kerry Park because you also get to see the Seattle skyline.

🚘 What is the Best Road to See Mount Rainier?

The Chinook Scenic Byway (State Route 410) is the best road to see Mount Rainier. This route is seasonal, typically open from June through September. Mount Rainier views over the route’s highest point at Chinook Pass are stunning! Here’s where you’ll see Tipsoo Lake.

Continue to Stevens Canyon Road after the SR123 junction for more spectacular views of Rainier.

TIP: Always check the roads on the NPS website before embarking on your Mount Rainier road trip.

A group of hikers in summer attire leaving the Paradise parking lot, walking a trail flanked by lush green trees and underbrush.

Wrap-Up: Best Places to See Mount Rainier

As a local, I never tire of seeing how Rainier dominates the landscape in Washington State. 

I’ve enjoyed sharing my seventeen favorite places to see the mountain! Use this article to help you plan your must-visit destinations to see Mount Rainier inside and outside the national park. 

' src=

Meeshka is the founder of Sand & Elevation. Living between two mountain ranges - the Olympics and the Cascades - she spends her free time in the mountains and on the coast, hiking, climbing, and exploring the outdoors. Meeshka helps other nature-loving adventurers by writing comprehensive guides to the Pacific Northwest's best destinations.

  • Skip to global NPS navigation
  • Skip to this park navigation
  • Skip to the main content
  • Skip to this park information section
  • Skip to the footer section

mt rainier places to visit

Exiting nps.gov

Alerts in effect, places to go.

Last updated: May 3, 2023

Park footer

Contact info, mailing address:.

55210 238th Avenue East Ashford, WA 98304

360 569-2211

Stay Connected

VisitRainier

Top 10 Things to Do Near Mount Rainier Regional

Use the checkboxes below or the letters at right to filter your results.

Seattle Ballooning hot air balloon flights with views of Rainier

Inspired Routes

22 Incredibly Fun Things to Do in Mt Rainier You Can’t Miss

Posted on Published: May 4, 2022  - Last updated: July 13, 2023

It’s the shining star in the Pacific Northwest. You could spend just a day in this national park or a whole week exploring its trails. Here’s your guide to the absolute best things to do in Mt Rainier!

things to do in mt rainier view of mountain and trees with reflection

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my disclosures .

Just one visit to the park and you’ll fall in love. Visiting Mt Rainier National Park is perfect for families, couples for a friends’ getaway. It’s the perfect spot for sightseeing, hiking and at 14,411 feet, it’s the tallest peak in Washington .

Use this guide to plan your perfect trip to Mt Rainier. Of course there’s seeing the famous mountain, but this national park has so much more to offer!

What you need to know about Mt Rainier National Park

First, let’s go over some important info – how to get there, where to stay, etc. 

Best time to visit Mt Rainier

wildflower fields with green and purple flowers with blurry mountain in distance

The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park is July through September. It’s actually one of the best places to visit in September in the USA . The summer and early fall when the road and trails are fully accessible will allow you to see the most of the park.

Summer in Mt Rainer is truly magical.

Wildflowers are abundantly blooming, the weather is the warmest all year yet not too hot for hiking. Unfortunately, that’s when everyone else is also wanting to visit this national park, so it’s the most crowded in the summertime.

During late August and September, the weather is still nice and the snow hasn’t typically started on the mountain yet. Early fall can be an ideal time to visit the national park because the crowds are less and the weather is still generally nice enough to hike and sightsee without issues.

Of course, visiting Mt Rainier in winter you’ll see the least amount of crowds and traffic. There are a few areas of the park open year-round, and its’ perfect for snowshoeing.

Closest airport

mount rainier national park entrance sign over road with tall trees beside

To fly into the area, the closest major airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at about 95 miles away. I highly recommend to spend a day in Seattle before exploring the national park, if your timeline allows it! 

Another alternative is Portland International Airport which is about 150 miles from the park. It will take you only about 30 minutes longer to drive from Portland. So if the cheaper flights are there, it might be worth it for you.

Pro tip:  use Google flights for the best prices, rent a car with Discover Cars

You’ll need to rent a car to drive all through Mt Rainier NP. My favorite cheap car rental is Discover Cars. I typically save 10-30% and it’s a free service. They search the top car carriers to find the best deal. Search cheap cars here.

Getting to the list of what to do at Mt Rainier in just a sec…

Best places to stay near the park

downhill trail with flower meadow and cascade mountains in background

The area immediately surrounding the park is pretty rural, with only a few small towns to choose from. Ashford is to the west of the park and Packwood is to the south. Here are a few spots to check out:

  • Mountain Meadows Inn.  Located just 6 miles from the park near Ashford, this convenient location is also eco-friendly, and rated as a travel sustainable property. My favorite part is that there are multiple sizes to choose from to be comfortable with your traveling group.
  • Crest Trail Lodge.  Located in Packwood, this property includes breakfast, which is a bonus for early mornings at the park. This is best for couples or groups of 2 travelers. 
  • Cowlitz River Lodge.  This Packwood lodge is rustic but comfortable. Oh, and they have a hearty breakfast to start your day.

For more options, head to Booking.com. I love that it’s an affordable site with both hotels and privately owned vacation properties, so you can get exactly what you need.

Map of Mt Rainier things to do

Here’s a map of the park and the things to do in Mt Rainier.

Tips for visiting Mount Rainier National Park

stevens canyon entrance mount rainier national park sign with road and trees

Before we get to the list, here are a few tips to make the most of your time in the park:

  • Parking lots fill up early, especially during peak season and weekends.  Get to the park early, especially for popular hiking trails. And have a plan B in mind in case the lot is full.  
  • There are 5 regions in Mt Rainier NP.  Paradise in the south, Longmire is southwest, Ohanapecosh is southeast, Sunrise in the northeast and Carbon River/Mowich Lake in the northwest. Not all areas of the park are connected to each other so you’ll likely be doing a lot of driving if you want to see them all!  
  • The weather can change in an instant  on the mountain, even in the summertime. Be prepared with extra layers at all time.

What to pack for Mount Rainier

woman hiking on dirt trail with green hillside and mountain in distance

If you’re short on time and/or not planning to hike, your packing list will be shorter. But be prepared with enough food, clothing and essentials regardless of your vacation style.

  • Bear spray.  Black bears live in the PNW and Mount Rainier NP. If you’re flying, you’ll have to grab bear spray when you arrive. If you’re road tripping to the park, get it in advance of your trip and bring it with.  
  • Layers for every occasion.  Well, almost every one! Depending on the season, you’ll want to pack accordingly. The weather changes quickly, especially in higher elevations throughout the park. Plan accordingly.   
  • Hiking backpack.  If you’re planning on anything over a mile, this hiking backpack will hold all your water, snacks and gear. It’s especially helpful to have a backpack specifically made for hiking because it takes the weight off your back and shoulders (seriously like magic). This is my favorite hiking backpack , I can’t recommend it enough!  
  • Hiking shoes and socks .  The trails in the park have a variety of terrain, and you want to keep yourself stable and provide the right amount of support. These are my favorite hiking shoes I wore to Mt Rainier (and lots of other national parks). And don’t forget hiking socks ! Look for moisture wicking socks with no or thin seams to avoid blisters.  
  • Hiking poles.  Some of these inclines are no joke. And unless you’ve had a lot of experience hiking in the Pacific Northwest, these hiking poles will save you. Seriously.   
  • Food and water.  I can’t stress this enough, especially if you’re planning to hike. The park has limited services and you don’t want to be stuck in a bad situation.

Alright enough chatting already! Let’s get to the best things to do!

Best things to do Mt Rainier

This is it! The best sights and top spots to hike within the park. Eeek! I’m so excited for you to see it.

Note: each item below will include the area within the park, for easier planning purposes. 

1. Drive the scenic south side

view of road cut out of mountain side

Region:  Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh Best for:  sightseeing

The park has great views of Mt Rainier. But the south drive from the Nisqually Enrance to the Stevens Canyon Entrance – or vice versa – is incredible! The 42-mile stretch of road will leave you speechless!

Both routes are beautiful, and because it’s not a loop, taking the scenic drive will require you to also take it back. Unless you’re staying in Packwood, then you could do a loop to your hotel or cabin.

From the Nisqually Entrance on the west side, the scenic road is called Paradise Rd E. Once you get past the Paradise area, the road turns into Stevens Canyon Road, which goes through to the Stevens Canyon Entrance. 

It’s such an incredibly scenic area, and reminds me of the Trail Ridge Road, one of the most scenic drives in Colorado . Highly recommend!

2. Hike the Skyline Loop Trail (one of the most popular things to do in Mt Rainier)

things to do in mt rainier hike up skyline trail with paved path wildflowers and mountain in distance

Region:  Paradise Best for:  seeing Mt Rainier up close

The Skyline Loop Trail is the most popular in the park. Which also means it’s the busiest! Located in the Paradise area of the park, this is the closest you can physically get to the mountain (aside from climbing it, which is actually an option from Skyline Trail, too).

If you decide to hike here, you’ll want to get to the trailhead by 8:00 am during peak travel days.

One of the reasons this trail is so popular is because there are so many options. You can do the full Skyline Loop Trail which is 5.5 miles and 1,788 feet elevation gain. It’s a spectacular day hike!

If you don’t want to do the entire Skyline Loop Trail, you can also do the Alta Vista Trail which is an offshoot of the full trail. It begins in the same spot but wanders through Paradise a little differently. It’s 1.8 miles and 616 feet elevation gain.

Visitors can stop off at the Jackson Visitor Center  for restrooms and a quick snack before or after the hike.

3. See the gorgeous Reflection Lakes

Region:  Paradise Best for:  sightseeing

Just to the east of the Jackson Visitor Center and still in the Paradise Mt Rainier area is the gorgeous Reflection Lakes. Often times the reflection of Mt Rainier can be seen in the lakes. 

There’s a decent sized parking area along the road. If you’re only doing a day trip to Mt Rainier or are just planning on sightseeing, this is a must stop!

This is one of the top things to do at Mt Rainier National Park. 💯

Pro tip:  the best time for smooth water is early morning and closer to sunset, when the wind is calmest.

4. Chase waterfalls (one of my favorites on this list of things to do in Mt Rainier)

comet falls mt rainier large waterfall with rocky side and some green shrubs

This is one of the most fun things to do in Mt Rainier National Park! Similar to the time I chased the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains like Grotto Falls , Laurel Falls , Abrams Falls and so many more. There are some that can be seen from the road and some you’ll need to hike to get to.

Whatever your travel style, these flowing waters are a beauty to see in real life!

Roadside waterfalls Mt Rainier

  • Falls Creek
  • Sunbeam Creek
  • Christine Falls
  • Narada Falls

waterfall under bridge with trees beside it top things to do in mt rainier

Waterfall hikes Mt Rainier

  • Silver Falls Loop
  • Comet Falls
  • Myrtle Falls (see #13 below)

5. Experience wildflowers or fall foliage

things to do in mt rainier see fall foliage with red flowers and mountain in background

Region:  all of them Best for:  anyone visiting the park

One of the most spectacular things about Mt Rainier National Park is it’s fragile ecosystem. Having just a short summer, the flora and fauna throughout the park really give it their all during the couple months they’re allowed to shine!

Of course every year is different, but on average the peak of wildflower season is the first week in August. And the peak of fall foliage is the last week in September.

During this time, crowds flock to the mountain to see the bright colors. And let me tell you – it’s gorgeous! 

purple and yellow flowers with blue sky in background

You’ll find fields of pink, purple and yellow wildflowers in the summer throughout the park. And in the fall, those fields turn to bright orange and reds – stunning!

The best places to see color throughout the park are near the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise (the Skyline Trail is phenomenal for this) and the fields near the Sunrise Visitor Center.

6. See the oldest (and coolest) trees in the park

woman standing next to massive tree on boardwalk

Region:  Ohanapecosh Best for:  light hiking, young kids

In the southeast part of the park are some of the coolest sights you’ll see – trees! Which is a bit ironic considering just how many trees you’ll see while driving in and around the park. But these ones are the most special.

The Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is a show-stopper. It’s a lighter trail at just 1.1 miles and 52 feet in elevation gain. And getting there is a bit of an adventure, over a swinging bridge above a creek.

The best part is seeing the massive trees over 1,000 years old. It’s like walking through a fairytale forest! The closest thing I can relate it to is seeing the giants on a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park visit .

One of the trail’s features are the Twin Douglas-firs. Kids and adults alike will have fun taking photos by these trees.

Just be sure to stay on the path and be respectful. Each step off the trail damages and compacts the dirt surrounding the trees.

Editor note : at the time of publication the trail is closed for maintenance. Due to flooding in late 2021, the bridge suffered major damage. Check this website for trail updates and reopening timelines. 

Mt Rainier: things to do

Can you believe this list? We’ve barely scratched the surface of all the awesome things to do in Mt Rainier! Let’s keep going…

7. Hike the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail (one of the best hikes on this list of things to do in Mt Rainier)

best views of the mountain with snow hillside and blue water on a lake

Region:  Carbon River/Mowich Lake Best for:  awesome hiking views

One of the most remote areas of the park is the Carbon River/Mowich Lake in the northeast. 

That’s because back in 2006 the Carbon River Road flooded and the park never reopened it for vehicles. Instead, bicycle and pedestrian traffic are allowed. So if you make it down to that area, you’ll see a lot of bikers taking advantage of the paved mountain roads.

However, you can still access Mowich Lake and the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trailhead . It’s accessible via a rough gravel road and is best used in the summer months when it’s dry. High clearance or 4×4 vehicles are highly recommended on this road.

Because of the remoteness and challeges getting there, the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail is one of the best trails with the fewest hikers. Coming in at 5.6 miles and 1541 feet in elevation gain, it’s a good day hike too.

You’ll pass Eunice Lake and Mowich Lakes during the hike, which are simply beautiful PNW lakes. At the end of the up-and-back trail, you’ll see the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout Tower. It’s worth the climb!

Be sure to pack the right shoes , hiking poles , enough water and right gear you’ll need for this one – there are no services in this area of the park.

8. Get inspired at Inspiration Point

inspiration point scenic drive mt rainier

While driving from Ohanapecosh to Paradise on Stevens Canyon Road, you’ll turn the corner and get a breathtaking view of Mt Rainier. That’s Inspiration Point! 

Take a moment to pull over (there’s just space for a couple cars at a time) and get inspired by the incredible views in front of you. There are so many places in the park with great views (many of them mentioned here), but this one will definitely sneak up on ya! 

9. Hike to Bench and Snow Lakes

things to do in mount rainier visit snow lake view of trees and green lake with mountain in distance

Region:  Paradise Best for:  serene, alpine lakes

Overshadowed by the popular Skyline Loop Trail and nearby Reflection Lakes, the Bench and Snow Lake Trail are way less crowded and way more relaxing!

The beautiful lakes are on the eastern side of Paradise, with the trailhead being along the Stevens Canyon Road. The full trail is 2.5 miles round trip, with 700 feet in elevation gain.

This is personally one of my favorite hikes in the park! It reminds me of hiking Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park, actually. The lakes are gorgeous and it has fields of wildflowers and the ups-and-downs on the trail make it fun to hike.

This trail is also proof that you can see beautiful scenery without the mountain, as there are very few views of Mount Rainier on the trail.

Pro tip:  the parking area is small for this trail. Either get there early or have a plan B and come back later.

10. Kayak on Snow Lake

things to do mt rainier visit an alpine lake with green water surrounded by evergreen trees

There are only a few lakes in Mt Rainier National Park that allow non-motorized boating. So if you want to kayak or paddleboard a gorgeous lake within the park, you’ll have to plan ahead. 

It’s one of the most unique things to do in Mt Rainier National Park, and worth it to explore the water in a way that most don’t get to do!

This will work well if you’re local to the area and driving. But bring your folding kayak to the lake and launch at Snow Lake! A lightweight kayak is about 20 pounds, which is doable for the 1.25 miles there and 1.25 miles back.

11. Check out Sunrise Point Lookout

what to do in mt rainier small green lake in the middle of a bunch of trees

Region:  Sunrise Best for:  sightseeing

On your way to the Sunrise Visitor Center along Sunrise Park Road, there is a beautiful lookout with incredible scenery. This is one of those overlooks where you can hop out and back in within a minute, or you could spend 30 minutes sitting and staring at this beautiful park.

At the lookout you’ll see the beautiful Palisades Lakes below. If you’re looking for a challenging day hike, the trail head for this 7.2 mile, 1633 feet elevation gain trail is right at the lookout.

Aptly named, this is one of the best spots to be during sunrise. I can see why!

12. Eat ice crea m

pink ice cream bar with mountain scene behind

Region:  Paradise or Sunrise Best for:  a sweet treat

I know, I know. It’s probably the last thing you expected to see on a list of things to do Mt Rainier. But as someone who’s literally planned an entire vacation down the Pacific Coast Highway in California seeking the best ice cream spots, I pretty much look for ice cream everywhere.

Anyway, the Jackson Visitor Center and Sunrise Visitor Center have some food and drinks. They can sell out of any type of food item daily, especially during peak season. So while I cannot guarantee they’ll be in stock, I will say it’s a mighty delicious sweet treat when there are ice cream bars available! 

13. Visit Myrtle Falls (one of the most popular things to do in Mount Rainier)

things to do in mt rainier visit a waterfall with trees alongside bridge above and mountain in distance

Region:  Paradise Best for:  chasing waterfalls

The easiest hiking trail in the Paradise area, I’d consider this more of a walk. You can hike to Myrtle Falls via the Skyline Loop Trail. 

With just 0.8 miles and elevation gain of only 150 feet, this one is fully accessible and great for strollers, too. Note there is a section of steps right at the overlook. But you can see scenic views without going down the steps, too.

It’s a paved path, but close-toes shoes are best here. 

14. See a glacier

things to do in mt rainier emmons vista overlook mountain peeking through clouds and trees

Fun fact:  there are 25 glaciers within Mt Rainier National Park, which is more than any other mountain in the continental US! Which is ironic, considering it’s actually difficult to see glaciers in Glacier National Park.

One of the best overlooks to see glaciers in Mt Rainier is the Emmons Vista Overlook. Located just off the parking lot at Sunrise, you walk down a really short path to the overlook. 

There’s two viewpoints really close to each other, both offering spectacular views of the mountain and the glacier.

More things to do in Mt Rainier

Well we’re over half way done with this mega list of things to do Mt Rainier. Hopefully you’ve added a few Mt Rainier attractions to your park itinerary. Here’s more of the park!

15. Check out Box Canyon (a popular attraction on this list of things to do in Mt Rainier)

stream in narrow canyon with mossy sides

Region:  Ohanapecosh Best for:  sightseeing

This is one of those stops that you should definitely do if you’re driving through on Stevens Canyon Road. There’s a pretty decent sized parking lot with restrooms here, so it’s a convenient place to stretch your legs.

Just off the parking lot, on the south side of the road is a cool lookout. You can’t see all the way into the canyon from here, so I recommend taking the 0.3 mile loop to get a better look .

It’s a paved path that’s stroller and wheelchair friendly (turning back at the bridge as necessary).

Anyway, the reason this stop should be on your list is that there’s a mighty river that has carved an incredibly deep canyon into the rock. The river is only 13 feet wide at it’s widest point, but from the top of the canyon to the base where the river flows is 115 feet! 

You can stand directly over the river and canyon on a bridge looking straight down. Just don’t drop anything! 

16. Stay at Paradise Inn 

large green hotel situated on mountainside with lots of trees

Region:  Paradise Best for:  relaxation with cool views

If you’re looking for a classic stay in Mt Rainier, then try the Paradise Inn. Built in 1916, it’s a historic property with basic accommodations. If you’re looking for lots of amenities, this isn’t the place for you. 

However, if you want a peaceful spot to lay your head in the heart of the park, then this will do! Oh, and be sure to catch the stargazing at night. At this elevation and barely any night light pollution, it’s pretty amazing!

I’ll warn ya though – you’ll need to make reservations far in advance (like the season before) . The Paradise Inn is closed during the winter months (typically October through mid-May), and reservations fill up far in advance. 

17. Drive Chinook Pass and see Tipsoo Lake

mt rainier things to do and see view of trees and mountain in distance on sunny day

Region:  Ohanapecosh Best for:  sightseeing

If you’re staying north of the park – like in Enumclaw or Greenwater – you can take the scenic route to the far eastern part of the park, at Tipsoo Lake.

It’s a gorgeous drive through tall trees, and such a joy when the mountain peeks out! It’s actually one of my favorite things to do in Mt Rainier because it’s so scenic.

The Chinook Pass is a scenic drive in Washington State from Enumclaw to the town of Naches. The road goes through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and of course, Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a 92-mile stretch of road that is simply beautiful.

Driving from Enumclaw to the Tipsoo Lake is a fun drive, and a unique way to see Mt Rainier NP! There’s a fairly large parking lot at Tipsoo Lake, and one of the best hikes in Mt Rainier is located there, Naches Peak Loop.  

If you’re up for it, I firmly believe it’s one of the best views in the park! Naches Peak Loop is 3.3 miles and 636 elevation gain.

The Chinook Pass is closed in the summer but simply gorgeous when open in the summer months.

18. Go camping

river mountain scene with creek bed green trees and cliff in background

Region:  Sunrise, Paradise, Mowich Lake, Ohanapecosh Best for:  being outdoors & easy access to hiking trails

If you’re looking to be submersed into nature, then try camping in Mount Rainier. There are 4 campgrounds in the park.

The Mowich Lake Campground is very primitive with little services and is for a small number of tent camping only.

The Cougar Rock (Paradise), Ohanapecosh and White River (Sunrise) Campgrounds are a little more advanced, with some RV spaces. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh require reservations; White River and Mowich Lake is first come, first serve.

If you own an RV, there are not hookups, however Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh are the most spacious for RVs. Find out more details and register here . 

19. Hike the Silver Forest Trail (one of my favorite things to do Mt Rainier with kids)

yellow and purple flower field with trees and mountain in distance

Region:  Sunrise Best for:  young families, those looking for an easy hike

One of the flattest trails in the park is the Silver Forest Trail in the Sunrise region. I might also be brave enough to say it’s one of the most beautiful hikes during the summertime, too .

It’s and up-and-back trail coming in at 1.9 miles with just 200 feet in elevation gain. And if you’re not feeling like hiking or are limited on time, you can turn back at just about any time and still get similar views.

The reason it’s one of my favorite hikes for families with young kids is because it’s not only easy, but it’s completely filled with wildflowers during the summer! Thousands of wildflowers bloom along the trail, and it’s so stunning to see in real life!

what to do in mt rainier hiking trail through scenic path in the woods with mountain in background

20. Get your Parks Passport stamped

Region:  Paradise Best for:  those with parks passports

America’s National Parks Passport program is a fun way to collect stamps from each national park you go to. It’s fun for kids and adults alike. 

After hiking the Skyline Loop Trail, I went to go grab ice cream at the Jackson Visitor Center (naturally). Once there, I saw a long line of people waiting to talk with the park ranger and get their passports stamped.

Learn more about this fun program here .

21. Drive through the Stevens Canyon Road tunnels

tunnel with trees growing on top

A favorite among young visitors in the park, the tunnels on Stevens Canyon Road are really beautiful. Unlike other areas of the park where trees surround the roadway as you drive, much of Stevens Canyon Road is wide open for viewing.

As you make your way from the Stevens Canyon Entrance to Paradise, you’ll drive through two tunnels carved out of the mountain. It’s one of the road trip highlights if you’re traveling with kids!

22. Pick out a souvenir

log cabin building on a sunny day with sign that says snack bar

Region:  Paradise, Sunrise Best for:  remembering the park

The visitor centers in Paradise and Sunrise have plenty of memorabilia (in addition to snacks) to remember your time in the national park. From apparel to mugs, books about the park and hats to protect your face and neck from the sun, you’ll find what you need at the visitor centers.

I personally loved the hand-crafted pots to use for my plants at home. They are gorgeous! 

The Sunrise Visitor Center seems to get less traffic than the Paradise store, so you’ll likely have a greater selection of items, especially later in the day during peak season.

Best things to do in Mt Rainier

view of mount rainier behind evergreen trees with single cloud

Whew what a list! This national park is a beautiful destination for hiking and sightseeing. Perfect for young and old, the views of Mount Rainier are bountiful! 

Let’s recap this list in a more succinct manner…

Mt Rainier things to do

  • Drive the scenic south side
  • Hike the Skyline Loop Trail
  • See the gorgeous reflection
  • Chase waterfalls
  • Experience wildflowers or fall foliage
  • See the oldest (and coolest) trees in the park
  • Hike the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail
  • Get inspired at Inspiration Point
  • Hike to Bench and Snow Lakes
  • Kayak on Snow Lake
  • Check out Sunrise Point Lookout
  • Eat ice cream
  • Visit Myrtle Falls
  • See a glacier
  • Check out Box Canyon
  • Stay at Paradise Inn
  • Drive Chinook Pass and see Tipsoo Lake
  • Hike the Silver Forest Trail
  • Get your Parks Passport stamped
  • Drive through the Stevens Canyon Road tunnels
  • Pick out a souvenir

Related content you might like: Bench and Snow Lake Trail: Underrated Mt Rainier Hike You Can’t Miss Skyline Trail Mt Rainier: Ultimate Guide to this Epic Hike Paradise Mt Rainier: What to See, Do and Bring Plus Best Hikes 22 Best Hikes in Mt Rainier: Cool Trails You’ll Love

Find this post helpful? Save it for later or share it on social media!

22 incredible things to do mt rainier with mountain and reflection wildflowers and red field

Chelsea Messina

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

My friend and I visited in the winter, so a lot of the trails were closed :( I can't wait to go back and check out some of this spots!

I bet winter was beautiful! But it sounds like it's time to make a trip back ;)

Monday 30th of May 2022

Mount Rainier is so gorgeous! I spent a day there last fall and can't wait to spend more time.

Oh cool Amanda! It's totally one of those places you can spend days or weeks and never even see it all. Sounds like it's time to plan a return trip :)

It looks gorgeous. I completely agree with you that chasing waterfalls would be at the top of my list of things to do as well. Hopefully I'll get there one day.

Ha yes Kelly! I hope you make it to Mt Rainier National Park soon. 💛

We went to MT Rainier NP in October and even though it rained, we had SO much fun! I'm glad Myrtle falls made your list because not only is the waterfall beautiful, but the easy hike up to it!

Oh cool Megan! Yes, Myrtle Falls is beautiful and the perfect low-key hike for all skill levels. :)

Sunday 8th of May 2022

WOW Mt. Rainier looks huge and absolutely stunning!

It's a beautiful spot to be, that's for sure!

Mount Rainier National Park   Travel Guide

Courtesy of Getty Images |

mt rainier places to visit

6 Best Things To Do in Mount Rainier National Park

Updated Apr. 24, 2024

The 14,410-foot-tall active volcano for which the park is named is truly an amazing sight. Whether you're coming to tackle the mountain on a challenging hike, eager to see Paradise 's wildflower meadows, or driving to Sunrise – the highest

  • All Things To Do

mt rainier places to visit

Paradise Paradise free

Paradise, which is located at an elevation of 5,400 feet, is a great place to start your park visit and where you'll find the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center, the main visitor center for the park. It offers general information, exhibits, a park film, guided ranger programs, a gift store and a cafeteria. In the summer, this area is ideal for wildflower viewing, and in winter, this is the main area for activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing. The historic  Paradise Inn , which is usually open from mid-May to early October, is also located in this area, as is the Guide House, where climbers can obtain permits and hiking and backcountry camping information.

Visitors call the area "breathtaking" and "gorgeous," especially in peak wildflower season (July to August). Paradise also gets high marks for its visitor center and ranger programs. The only downside is that since it is so popular, parking can be hard to come by and you may experience long waits, according to some previous visitors.

mt rainier places to visit

Sunrise Sunrise free

From its elevation at 6,400 feet, Sunrise offers breathtaking, 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys. From this perch, travelers will have views of Mount Rainier and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range, such as Mount Adams. Sunrise is also the highest spot in the park that can be reached by vehicles. The spectacular views, coupled with a varied trail system, make Sunrise the second-most visited location in the park.

Two short hikes are quite popular here, including the Sunrise Nature Trail and Sunrise Rim Trail. The 1 ½-mile Sunrise Nature Trail starts from the Sunrise picnic area and is a self-guided loop tour that weaves through meadows with breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the Cascades along the way. The 1-mile-long Sunrise Rim Trail leads to two overlooks of Emmons Glacier.

mt rainier places to visit

Grove of the Patriarchs Trail Grove of the Patriarchs Trail free

This 1-mile loop trail, which is located west of the Stevens Canyon Entrance on the Ohanapecosh River, takes you to an island where 1,000-year-old Douglas fir and western red cedar trees tower over you. Visitors call this a "beautiful loop trail" and say the old growth trees are "amazing." Travelers also said they loved the swinging suspension bridge. Self-guiding signs are posted along the trail.

According to the park service, the Ohanapecosh area, named for a Taidnapam (Upper Cowlitz) Indian habitation site along the river, is thought to mean "standing at the edge," which seems appropriate. The park service also says that the east side of the park is somewhat drier and sunnier than the west side, making it a good destination when Paradise and Longmire are wet and foggy. Ohanapecosh is not open in the winter. 

mt rainier places to visit

Popular Tours

Murder Mystery Detective Experience in Yakima WA

Murder Mystery Detective Experience in Yakima WA

from $ 14.99

Sip and savor award winning Yakima Valley wines.

Sip and savor award winning Yakima Valley wines.

(4 reviews)

from $ 55.00

Where the Hops Grow! Yakima Brewery Tour

Where the Hops Grow! Yakima Brewery Tour

from $ 45.00

mt rainier places to visit

Silver Falls Trail Silver Falls Trail free

This 3-mile round-trip trail, which begins from the Ohanapecosh Campground, takes visitors to gorgeous Silver Falls and is relatively flat and easy to hike, making it popular with families. The trail follows the river to the falls, crosses a bridge and then loops back to the campground. Visitors call the view of the falls "spectacular" and "beautiful."

There are two other shorter trails visitors can take to get to the falls. If you park at the pullout on the west side of Route 123 (a little less than 2 miles north of the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center), a half-mile walk leads to the falls. There is also a 1-mile trail from Stevens Canyon Road, which begins west of the Stevens Canyon Entrance, across from the Grove of the Patriarchs trailhead.

mt rainier places to visit

Skyline Trail Skyline Trail free

The start of the 5 ½-mile Skyline Trail sits near the entrance to the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise and is marked by stone steps inscribed with a quote by John Muir that reads: "… the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." If you head clockwise, the trail climbs 2 miles to Panorama Point, which rewards hikers with breathtaking views.

After this stop, the park service advises hikers use the High Skyline Trail to avoid a dangerous icy slope that never melts, which connects back to the Skyline above the junction with Golden Gate trail (an alternative for a shorter hike). Views along the way include displays of subalpine wildflowers, Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier, and, on a clear day, peaks as far south as Oregon's Mount Hood.

mt rainier places to visit

Longmire Longmire free

When the park was established in 1899, James Longmire's homestead and mineral springs resort became the park's headquarters. Longmire settled in the area in the mid-1800s, discovered the springs and opened a rustic resort. Today, the original 1916 headquarters shelters a year-round museum with information and exhibits that tell the story of the early days of the park. In fact, all of Longmire is now designated as a national historic district. You'll also find the Longmire Wilderness Information Center as well as the National Park Inn here. There are several hiking trails within Longmire, including the Trail of the Shadows, a nearly 1-mile loop trail that begins near the museum, takes you on an easy walk past the Longmire hot springs, through the surrounding forest and a replica of one of the park's earliest homesteads.

Visitors call Longmire a "classic old-time museum" and a "hidden gem," with helpful park rangers.

mt rainier places to visit

Explore More of Mount Rainier National Park

Alexander's Lodge

Best Hotels

World Map

When To Visit

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The 28 Best Water Parks in the U.S. for 2024

Holly Johnson|Timothy J. Forster May 8, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

The 18 Best Napa Valley Wineries to Visit in 2024

Lyn Mettler|Sharael Kolberg April 23, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

The 25 Best Beaches on the East Coast for 2024

Timothy J. Forster|Sharael Kolberg April 19, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

The 50 Best Hotels in the USA 2024

Christina Maggitas February 6, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

The 32 Most Famous Landmarks in the World

Gwen Pratesi|Timothy J. Forster February 1, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

9 Top All-Inclusive Resorts in Florida for 2024

Gwen Pratesi|Amanda Norcross January 5, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

24 Top All-Inclusive Resorts in the U.S. for 2024

Erin Evans January 4, 2024

mt rainier places to visit

26 Top Adults-Only All-Inclusive Resorts for 2024

Zach Watson December 28, 2023

mt rainier places to visit

Solo Vacations: The 36 Best Places to Travel Alone in 2024

Lyn Mettler|Erin Vasta December 22, 2023

mt rainier places to visit

26 Cheap Beach Vacations for Travelers on a Budget

Kyle McCarthy|Sharael Kolberg December 4, 2023

mt rainier places to visit

mt rainier places to visit

9 Best Places to See Mount Rainier in Its Namesake National Park

By: Author Bram Reusen

Posted on Last updated: April 23, 2024

Rising 14,410 feet toward the often-cloudy Pacific Northwest sky, Mount Rainier dominates the landscape in western Washington State.

This mighty mountain is so prominent that it’s an integral part of the skyline of Seattle (on clear days). Even as far south as  Portland, Oregon , you can enjoy views of Mount Rainier from certain locations.

The namesake and centerpiece of  Mount Rainier National Park , Mount Rainier is an active volcano. With more than 25 glaciers, it’s the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states.

Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the entire Cascade Range, which also  includes other volcanoes  like Mount St. Helens and  Mt. Hood . Its summit is often shrouded in clouds, but on those rare blue-sky days, which often occur in summer, it’s a sensational sight.

1. Reflection Lakes (Stevens Canyon Road)

2. jackson visitor center (paradise), 3. skyline trail (paradise), 4. myrtle falls (paradise), 5. sunrise point (sunrise), 6. sourdough ridge (sunrise), 7. burroughs mountain (sunrise), 8. yakima park (sunrise), 9. chinook pass / tipsoo lake (chinook pass), more scenic views of mount rainier, map of the best views of mount rainier (in mount rainier national park), more scenic views in the national parks, enjoy epic views of mount rainier from these 9 locations in its namesake national park.

If you are looking for the best viewpoints to see Mount Rainier in the national park itself, you’ll find them below. The nicest views of Mount Rainier are mainly in two popular areas: Paradise and Sunrise .

These high-elevation locations are at or above the tree line. They’re home to expansive alpine meadows that offer spectacular, unobstructed Mount Rainier views.

Some views of Mount Rainier can be enjoyed from roadside pullouts, while others require a short walk. Additionally, there are also a number of amazing hiking trails at Mount Rainier that offer up-close views of The Mountain—sometimes so close it seems as if you could touch it.

Reflection Lakes, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State

About 3 miles east of Paradise on the Stevens Canyon Road, the Reflection Lakes offer the chance to—as their name suggest—see the reflection of Mount Rainier in the water.

For this to happen, though, it needs to be a clear day with calm weather. Dawn and dusk in summer and early-fall are the best times to see reflection views of Mount Rainier at this beautiful location.

You can simply park at one of the parking lots along the road and walk down to the water’s edge for gorgeous photo ops.

John Muir quote at Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

The Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise offers visitors general information, guided  ranger programs, exhibits, the park film, a book and gift shop, and a cafeteria. It also provides some of the best and most accessible views of Mount Rainier.

The visitor center is the starting point for hikes to popular places like Panorama Point, Myrtle Falls and around the glorious Paradise Meadows .

The iconic view from behind the visitor center takes in the famous steps with their John Muir quote inscription, while Mount Rainier dominates the backdrop. What a view!

Hiker on Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

One of the most beautiful and popular places in Mount Rainier National Park,  the Skyline Trail  is nothing short of breathtaking.

This 5.5-mile round-trip hike starts at the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, just behind the beautiful  historic Paradise Inn , one of the two accommodations at Mount Rainier , climbing 1,700 feet to well above the tree line.

In summer, this is one of the best areas to see wildflowers at Mount Rainier .

You’ll walk through gorgeous alpine meadows filled with all kinds of flowers, including Indian paintbrush, lupines and avalanche lilies.

In autumn at Mount Rainier , the oranges and reds of the area’s abundant berry bushes create a kaleidoscope of fall colors. Hiking the Skyline Trail is easily one of the greatest things to do at Mount Rainier in the fall . Additionally, this is also when wildlife is at its most active in the park. Watch for black bears !

Another major highlight on this hike is Panorama Point, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Cascade Range. The vista includes several other volcanoes, such as Mount Adams, St. Helens and even Mt. Hood all the way to the south.

As you loop around the upper Paradise area, you’ll hike below the south flank of Mount Rainier. You’ll get incredibly close to the mountain and the views of Mount Rainier are truly jaw-dropping here.

It takes about 4 hours to complete this phenomenal hike. It’s one of my absolute favorite day hikes in the national parks system.

Myrtle Falls, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

When you hike the Skyline Trail in a clockwise direction, you’ll save Myrtle Falls for a last reward. And what a treat it is!

A popular spot among photographers, Myrtle Falls in Paradise Park tumbles into a steep canyon on Edith Creek. It’s probably the most famous and photogenic of all waterfalls in Mount Rainier National Park .

What makes this Mount Rainier viewing location even more extraordinary, however, is the stunning background composed of glorious wildflower-filled meadows in summer and beautiful foliage in autumn. Massive Mount Rainier with its sprawling glaciers towers in the background.

Although technically a part of the Skyline Trail, you can also just walk to Myrtle Falls on a short, paved hiking trail from the Paradise Inn . If you don’t feel like doing a longer day hike like the Skyline Trail, the walk to Myrtle Falls is an amazing alternative.

View of Mount Rainier from Sunrise Point, Mount Rainier National Park

At the last switchback before the final stretch toward Sunrise, Mount Rainier’s highest vehicle-accessible point, Sunrise Point provides glorious views in all directions.

Sunrise Lake shimmers in the north, while the jagged peaks of the Cascades sweep to the east. When you look to the southwest, the enormous northeast flank of Mount Rainier blocks everything else, completing a phenomenal panorama typical of the Pacific Northwest .

There’s a large parking lot at this bend in the road, offering a stunning view of this magnificent mountain. It’s the grandest possible entrance to the beautiful Sunrise area.

Sourdough Ridge Trail with Mount Rainier views, Mount Rainier National Park

Running just above the popular Sunrise area, Sourdough Ridge offers jaw-dropping views of Mount Rainier. It’s one of my favorite hikes at Mount Rainier for subalpine wildflowers and up-close Rainier views.

The Sourdough Ridge Trail first crosses the meadows of Yakima Park and then climbs gently eastward to Dege Peak.

It’s a moderate hike—experienced hikers will say it’s easy—that offers awesome views of Mount Rainier almost the entire way. Toward the end, you’ll see other iconic Cascade mountains in the distance, including Mount Baker, Mount Adams and Glacier Peak.

As crazy busy as it is during the day, the area is surprisingly quiet and peaceful around sunset at Mount Rainier .

Dusk is also when the wild animals come out and sightings of Columbia black-tailed deer, Cascade red foxes and even  black bears  aren’t unusual.

Second Burroughs Mountain view and sun, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

For up-close views of mighty Mount Rainier, few trails are better than the Burroughs Mountain Trail . Starting at the Sunrise Visitor Center,  this strenuous trail  is one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier to do in late-summer or early-fall for two reasons.

One, the lower elevations and meadows boast beautiful fall colors in late-September and October. And two, the higher elevations—the most accessible tundra in the Cascade Range—are free of snow this time of year.

When hiked in a counterclockwise direction, the first part of this fantastic hike is along the Sourdough Ridge Trail. Once you arrive at Frozen Lake, follow the Burroughs Mountain Trail to the top of First Burroughs Mountain .

Although the views are pretty amazing there, I encourage you to continue to Second Burroughs Mountain summit, where Rainier is breathtakingly close.

Enjoy spectacular views of the gigantic Emmons Glacier , the largest glacier in the contiguous United States, and the White River.  Watch for mountain goats , which are quite common here. We saw a large group of them on a slope in the distance.

Make this a 6-mile circuit hike by taking the Sunrise Rim Trail back to the parking lot at Sunrise. On the way back, Mount Rainier views will accompany you on your right side, while beautiful meadows display vibrant summer wildflowers or fall colors all around.

View of Mount Rainier from Yakima Park at Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

There are several awesome and challenging hiking trails in Mount Rainier’s Sunrise area, but for those of you who just want a short and scenic stroll, I highly recommend the Sunrise Nature Trail .

This self-guided 1.5-mile nature trail loops through the alpine meadows behind the Sunrise Day Lodge, which are known as Yakima Park . It offers some of the best views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains beyond.

If you’re looking for a short and easy hike with clear Mount Rainier views, this trail is a fantastic option.

Tipsoo Lake and Mount Rainier in the fall, Washington State

One of my favorite places in Mount Rainier National Park is Tipsoo Lake . This small and almost-impossibly beautiful alpine lake is near the summit of  beautiful Chinook Pass  in the eastern part of the park.

This is another location where you can enjoy the Mount Rainier wildflowers in summer. The meadows and slopes around the water abound in colors in July and August.

In fall, on the other hand, abundant huckleberries paint the  landscape in beautiful reds and purples .

The view from Chinook Pass is quite possibly the greatest in the entire park—although that’s always up for discussion.

Still, it’s undeniable that the Mount Rainier views at Chinook Pass are sensational. Pretty Tipsoo Lake shimmers below, while mighty Mount Rainier rises in the background.

In addition to the epic Mount Rainier views above, there are a number of other spots that offer superb views of Rainier. Those include:

  • Mildred Point (hiking trail, between Longmire and Paradise)
  • Ricksecker Point (roadside overlook, between Longmire and Paradise)
  • Nisqually Vista (hiking trail, Paradise)
  • Pinnacle Saddle (hiking trail, Stevens Canyon Road)
  • Mount Fremont Lookout (hiking trail, Sunrise)
  • Tolmie Peak (hiking trail, Mowich Lake)

Map of the Best Views of Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park

  • 12 Best Views of the Teton Range
  • 5 Stunning Views of Crater Lake
  • 10 Jaw-Dropping Views in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
  • 20 Overlooks and Summits in Shenandoah National Park
  • All 16 Overlooks in Badlands National Park
  • 12 Incredible Views in Acadia National Park
  • 6 Scenic Views in Death Valley National Park
  • 10 Best Views in Zion National Park

Privacy Overview

  • Skip to primary navigation
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar
  • Skip to footer

TravelAwaits

Our mission is to serve the 50+ traveler who's ready to cross a few items off their bucket list.

5 Charming Towns Around Mount Rainier National Park Worth Visiting

mt rainier places to visit

  • Activities and Interests
  • Destinations
  • Mount Rainier
  • National Parks
  • United States
  • United States National Parks

Sitting in the imposing shadow of Mount Rainier National Park is a collection of darling small towns. Visitors are welcomed with their warm hospitality and idyllic beauty. These picturesque communities are a delightful respite from big cities and are a step back in time when life was simpler. 

Visitors can unwind in these peaceful retreats that make perfect bases to explore Mount Rainier National Park, with its towering peaks, old growth forests, and flowering alpine meadows. Sightseers are drawn to the old-fashioned main streets with their cozy cafés and local shops. Many have stunning vistas and views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains. Let’s embark on a visit to these peaceful havens that are the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, just 13 miles from Elbe

Step back in time to tiny Elbe , a micro-town with a full-time population of less than 50 people. Although small in size, it is big in history. For a unique lodging and dining experience, visit the Mount Rainier Railroad Dining Company and the Hobo Inn where guests can dine and sleep in historic train cars. Another must-see site is the “Little White Church” built in 1906 and also on the National Registry of Historic Places. Services are still held here from March to November.

Pro Tip: Elbe is located just 13 miles from the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Elbe has the only rest area before the park entrance, which opens back up during the summer months. So make sure to stop before heading to the park.

Dan Klennert’s Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park 

The gateway to Mount Rainier, Ashford is one of the least touristy towns outside of a National Park. Everything is so authentic from the food to the shops that carry local products and artwork. You’ll be challenged to find a kitschy souvenir made in China. Here are a few places you must stop at while in town.

Dan Klennert’s Recycled Spirits Of Iron Sculpture Park 

This unusual sculpture park is also known as Ex-Nihilo Sculpture Park . Ex-Nihilo translates as “something made from nothing.” The artwork is made completely of recycled materials which are repurposed into something magical. Just park your car and walk in. Entry is donation-based and you may not even see anyone while you are there. Stroll the grounds and look at what Dan Klennert’s imagination created.

The Wildberry Restaurant

There is a long and storied mountain-climbing history in Ashford. Who better to epitomize that than Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa, who holds the world speed record for the fastest climb up Mount Everest? He has also summited Mount Rainier 45 times. He and his wife, Fulamu, own the Wildberry Restaurant . Stop in for a visit and be regaled by Lhakpa’s exploits while enjoying traditional Himalayan food and American favorites lovingly prepared by Fulamu. It’s truly a unique experience and the food is really good!

Bald eagle on the Northwest Trek

3. Eatonville

If you want to learn more about Pacific Northwest wildlife, head to Eatonville to visit Northwest Trek . There are over 40 native species in the park. Plan to arrive early in the day when the animals are more active. For a special experience, book a photo tour, or if visiting in September or October, experience an Elk Bugling Tour. Looking for lavender and wine at one location? Stringtown Farms , a winery and lavender farm, comes to life in July when the lavender is in bloom. Enjoy tasting their unique Lavender Honey Wine and purchase lavender products at the gift shop. Eatonville has a variety of restaurants and shops worth a stop.

Wilkeson, Washington

4. Wilkeson

The tiny hamlet of Wilkeson’s commercial district consists of just one block, but in this block are some spunky businesses that make it worth the detour. Visit the following restaurants and coffee shop for refreshments, then take the historic Wilkeson Walking Tour .

Located in the heart of Wilkeson, Nomad PNW is a small, family-owned business that celebrates their Argentine heritage. Enjoy coffee roasted in house on a zero-emissions roaster. Nosh on freshly baked empanadas slathered with chimichurri sauce from an old family recipe that is so secret only the wife knows it. It is truly yummy.

Sisters Belinda and Venise are the brains behind this beloved Soda Shop . Enjoy not only ice cream and soda shop classics but craft cocktails infused with the sisters’ signature Simple Goodness Syrups. This is truly a farm-to-glass experience. Provisions are sourced locally. Check their event calendar for live music dates.

The Carlson Block

This rustic out-of-the-way pizza joint was named the best pizza in Washington by a Seattle Times food writer . It’s true that a picture paints 1,000 words. Their website is short on words but big on mouthwatering photos of their delectable wood-fired pizza with a house-made sauce and fresh mozzarella.

The Logging Legacy Memorial

5. Enumclaw

Located in the shadow of Mount Rainier, Enumclaw enjoys spectacular views of the iconic mountain throughout town. One of the most notable features of this charming town is the stunning surroundings. In addition to breathtaking mountain vistas, visitors will enjoy nearby old-growth forests and bucolic farmlands. The town is the perfect starting point for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, water sports, and wildlife sightings. Those enjoying a bit more culture are not left out. Enumclaw boasts a vibrant and walkable (due to closed streets) downtown area with art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and tasting rooms. Foodies will rejoice in the thriving food and drink scene with locally sourced ingredients from nearby farms. Don’t miss the following:

Chinook Scenic Byway

The Chinook Scenic Byway begins in Enumclaw and is a 92-mile drive to all the beautiful scenery the area has to offer. The first few stops are in Enumclaw, a plateau rich with agriculture and a logging history. Learn all about that history at the Logging Legacy Memorial, a great spot for an Instagram photo. Head out of town on the byway to visit Federation Forest State Park, Crystal Mountain Resort, Mount Rainier National Park with a detour to Sunrise, and so much more. Spend a whole day or just take short stops for a nice scenic drive.

Bucolic scenery surrounding Enumclaw

Cal Magnusson Trail

The drive to the Cal Magnusson Trailhead takes you through a bucolic rural wonderland with gorgeous fields and photogenic cows. This trail is not for the faint of heart as hikers climb 1,000 feet in a mile. The trail weaves through a thick forest and, just before the summit, there are basalt outcroppings formed by rapidly cooled lava tubes. Those that reach the summit of Pinnacle Peak are rewarded with beautiful views of the White River and Mount Rainier.

The Dusty Shelf

I must stop into the independent bookstore whenever I visit a new town. For those that love books, the Dusty Shelf does not disappoint. There is a great selection of new and used books as well as those by local authors. Make sure to try the Huckleberry lemonade at the coffee shop.

Bordeaux Wine Bar

Located in a house, the Bordeaux Wine Bar is a delight. Enjoy Pacific Northwest wines and beer in a unique vintage-inspired bar. A variety of wine flights are available and the beer selection is impressive for a winery. Covered outdoor seating with a bubbling fountain provides a great setting for sipping your beverage of choice. The menu offers a nice selection of paninis, sharables, and other light bites with something for everyone’s palate.

For a nice road trip, start in Enumclaw and take the Chinook Scenic Byway or start in Eatonville. These towns all connect in a nice loop except for Wilkeson, which is a short detour.

Image of Peggy Cleveland

She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her work can be found in Northwest Travel & Life Magazine , 253 Lifestyle Magazine , and other regional publications. She is the author of 100 Things to Do in Tacoma Before You Die , Reedy Press, and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). The name of her travel blog came about from her friends constantly asking her, "Peggy, Where Should I Go?"

mt rainier places to visit

11 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park + 11 Tips For Visiting

By: Author Robyn Robledo

Posted on Last updated: May 19, 2024

Mount Rainier is absolutely magical and the combination of meadows and mountains here are incomparable. Mt Rainier, one of the greatest US National Parks, is an amazing destination but can be challenging to squeeze everything due to the sheer size of the park. No matter how long you’re visiting, these 11 things to do are an essential part of any trip to Rainier National Park.

things to do mt rainier + tips for visiting

At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier dominates Washington’s landscape, boasting diverse ecosystems due to its unique weather patterns. Traveling from its south face, Paradise, to the north face, Sunrise, is a lengthy hour-and-a-half drive due to the mountain’s massive base.

With 26 glaciers and 36 square miles of snowfields, summer brings cascading rivers and waterfalls across the park’s 369 square miles. Lush subalpine meadows adorned with wildflowers and ancient moss-covered old-growth forests further enrich the landscape, some dating back 7,000 years.

Table of Contents

Orienting Yourself With Mount Rainier National Park

There are 5 main areas at Mount Rainier NP:

mt rainier places to visit

1 | Longmire (Southwest)

Nearest Park Entrance: Nisqually

Begin your historical exploration at the Longmire Museum, ideal for history enthusiasts. Grab a self-guided walking tour of the Longmire Historic District, delving into the area’s first settlement and the evolution of rustic architecture in national parks.

Longmire station in Mount Rainier

At Longmire, grab your kids’ junior ranger book from the museum, where the National Park Inn offers year-round lodging and a seasonal eatery.

2 | Paradise (South)

Nearest Park Entrance: Located equal distance from the Stevens Canyon entrance and the Nisqually entrance

This is named Paradise for a reason. The views and hikes are incredible from here and as I mention below in the Tips for Visiting Mount Rainier section, this is where the best hikes are but it’s also really popular and crowded so getting here early or in the shoulder season can make your experience much better.

Skyline Trail, Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center is a good place to stop in if you need any beta on trail conditions, want to get a junior ranger book for the kids, join a ranger talk or guided hike, or just need (slow wifi).

There’s also a gift shop and a cafeteria style restaurant with overpriced, low quality food. Honestly, I was so glad I had my Kuju Single Serve Pour Overs with me so I could just pay 25 cents for hot water and still have an amazing cup of Joe. I never road trip without a case of Kuju’s!

If you are looking for lodging, I can’t think of a better way to experience the beauty and raw nature surrounding Mount Rainier than by staying at Paradise Inn . Staying here will allow you to not deal with the parking issues and you’ll get to take in the views of Mount Rainier without the crowds. Plus, last time we were there, Mount Rainier only showed itself at dusk and dawn.

Hiking Paradise Mount Rainier NP, Things to do Rainier

3 | Ohanapecosh (Southeast)

Nearest Park Entrance: Stevens Canyon

On the south east side of Mount Rainier National Park you’ll find the Grove of Patriarchs and Ohanapecosh Campground. This area is home to thousand-year-old Douglas fir and western red cedar trees as well as the perfectly camoflouged Northern Spotted Owl.

Camping Mt Rainier, view

Don’t forget to stop and check out the dramatic viewpoints from Box Canyon. The trailhead/picnic area is located along the highway between Ohanapecosh and Paradise.

4 | Sunrise (Northeast)

Nearest Park Entrance: White River

If you love wildflowers, sub-alpine terrain, panoramic views, and sharp jagged peaks, then you have to make trip out to Sunrise. At 6400 feet, it’s the highest paved highway in Washington.

Mt Fremont Overlook, Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

There are many trails for all levels of adventurers, a visitor center, ranger programs, a day lodge (no overnight accommodations here), and White River campground is close by.

5 | Carbon River/Mowich Lake (Northwest)

Nearest Park Entrance: No entrance here

This Rainier side, averaging 90 inches of rain yearly, boasts abundant biomass akin to tropical rainforests. Regretfully, we didn’t explore much due to its remoteness, yet its serene ambiance and lush rainforest are appealing. Despite great hikes and a MTB trail, limited accommodations exist with walk-in campgrounds or backcountry camping requiring permits.

11 Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park offers 97% of pristine wilderness for adventure and solitude, but limited infrastructure means crowds are common. These 11 activities will maximize your experience amid the park’s beauty.

1 | Capture a Picture of Mount Rainier

There are so many great photo ops while driving through Mount Rainier National Park as well as when you are hiking.

Hiking Pinnacle Peak Mount Rainier NP, Things to do Rainier

At the Nisqually entrance, the Kautz Creek Picnic Area offers initial mountain views, but don’t fret if it’s shy—more chances await near Paradise and further along the drive toward Ohanapecosh.

Mount Rainier, Kautz Creek Picnic Area

2 | Stroll through an Old Growth Forest

Mount Rainier NP is home to trees that have been there for over 1,000 years. Think about how crazy that is! On the Longmire side check out Trail of the Cedars, or on the Ohanapecosh side check out Grove of the Patriarchs.

Trail of the Cedars near Longmire

3 | Have a Picnic

What this national park lacks in parking near its visitor centers, it makes up for in epic picnic areas. Plus, the food at the lodges and visitor centers is pretty crappy if you ask me (but then again, I’m a health nut) and it is way overpriced so do yourself a favor and stock up on some great artisan food in Seattle and bring it with you into the park.

Picnic at Mount Rainier, Things to do in Mount Rainier

All the visitor centers have picnic areas or you can find picnic tables at Mowich Lake, near Cougar Rock or White River campgrounds, near Box Canyon, and at Kautz Creek.

4 | Stay Overnight in the Park

The only thing better than visiting a national park is staying in one overnight. The crowds during the day can be intense, but from dusk to dawn, the park becomes a magical place.

Sunset on Mount Rainier, Things to do in Mount Rainier

If finding accommodations or campgrounds in the park proves challenging, grab headlamps and your other 9 essentials and go for a pre-dawn or post-sunset hike.

5 | Find a Waterfall

Rainier NP is home to numerous gorgeous waterfalls and many of them require little or no hiking to get to.

Narada Falls in Mount Rainier National Park

  • Christine Falls: A beautiful roadside waterfall beneath the stone arch of the road bridge. Parking may be difficult here for RVs
  • Narada Falls (Left photo): This requires a short steep walk from to take in the view, but it’s from a huge parking lot with a picnic area, making it a little easier if you are traveling with an RV.
  • Carter + Madcap Falls: This is a pretty easy 1 mile hike (one-way) that starts just across the street from Cougar Rock campground.
  • Myrtle Falls (Right photo): A very short half mile stroll from the Paradise Visitor Center on a paved trail.
  • Comet Falls: This 4 mile roundtrip hike starts along the road between Longmire and Paradise. Parking space is limited and often full. 
  • Spray Falls: A two mile hike from Mowich Lake on the Spray Park Trail takes you to the spur trail to Spray Falls. After taking in the falls, head back to the main trail and climb up to the gorgeous subalpine meadows of Spray Park.
  • There are many more waterfalls if you choose to do some backcountry camping.

6 | Learn Something From a Ranger

The ranger programs and guided ranger talks are a great way to learn more intimate details about the park. Our family always looks forward to the evening ranger programs and the younger kids get excited to earn their Junior Ranger badge every time we visit a national park. Click here to see a schedule of ranger programs at Mt Rainier.

7 | Do a Citizen Quest

Who says you have to be under 12 to act like a kid? Like the Junior Ranger booklets for kids 6-11, the Citizen Quest program allows adults and older kids to learn about the national park’s history and science and promote stewardship. Stop by the visitor center to get more info or you can go online here and get started on a quest before you arrive.

8 | Escape the Crowds

There’s no denying that Mount Rainier National Park is CROWDED but if you just hike a little further, the crowds disappear.

Snow Lakes Trail, Mount Rainier NP, Hiking

Related : Guide to Hiking Mount Rainier

You really do need to hike Skyline to Panorama Point and it’s almost always crowded, but if you make time to do Lakes Trail or one of my favorites, Pinnacle Peak, you’ll get rad views and some solitude along the way.

FREE Fit To Hike Training Program

Grab our free workout plan that will help you get in shape for hiking and keep you injury-free. This complete program includes prehab, stretching, myofascial release, strength training, and cardio from trainers with over 25 years of experience in the fitness industry.

Plus get these bonuses:

👉  Our TOP 3 Favorite (& affordable) Hiking Supplements

👉  Our Favorite Hiking Gear that is durable & lasts

👉  Our popular TRAIL COOKIE RECIPE. Forget expensive bars, these are what we hike with instead.

We promise to never sell your info or send you spam. You can unsubscribe anytime. For more details, review our Privacy Policy .

Your free workout is on the way! We’re excited to help you reach new peaks and feel better on the trail. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need more help reaching your health and fitness goals.

~Victor + Robyn

P.S. Be sure to check your spam folder because sometimes the bots think our email is spam.

9 | Chill Out

Take time to unwind at Mount Rainier and appreciate its 97% undeveloped, raw wilderness. Embrace disconnecting from the usual pace of life; find solace among the trees with a hammock and a book, reconnecting with yourself in this awe-inspiring setting.

10 | View Wildflowers

The subalpine meadows surrounding Paradise and Sunrise have the most gorgeous display of wildflowers but only for a short period of time in the mid to late summer. You can check here to see the current wildflower report.

Wildflowers in Mount Rainier NP, Things to do

11 | Explore the Wonderland Trail or Backcountry Camping

The Wonderland trial is a 93 mile trail that encircles Mount Rainier. It’s a very popular and strenuous backpacking route that requires obtaining a wilderness permit for way in advance. However, there are many places throughout the park where you can access the trail and spend the day hiking parts of this famous route.

Click here to see a map of the Wonderland trail and more info on exploring the backcountry.

Hiking in Sunrise Mount Rainier NP

11 Tips for Visiting Mount Rainier National Park

While both Paradise and Sunrise are must-visit areas due to their unique fauna near the peak, if time permits only one, choose Sunrise for its charming alpine tundra. If limited to Paradise, keep these tips in mind and enjoy your visit!

1| Avoid Weekends

Summer parking at popular spots like Paradise, Sunrise, and Grove of the Patriarchs can be chaotic without shuttle buses, unlike parks like Zion and Glacier. Opting for a weekday visit alleviates the crowds, making parking and hiking more serene.

Skyline Trail, Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

2 | Get to Paradise (or Sunrise) Early

It’s about 20 miles, which could take an hour with traffic, to go from either of the Mount Rainier National Park Entrances to Paradise. Your mission is to get to Paradise (or Sunrise) as early as possible to get one of the few parking spots. On weekends, the parking lot is easily full by 9 am and there aren’t many other parking options nearby.  

Sunset on Mount Rainier, Tips for visiting Mount Rainier

3 | Don’t Stop on the Way In

From both the west and the east entrance towards Paradise there are a few quaint areas you can explore like Trail of the Patriarchs, Box Canyon, and Longmire, but I recommend you skip them unless you have multiple days to explore Mount Rainier area. The hikes at Paradise and Sunrise are amazing and you don’t want to risk not getting a parking spot here. Prioritize Paradise/Sunrise first, then backtrack to those others spots if you have time.  

4 | RV Parking in Mount Rainier Sucks

Most national parks are set up great for RVs but not Mount Rainier. We drive a 30 foot class C and it’s tight getting around the park in general and finding parking, especially at Paradise, was hard. It’s doable, but you really have to plan well in order to make the RV experience enjoyable.

Sunrise parking lot allows you to park overnight but if you do, plan your escape route when you park. I arrived here late at night and parked in the dirt parking area that had tons of space around it. We set off hiking early and when I came back, I had been blocked in by cars parking behind me. Next time I’d have parked at the far east side of the dirt parking area. 

Meadows of Mount Rainier, Tips for visiting Mount Rainier

5 | Make It A Road Trip

Some national parks like Glacier and Zion are easy to navigate by reserving a campsite or lodge as a home base and exploring from it. Mount Rainier isn’t set up as well for that. There isn’t a shuttle system here like those other national parks have and so making it a road trip like I put in the itinerary at the end of this blog is a much better way to visit Mount Rainier National Park.  

6 | Watch The Free Film At The Visitor Center

I’m amazed at how many people go to the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise and don’t watch the 15 minute movie about Mount Rainier National Park. I really enjoyed how much I learned about the park and its ecosystems and its a good way to relax after hiking the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point.

7 | Check The Weather

One of the main reasons you’ll want to visit Mount Rainier is to actually see its namesake. This active volcano is over 14,000 feet tall and covered in glaciers year round. Views of its entirety really do take your breath away so I encourage you to try to time your trip with some clear skies.  

Mt Fremont Overlook Mount Rainier, Tips for visiting Mount Rainier

8 | Stay Late

Early morning and close to sunset seem to be the best times to catch epic views of Mount Rainier. Most of the day when we were there, Mount Rainier seems to be covered by a layer of clouds, but every time I’ve been there, the clouds have completely cleared by dusk. When we slept overnight at Sunrise, the mountain was fully visible at dawn but by 8 am it was again covered in clouds.

Related : Camping in Mount Rainier NP

9 | Do The Harder Hikes

Don’t you dare come to visit Mount Rainier and try to skip out on hiking. There are many great hikes from Paradise but if you only have time for one hike at Mount Rainier, my vote goes to Pinnacle Peak which starts just 5 minutes away from Paradise.

Hiking Pinnacle Peak Mount Rainier NP

You park at Reflection Lake (RVs will want to park on the dirt shoulder on the west side of the parking area). It’s a stout 1.3 miles to the viewpoint and you can choose to extend this trail further.

10 | Stay At The Paradise Lodge

I can’t imagine a more awesome way to experience Mount Rainier, except maybe from a backcountry tent, then by spending a few days at the Paradise Inn Lodge .

Staying here gives you front and center views of Mount Rainier and lets you take in those views during the magical hours of sunrise and sunset, without the need of a sleeping bag, sleep pad, and tent.  

Paradise Inn Mount Rainier, Where to stay

Search for Other Accommodation

11 | don’t skip sunrise.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Sunrise is on the north side of Mount Rainier and is a gorgeous sub-alpine ecosystem comparable to some of the epic scenery in the Swiss Alps. I skipped it on my first visit and when I finally saw it on my second visit I was bummed that I didn’t know to go here the first go around.

Sunrise Visitor Center things to do in Rainier

There are many great hiking trails over here like Glacier Basin, Burrough Mountains, Berkeley Park, and Mt Fremont Lookout. If you aren’t up for a hard hike, you have to at least hike up the first 0.3 mile of the trailhead to Sourdough Ridge. It will take you to a gorgeous overlook that absolutely can’t be skipped. There are SO many trails here it’s too bad there isn’t a lodge to stay at.

Hope this helped you plan an incredible trip to Mount Rainier National Park! It is one of our country’s greatest destinations! If you’re headed to Rainier be sure to check out our related Mount Rainier content:

  • Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
  • Camping in Mount Rainier National Park
  • Road Trip Pack List
  • Washington State National Park Itinerary
  • Best Campgrounds in Washington
  • Best Hikes in the Pacific Northwest
  • How to Road Trip on a Budget

Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!

Share this or Pin it!

mt rainier places to visit

Hey! We're glad you found us! You may want to also join us on Instagram and follow our travels. .

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Friday 17th of June 2022

Hi. Thank you for all the information. We are headed to Mt. Rainer in a 31 foot Motorhome in July. I would really like to go to sunrise, but everything I keep reading says it is unsafe for vehicles pulling a trailer over 25 feet, but unmodified motorhomes are okay. I know that means that our RV can handle the road, but it makes me nervous if a 25 foot trailer cannot. Do you have any input on the subject? I see you have a 30 foot motorhome that you took up to sunrise. Did you have any issues?

Saturday 18th of June 2022

I don't remember it being too difficult of a drive in our 30 foot motorhome. It is windy but doable. I do remember that i got there early and when we finished the hike it was hard to get out of the parking lot because there are so many people. I'd recommend driving up early and leaving late if possible.

  • WORK WITH US

Photo Presets

The Mandagies

Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

20 Incredible Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

Because of its stunning views of the Pacific Northwest , tons of epic outdoor adventure opportunities, and being one of two “14ers” in the state of Washington (the other being its sub-peak, Liberty Cap), Mount Rainier National Park is a special place for many Washingtonians and visitors alike.

Berty and I call Washington home , and we are so lucky to have this park just a few hours drive from home!

If you’re creating a complete Mount Rainier itinerary , keep reading to learn all about the best things to do in Mount Rainier National Park!

Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

The Best Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Mount rainier entrances, mount rainier packing list, closest airport – directions to mount rainier.

  • Mount Rainier Campgrounds 

Is Mount Rainier National Park Dog-Friendly?

What are some of your favorite things to do in mount rainier national park tell us in the comments, things to know before you go, history of mount rainier national park.

Originally Indigenous land, Mount Rainier has gone by many names–primarily “Tahoma”, “Takhoma”, and “Ta-co-bet,” some of which translate to ‘mother of all waters.”

It’s important to note that Mount Rainier National Park has been the ancestral homeland of the Cowlitz , Muckleshoot , Nisqually , Puyallup , Squaxin Island , Yakima, and Coast Salish people, since time immemorial. We honor each of these nation’s traditions of this land.

After the arrival of explorers and settlers in the Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier National Park was established as a national park in 1899 and became the nation’s fifth national park!

Today, scientists, researchers, explorers, hikers, tourists, and outdoor adventurers enjoy this little corner of the Pacific Northwest.

There are 4 entrances to the park: Carbon River Entrance , White River Entrance (Sunrise), Nisqually Entrance (which includes Paradise and Longmire) and Stevens Canyon Entrance (Ohanapecosh).

Paradise and Sunrise are the most popular sections of the park. These areas host some of the most popular hikes in Mount Rainier, like the Skyline Trail and Naches Peak Loop Trail.

Longmire is the historic area of the park, Ohanapecosh is the ancient forest area of Rainier (no views but lots of big trees!). Carbon River is the quietest area of the park, with

Mount Rainier Entrance Fees

Mount Rainier Entrance Fees

Because it’s a national park, there are entrance fees to get into Mount Rainier National Park.

If you don’t have an American the Beautiful Pass ($80) , you can purchase an entrance fee into Mount Rainier National Park for a single car ($30), per person/walk-up/bicycle ($15 per person), or motorcycle ($25).

Heads up: US citizens with permanent disabilities may receive a free Access Pass into US national parks by a pplication with documentation of permanent disability and citizenship (can order online or get at a providing location ).

The regular entrance fee grants unlimited access into Mount Rainier National Park for seven consecutive days!

You can pay the entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park online at Recrea tion.gov (printed pass required for entry, then leave on the dashboard of your car) or any of the main entrances to the park.

Bummed about the price? The good news is that there are fee-free days! These are: January 16: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. April 22: First day of National Park Week August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act  September 23: National Public Lands Day November 11: Veterans Day

When camping in Mount Rainier National Park , camping fees are also paid when you enter the park for $20 per site, nightly and $60 for large groups, 25-40 people.

Cell Service

There is varied cell coverage throughout Mount Rainier National Park, depending on what cell service you use.

There are many places in the park where cell coverage is available, but much of the park has limited service, so don’t count on it!

Because of this, it’s important to be prepared for all kinds of situations that may occur while being out of reach of others and bring a radio or map for extra assurance.

For more information about cell service and free hotspots in Mount Rainier National Park, check out this guide .

Mount Rainier Packing List

During your Mount Rainier day trip, it’s important to pack the right gear and be prepared for all kinds of weather and situations that may happen while in the mountains.

Here are some of our top suggestions for what to pack when spending one day in Mt. Rainier National Park:

Bugspray: Rule of thumb: If the bear grass is out, the bugs are out! It’s vitally important that you pack bug spray. The mosquitos can be savage in the summer season. Sunscreen: It’s important to bring sunscreen because of the higher elevation and reflective snow. Remember–you can still get sunburnt on a cloudy day, especially when the UV index is high! Sunglasses: On sunny days, sunglasses are essential for making the entire day enjoyable. Layers: Bring lots of layers . You can never quite know what you’re gonna get. We suggest wearing a breathable base layer, sweater, and an insulating jacket, so you can take off or put on layers throughout the day. Map: Paper or digital! There are lots of trail systems within the park and stops in Mount Rainier National Park that you won’t want to miss! Tip: use the NPS app to navigate US national parks! Water: While there are spots in the park to refill your water, always bring enough water for a full day trip. The general rule of thumb is to bring 0.5 liters for every one hour of hiking. Snacks: Don’t forget snacks ! Some of our favorite (and unique!) trail/day trip snacks include trail mix, protein bars, fresh fruits and veggies, homemade energy balls, and charcuterie boards. Fanny Pack: Try a fanny pack for ease of use! There are tons of designs and options out there, so here’s our guide to the best fanny packs for hiking, style, outdoor adventures, and general use . Hiking Boots: While in the Pacific Northwest, hiking boots are essential. Check out our suggestions of the best hiking boots for hitting PNW trails here ! Camera: To capture all your favorite moments while in Mount Rainier National Park, don’t forget your film camera , Paper Shoot (an extremely portable camera!) instant camera , or smartphone !

Getting Around Mount Rainier National Park

How To Get Around Mount Rainier National Park

Getting around Mount Rainier National Park is fairly easy and straightforward. However, you’ll want to make sure you have a full tank of gas before entering the park. There are no gas stations within the park borders of Mount Rainier National Park!

If you are coming during shoulder season, make sure to check up on road conditions before you leave. They can change really quickly, but the website is also very good about updating quickly. Even quicker, check their Twitter account for very quick updates !

Because of the bottleneck entrances, the park can get extremely full during busy seasons. Parking lots commonly overflow by 8am, and it’s not uncommon to wait in line for 1-2 hours to get in.

If you want to avoid crowds, try coming before 8am . It’s not always possible to find a quiet spot in the park during summer, but there are ways to mitigate the crowding!

Hot Tip: Come before sunrise! The park has some of the most scenic road trip routes in Washington , and getting in before the sunrise guarantees less crowds and lots of time for pictures!

The closest airport to Mount Rainier National Park is the Sea-Tac Airport , which is just 1 hour and 35-minute drive from the Nisqually entrance into the park. That makes it one of the coolest and convenient day trips from Seattle !

From the airport, you can rent a car and drive on your own or book a transfer service from the Sea-Tac Airport to Mount Rainier National Park through Shuttle Express (this is a great option for large groups!).

You could also meet up with an organized, group day-trip tour of Mount Rainier National Park that starts in Seattle and picks up passengers at designated locations throughout the city ($174 per person).

mt rainier places to visit

The Best Time To Visit Mount Rainier

If you want to check out the hiking trails, you have just a few short months to do so! The park is generally snow-free between mid-July and mid-October . These are the best times to check those epic Washington hiking trails off your bucket list!

If you are planning to come to see wildflowers , it’s best to come later- July to August . This is when the blooms are at their best!

In the winter is when you can enjoy some of the best snowshoeing and winter hikes in Washington . Snow can really affect entry to the park, though. Make sure to follow the park on Twitter, they are really good about letting you know the road conditions!

Read More: 22 Fun Facts About Mount Rainier National Park

Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

Nisqually Vista Loop Sign at Mount Rainier National Park

1. Wander The Easy Nisqually Vista Loop

The Nisqually Vista Loop in Mount Rainier National Park is one of the easiest trails in the area (1.1 miles with 200 feet elevation gain) that also has stunning views of the mountain and PNW!

While on this hike, you’ll get epic views of Mount Rainier’s Nisqually River valley and the Nisqually Glacier .

You can find the trailhead for the Nisqually Vista Loop at the lower parking lot of Mount Rainier’s Paradise Area . You’ll find a sign for the trailhead at the western end of the parking lot.

2. Capture the Sunrise at Reflection Lakes

One of the most popular things to do in Mount Rainier National Park (especially for photographers) is to capture the sunrise on Reflection Lakes .

When open during the summer seasons (June-September), Reflection Lakes offers visitors with stunning views of Mount Rainier reflecting off of the water and the surrounding delicate, subalpine meadows.

If you want to combine seeing the Reflection Lakes with a hike, try the 2.5-mile Pinnacle Peak Trail or the longer, 93-mile Wonderland Trail (permits required!)!

3. Explore the White River (Sunrise) Area

Mount Rainier National Park can get pretty busy in its peak season, so if you’re looking to escape the crowd, check out White River (Sunrise) Area for a quieter place in the park that still gets beautiful views of the mountain.

In the White River (Sunrise) Area , the Glacier Basin Trail (moderate, 6.5 miles with 1,600 feet elevation gain), or the Emmons Moraine Trail (moderate, 4.1 miles with 431 feet elevation gain) are well-known hikes that wind through the unique landscape around Mount Rainier.

From both of these hikes, you can expect to get epic views of Mount Rainier’s many glaciers, river valleys, lakes, and wildlife!

4. Hike To Mt. Fremont Lookout Tower

The Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail is easily one of the most iconic hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.

For frozen lake views in the winter and spring, sightings of mountain goats, and stunning views of Mount Rainier National Park, hike the 5.6-mile round trip trek with 1,200 feet elevation gain on the Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail!

There is very little shade on the Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail, so come prepared!

The Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail is also very popular, especially on the weekends , so plan to hike during the week if you’re hoping for more solitude while in Mount Rainier National Park.

Sunrise Area of Mount Rainier National Park

5. Wake up for Sunrise…at Sunrise!

The early bird catches the worm!

For an epic day in Mount Rainier National Park, wake up early and drive up to the Sunrise Are a on the mountain for a sunrise like no other!

What makes this location unique on Mount Rainier is that it’s the first spot that lights up as the sun rises , being on the east side of the park.

This is the highest elevation point that you can reach with your car (6,400 feet), and it’s definitely worth the early morning.

Mount Rainier National Park Hikes - Skyline Divide

6. Take The Skyline Trail Hike

Another famous Mount Rainier hike is the Skyline Trail –a 5.5-mile round trip trek with 1,700 feet elevation gain!

While on the Skyline Trail, you’ll first climb around 2 miles to reach Panorama Point (where there’s a toilet!), hike along the High Skyline Trail to avoid dangerous, icy slopes, connect back with the Skyline Trail and continue on for a few miles to descend into the Paradise Valley, then make it back to Paradise.

If you happen to be hiking the Skyline Trail on a clear day, you can see as far south as Mount Hood in Oregon !

The Skyline Trail is found near the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. 

Read More: 22 Adventurous Weekend Trips from Portland, Oregon

7. Find Mount Rainier Waterfalls

Due to ideal mountain conditions, Mount Rainier National Park hosts some of the best Washington waterfalls that you can see for yourself!

We suggest visiting Myrtle Falls , Narada Falls (the tallest waterfall on Mount Rainier at 188 feet!), and Comet and Christine Falls in the Longmire area (the most easily accessible waterfall in the park)–all of which are in the Paradise Area.

Sunbeam Falls is another epic waterfall near the Reflection Lakes , and it’s not very well known, making it the perfect place to stop for a moment while driving around the busy park.  To find Sunbeam Falls in Mount Rainier National Park, drive along Stevens Canyon Road between Paradise and the southeastern entrance of the park. Sunbeam Falls is located near the Bench Lake Trailhead (above Louise Lake) and can be seen from the road. Just look out for the “Sunbeam Creek” sign and you’re near this stunning waterfall!

8. Have a Picnic at Tipsoo Lake

One of the simplest ways to enjoy the Pacific Northwest scenery in Mount Rainier National Park is by having a picnic!

Tipsoo Lake is the perfect mid-day stop while in the park, as it’s located between the Paradise and Sunrise area of the park .

At Tipsoo Lake, you can hike the short loop around the lake, discover the wonders of the lake with the kids (Tipsoo Lake is one of the best places to spot tadpoles and frogs in the park!), or use it as a starting point for the famous Naches Peak Loop Trail (3.4 miles).

Longmire Area of Mount Rainier National Park

9. Learn About History at Longmire

For those who want to learn more about the history of Mount Rainier National Park, grab a souvenir to commemorate your trip, or have a mid-day picnic, check out the Longmire Museum!

The Longmire Museum is usually open daily, year-round , and the nearby Wilderness Information Center , where you can get wilderness permits and hiking/backpacking information, is open daily from late May-early October.

After learning about the park at the Longmire Museum, hike the Trail of the Shadows (easy, 0.7 miles), which ends at a rock-ringed thermal pool called Soda Springs!

Because it’s lower in elevation, the area around the Longmire Museum and Trail of the Shadows is dense with western hemlock, douglas fir, ferns, moss, and other PNW foliage.

Read More: The 12 Best Ways To Volunteer in Washington (Outdoor Edition)

Mount Rainier National Park Wildflowers

10. See The Wildflowers During Peak Season

One of the simplest ways you can enjoy Mount Rainier National Park is by visiting when the wildflowers are in their peak season!

The best time to see wildflowers in Mount Rainier is late July to August . Some of the best places in the park to see them are at Chinook Pass and Tipsoo Lake .

Here, you’ll see Alpine Aster, Bleeding Heart, Cascade Azalea, Beargrass, Bellflower, Bog Orchid, and more!

Warning: Do NOT STEP on the flowers–stay on path! The wildflowers in this area are extremely fragile and it’s important to protect them by staying on the trail.

11. Hike the Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is one of those bucket list through-hikes that’s practically on every dirt-baggers bucket list . This makes it one of the best things to do in Mount Rainier National Park!

The Wonderland Trail is 93 miles long, circles the entire mountain peak, and usually takes 5-10 days to complete .

Planning your hike on the Wonderland Trail is incredibly time consuming and tedious (but worth it!). You’ll need to present your finished plan to obtain a wilderness permit for the trip.

Paradise Area of Mount Rainier National Park

12. Spend Your Morning in Paradise

We mean that both figuratively and literally!

One of the most popular sections of the park is the Paradise Area , and for good reason!

Within the Paradise Area of Mount Rainier National Park, your guaranteed to see lots of wildflowers, enjoy incredible views of the Tatoosh Range , and hike some of the best trails in the Pacific Northwest!

We suggest hiking the Skyline Trail Loop (moderate, 5.5 miles with 1,450 feet elevation gain) or the Alta Vista Trail (easy, 1.5 miles with 560 feet elevation gain). They have the ultimate views of Mount Rainier and the awe-inspiring scenery surrounding the epic 14er.

13. Wander The Grove of the Patriarchs

The Grove of the Patriarchs is an easy hike in Mount Rainier National Park. It boasts a wonderland of old growth trees, some of which are centuries old!

Exploring the Grove of the Patriarchs is the perfect activity for small children and families . This is because it’s an easy hike and there is no elevation gain.

The most common trees you’ll see in the Grove of the Patriarchs include red cedars, western hemlocks, and Douglas firs. Some of these trees are over 1,000 years old!

Note: The bridge in the Grove of the Patriarchs is currently being repaired – click here for updates .

14. Capture Pictures on the Sourdough Ridge Trail

One of the best views in Mount Rainier National Park is on the Sourdough Ridge Trail near Paradise Inn, Washington.

There are three great ways to experience this area of Mount Rainier: on the Sourdough Ridge Trail (easy/moderate, 2.5 miles), Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge Trail (easy, 2.9 miles), or the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail via Sourdough Ridge Trail (moderate, 5.7 miles).

The Sourdough Ridge Trail is a great way to get a lot of stunning views of the area while being very accessible for families or those who want to try something less challenging or intense.

Whether you’ve got an iPhone , film camera , or instant camera , you’ll surely get epic pictures of the PNW while on this hike.

15. Venture out to Pinnacle Peak Trail

Situated in the middle of the Tatoosh Range, the Pinnacle Peak Trail is a fun hike that will give you epic views of Mount Rainier National Park from an elevation of 6,562 feet (the third highest peak in the range!).

The Pinnacle Peak Trail is short, at 2.5 miles, but it’s a very steep trail, with 1,050 feet of elevation gain. Don’t let this scare you though–the views are so worth it!

While hiking on the PInnacle Peak Trail, you’ll see lots of lupine, marmots, and pikas.

Wildlife at Mount Rainier National PArk

16. Spot Wildlife In The Park

While in the park, be on the lookout for PNW wildlife that call this area home!

Marmots and pikas are some of the most common critters you’ll see in Mount Rainier National Park. However, it’s not uncommon to see deer, mountain goats, elk, fox, coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion.

Birding is another popular activity for visitors at Mount Rainier. It’s likely that you’ll see birds of prey , finches, hummingbirds, bluebirds, and more !

While watching wildlife in the park, be sure to leave them be and not interact with them for both your safety and theirs.

17. Hike To Tolmie Peak Lookout

Hike a moderate 7.5 miles with 1,100 elevation gain to the Tolmie Peak Lookout in Mount Rainier National Park for absolutely epic views of the park!

While hiking to the Tolmie Peak Lookout, you’ll pass through the gorgeous Mowich/Carbon River Area , which includes old growth forests and rainforest vibes. It’s the perfect place to try out forest bathing !

Note: Mosquitos are savage here! Come with bug spray , cover your arms , and consider a hat net to keep them away.

18. Enjoy the Historic Paradise Inn

Built in 1916, the Paradis e Inn is a lodge in Mount Rainier National Park with a rich history.

The Paradise Inn truly feels like paradise! It’s situated at an elevation of 5,420 feet, featuring historic architecture, boasting views of the surrounding meadows, and an opportunity to get away from the business of life (no internet for ultimate unplugging).

See it for yourself and stay at the Paradise Inn , starting at $272 per night.

19. Go Stargazing at Night

Mount Rainier National Park is the perfect place for stargazing at night. This is because it’s so secluded from the bustling west side of Washington!

The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park for stargazing is during the Perseid Meteor Shower, which happens annually between July 17th and August 24th . The peak time to see the Perseids Meteor Shower is August 9-13!

Another epic place to see the Milky Way in Mount Rainier National Park is at the Sunrise Area.

Interested in capturing the night sky? Join National Parks After Dark–a photography group that focuses on nighttime photography of the national parks. You can also attend the park’s Night Sky Programs in the Paradise area that happen annually, August and beyond, and are great for kids and families!

20. Summit Mount Rainier

Now, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Su mmiting Mount Rainier takes a lot of training, planning, and execution!

For those up for the challenge of climbing more than 9,000 feet (via any route) to reach the summit of Mount Rainier, check out the guide services in the area or learn all about climbing it on your own here .

The top climbing guide services at Mount Rainier include Alpine Ascents International , International Mountain Guides, LLC , or Rainier Mountaineering Inc .

While the climb up Mount Rainier is difficult, it’s a big accomplishment, and on many PNW native’s bucket lists!

Where to Stay in Mount Rainier National Park

There are four campsites and four inns located WITHIN Mount Rainier National Park . They book out FAST, so if you know you’re camping dates, reserve your sites ASAP.

Mount Rainier Inns:

The N ational Park Inn in Longmore is a great option for those looking to explore the park and stay close–and it’s open year-round! Rates at the National Park Inn start at $270 per night.

If you’re looking for top-notch views, check out the Paradise Inn in Paradise! Rates at the Paradise Inn start at $272 per night. It can also be one of the most romantic getaways in Washington – especially for outdoorsy couples!

Mount Rainier Campgrounds 

Cougar Rock, Mowich Lake, White River, and Ohanapecosh are all available for reservations each year and great places to stay for families or those who are looking for a cheaper option!

Rates at these national park campgrounds start at $20 per night!

Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier FAQs

What is mount rainier’s indigenous name.

There are many indigenous names that have been given to Mount Rainier by Native Americans. These include “Tahoma”, “Takhoma”, and “Ta-co-bet,” some of which translate to ‘mother of all waters.”

It became colloquially known as Mount Rainier in 1792 when Captain George Vancouver renamed the peak after his friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.

In 2021, the Puyallup Tribe launched an effort to rename Mount Rainier back to its original name, Mount Tacoma, or Mount Tahoma.

In Twulshootseed–one of the Native languages of the Puyallup Tribe–the mountain is called təqʷuʔməʔ and is pronounced “Taquoma.”

Is Mount Rainier Dangerous?

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park is not generally considered dangerous on day-to-day terms. However, intense mountain weather, volcanic activity, and risky behavior can make the park hazardous to visitors.

Because the mountain is an active volcano , Mount Rainier is technically considered the most dangerous mountain in the Cascades, due to the potential for eruption and risk of major debris flows. Because of this, there are hazards involved with visiting this area.

The good news is that Mount Rainier is very heavily monitored for all kinds of seismic and volcanic activity. It can still be safely enjoyed by visitors. You can check out all kinds of volcanic features and geologic formations throughout the park that are unique to this volcano!

Mount Rainier itself is considered a difficult climb . It can be dangerous when done without the proper gear, knowledge, or guides. The presence of glaciers and large banks of snow also make this trek dangerous without glacier, mountaineering, and avalanche safety training.

Overall, the National Park Service ensures the safety of visitors in many ways. For example: they close certain parts of the park when it’s considered dangerous to visit. However, it’s always important to look after yourself and take the proper precautions when visiting the backcountry–especially during winter in Washington !

Want to get spooked for real? Discover the most haunted places in Washington , and dare trek some of the most haunted hikes in the Pacific Northwest !

How Tall is Mount Rainier?

Mount Rainier and its sub-peak, Liberty Cap, are the only 14ers in Washington State and stand proudly at 14,411 feet tall!

What makes Mount Rainier unique is that while it’s a part of the Cascade Mountain Range, it’s also fairly isolated, making the height from sea level more dramatic and impressive.

Is Mount Rainier National Park worth visiting?

Yes! Mount Rainier National Park is definitely worth visiting.

There is so much to do in Mount Rainier National Park that is accessible to all outdoor adventurers. This including families, seniors, kids, and people of all abilities !

Within the park, you can camp, hike, climb, walk, stargaze, stay in a lodge, photograph the wilderness…the list goes on!

How Many Glaciers are on Mount Rainier?

There are 25 glaciers on Mount Rainier–that’s the most on any mountain in the United States!

Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier covers the largest area of any glacier in the contiguous 48 states. It stretches over 4 miles!

To protect the fragile environment, dogs (or any other pets) are not allowed within the borders of the park.

However, service animals are welcome within Mount Rainier National Park.

Learn more about traveling with pets in national parks here .

The Best Things To Do At Mount Rainier National Park (Overview)

To wrap things up, here are the best things to do at Mount Rainier National Park!

12. Wander The Grove of the Patriarchs

13. Capture Pictures on the Sourdough Ridge Trail

14. Venture out to Pinnacle Peak Trail

15. Spend Your Morning in Paradise

More PNW Adventures

The 15+ Best Places To Live In The Pacific Northwest

The 16 Best Pacific Northwest Podcasts To Listen To On Your Next Road Trip

Things To Do In North Cascades National Park

31 Impressive and Fun Facts About Washington State

How To Plan A Trip To The Pacific Northwest

The 30 Most Epic Things To Do In Washington State

101 Bucket List Things To Do In The Pacific Northwest

The Best Photo Spots in Washington State

20 Jaw-Dropping Hikes in Washington State

Let's be friends! Sign up receive our monthly newsletter with updates and new in-depth guides. 

Wheatless Wanderlust

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park: What You Need to Know 

Planning on visiting Mount Rainier National Park? You’re in the right place. We love Mount Rainier National Park, and make AT LEAST one (usually more) trip every summer from our home down in Portland up to the park.

Growing up in Seattle, Matt and his family judged the weather – at least in part – by whether “The Mountain” was out (and that’s still true to this day).

That “Mountain” is, of course, Mount Rainier, which rises 14,000 feet above the surrounding area, which is largely at sea level. 

That juxtaposition makes it one of the most visually impressive peaks that we’ve ever seen. 

From the lush wildflower meadows in the early summer, to the waterfalls in Paradise and the showstopping views at Sunrise, we think that a visit to Mount Rainier National Park should be on every Pacific Northwest resident’s bucket list. 

However, all of the reasons that we love the park have caused visitation numbers to explode over the past several years, and there are a few important logistics you need to know as you plan your trip (which we’ll cover below). 

In this guide, we’re going to do our best to cover everything we think you need to know to plan a trip to Mount Rainier National Park. 

  • Logistics like how to think about the different regions of the park, when to visit (it’s important!), how many days to spend in the park (it depends on what you want to see!), and how to get to each region of the park. 
  • The Timed Entry Permits for the Paradise and Sunrise Corridors, which are NEW for 2024. 
  • Our favorite things to do and see (including hikes), and how to organize them into an itinerary that makes sense. 

Throughout the guide, we’ll share our favorite finds and experiences in Mount Rainier National Park based on our (many) trips to help you plan your unforgettable trip.

Sound good to you? Let’s get into it.

mt rainier places to visit

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

Where is Mount Rainier National Park? 

Mount Rainier is an active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire that sits southeast of Seattle, Washington’s biggest city. 

Soaring 14,411 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the state of Washington and the most glaciated peak in the continental United States. 

One of our favorite aspects of Mount Rainier is the fact that the entire area surrounding it is at roughly sea level, which makes the towering peak that much more impressive (for reference, the 14ers in the Rockies are surrounded by land that’s at about 5,000 feet above sea level, give or take). 

As the most topographically prominent mountain, Rainier’s snow-capped peak—located about 60 miles southeast of Seattle—can be seen from lakes, city skylines, and highways across western Washington. 

Typically, a “good weather” day in Seattle is measured by whether or not the Mountain is out (at least partially), and it’s a key element of the Seattle skyline as seen from our favorite viewpoint in Seattle, Kerry Park. 

A Crash Course in Mount Rainier National Park’s Geography

Mount Rainier National Park is a big park, covering 369 square miles and surrounding the glaciated peak on all sides. 

However, there are only four main parts of the park that are accessible without a long, multi-night backpacking trip. 

Here’s a quick summary of each to help you decide which area is right for your trip to Rainier. 

  • Paradise – Best for first-time visitors: Paradise is the most popular area to visit, located on the southern side of the Mountain, and home to some great day hikes at Mount Rainier. It’s where you’ll find the best waterfall hikes at Mount Rainier, along with countless meadows bursting with wildflowers in the summer.
  • Sunrise – Best for hikes with epic Rainier views: Sunrise, which is on the east side of the park, has a large network of hiking trails winding through the rugged yet stunning wilderness. It is also home to the highest point in Mount Rainier National Park that you can drive to. This is probably the part of the park with the best selection of epic, long hikes to tackle.
  • Ohanapecosh – Best for family-friendly hikes: This part of the park is at the southeastern corner, near the Stevens Canyon Entrance of the park. There are a couple of family-friendly hikes in the area, a large campground (that’s generally the least competitive in the park), and it’s a good central location between Paradise and Sunrise. However, it’s basically an old-growth forest, so you’re not getting those unobstructed Rainier views.
  • Mowich Lake – Best for peace and quiet: Mowich Lake, on the northwestern side of the Mountain, is the quietest area of Mount Rainier National Park. It is free from the tourist hype of Paradise and Sunrise, and the long and arduous bumpy gravel road to get there cuts the number of visitors significantly. There are two great hikes here though that are worth braving the bumpy drive for (ideally in a high-clearance vehicle). 

The other thing to note here is that the access roads for some regions of the park – namely Sunrise and Mowich Lake – close for the winter , and remain closed through the spring into June (and sometimes July – it depends on the weather). 

More on that in the “best time to visit” section below, though.

Here’s a map to help you visualize how those regions fit together.

mt rainier places to visit

How Many Days Should You Spend at Mount Rainier?

How many days you should spend at Mount Rainier depends on A LOT of different factors, including season, appetite for driving, and how much hiking you want to do. 

At a high level, we think 3 days is the right amount of time to see both Paradise AND Sunrise (along with a short stop at Ohanapecosh in between them, which is all you really need). 

Three days will allow you to do a long hike at both Paradise and Sunrise, see the waterfalls, spend an evening or two watching the sunset over a lake (ideally with a reflection of Rainier to marvel at), and more.

If you have one or two days, we’d focus on EITHER Paradise or Sunrise .

And if it’s your first time in the park, we’d choose Paradise for your first visit which has our favorite hike in the park, a collection of amazing waterfalls, a couple of beautiful lakes, and excellent displays of wildflowers in the early summer. 

If you want to tackle one (or both) of the hikes near Mowich Lake , add another day for each hike. 

That means, to see the entire park and circumnavigate the mountain, doing a counterclockwise loop from Mowich Lake to Paradise to Sunrise (or vice versa), you’re going to need at least four or five days .

More on how to organize your time below in the “itineraries” section. 

The Best Time to Visit Mount Rainier National Park

This is, perhaps, the question we get most often about our guides for Mount Rainier, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Baker. 

And it’s because our definition of “summer” as residents of the Pacific Northwest seems to be slightly different than the definition in other parts of the country and world . 

This is especially true when talking about hiking in the Cascades, which Rainier sits smack dab in the middle of. 

There are two considerations to keep in mind when we’re talking about when to visit Mount Rainier: the trail conditions and the road conditions . 

Here’s the thing about the Cascades: snow lingers in the Cascades well into June, and usually into July . The higher you go in terms of elevation, the longer snow is going to linger. 

As a result, if you visit during the last week of June, which is technically summer and seems like a perfectly reasonable time to visit, you’re going to find most of the higher elevation trails in the park (which means most of our favorite trails) still covered in snow . 

A few years ago, we hiked the Skyline Trail with my mom for her birthday – which is in late July – and found A LOT of snow still lingering on the trail (we also encountered the same at Sunrise later in that trip). 

You’re also likely going to find that the roads to Mowich Lake and Sunrise are still closed to vehicles . Those roads usually open in either late June or early July, and it depends on the year and the weather in the winter and spring.

The road to Paradise through Longmire is open year round (though it closes during intense snow storms). 

You can (and should) check the status of the roads in the park on the National Park Service site before you leave for your trip.

Another resource we use often to check trail conditions is the Washington Trails Association , whose recent trail reports are invaluable in understanding what you’re getting yourself into so you can be prepared before you go (e.g. whether there’s snow, the condition of the road to the trailhead, etc). 

All that being said, in general, the best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park in terms of both trail and road conditions is going to be late July through the middle of October.  

The summer months – late July and August – bring the best weather (warm days and nights, lower precipitation) along with incredible displays of wildflowers to the meadows that you’ll find all over the park. 

The last week of July and first week of August is when we’ve had the best luck finding wildflowers at Rainier, but it totally depends on the year. 

However, those months are also the two most popular months for visitors, which means the crowds are going to be a little bit intense and you’ll likely encounter more competition for parking spots, campgrounds, and entry permits. 

September and October bring slightly more unpredictable weather – cooler temperatures, shorter days, and a higher chance of precipitation – but lower levels of visitors (especially midweek). 

Starting in the last week of September, fall color starts to light up those same meadows and hillsides with shades of yellow, orange, and red.

The fall color show continues through the middle of October, when the first significant snowfall of the season generally happens and marks the end of the hiking season. 

Generally, our favorite time to visit the park is in mid-September, when things are a little quieter because kids are back in school. 

Getting to Mount Rainier National Park

First thing’s first, you’re going to need a car to get to Mount Rainier National Park . There is no public transportation option available. 

Because the park’s regions are so different in terms of location, and therefore travel time, we’re going to separate them here. 

Getting to Paradise (The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center)

Paradise is on the southern side of Rainier, and it’s the most popular part of the park. 

  • From Seattle: 2 hours and 45 minutes // 107 miles
  • From Tacoma: 2 hours // 77 miles
  • From Portland: 3 hours // 152 miles

Getting to Sunrise (The Sunrise Visitor Center) 

The Sunrise Visitor Center sits on Rainier’s eastern flank, and is the highest point in the park that you can drive to.

  • From Seattle: 2 hours and 15 minutes // 96 miles
  • From Tacoma: 2 hours // 82 miles
  • From Portland: 3 hours and 30 minutes // 184 miles

Getting to Ohanapecosh (The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center) 

Ohanapecosh is an old growth forest tucked away on the southeastern side of Mount Rainier, close to the town of Packwood. 

  • From Seattle: 2 hours and 20 minutes // 97 miles
  • From Tacoma: 2 hours // 83 miles
  • From Portland:  2 hours and 50 minutes // 152 miles

Getting to Mowich Lake

Mowich Lake might seem like the closest part of the park to Seattle – it’s on the northwestern side of the mountain, after all – but a long, bumpy washboard gravel road makes this drive a lot longer than it should be. 

  • From Seattle: 2 hours and 30 minutes // 72 miles
  • From Tacoma: 2 hours // 48 miles
  • From Portland: 4 hours // 185 miles

Where to Fly Into to Visit Mount Rainier

If you’re coming from out-of-state, there are two viable airports near Mount Rainier National Park. 

The best option in terms of both flight selection and distance from the Mountain is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) , which is more commonly known as “Seatac” to Seattleites. 

Flying into Seatac is going to put you a hair over two and a half hours (107 miles) from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, the hub for everything at Paradise, and about the same to the Sunrise Visitor Center on the other side of the park.

Your other option is Portland International Airport (PDX) , which is our home airport and is our favorite airport in the US. 

It’s a much less chaotic airport than Seatac (we HATE flying out of Seatac because security lines are ridiculous, even with Pre-Check), but it has a significantly smaller selection of flights – especially direct flights – and is slightly further from the park. 

From PDX, it’s going to be around three hours to Paradise, and can be almost four hours to Sunrise. 

Like we said, it’s slightly further, but it’s worth checking prices for both. 

Timed Entry Reservations Are Required in 2024 (Paradise and Sunrise)

In 2024, you need to make an entry reservation for Paradise and Sunrise .

This is the most important piece of this entire logistics section, because it’s a new system for 2024 and we can foresee many people missing it and getting turned away at the entrance stations. 

Between May 24 and Sept 2, 2024, you need to make a timed entry reservation to enter the Paradise Corridor .

This includes the road between the Nisqually Entrance, up to the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, and down to the Stevens Canyon Entrance near Ohanapecosh. 

Between July 4 through September 2, you need to make a timed entry reservation to enter the Sunrise Corridor .

This is the road between the White River Entrance, up to the Sunrise Visitor Center. 

These permits only apply if you enter the park between 7am and 3pm, meaning that if you enter before 7am or after 3pm, a permit is not required (another reason for an early start!). 

It’s also worth noting that a reservation at Cougar Rock Campground (Paradise), the Paradise Inn, or National Park Inn can be used in place of a timed entry permit for the Paradise Corridor. 

If you get a first-come, first-served site at White River Campground near Sunrise, that also can be used in lieu of a Sunrise timed entry permit. 

However, it is also worth noting that a camping or lodge reservation in Paradise DOES NOT get you access to the Sunrise Corridor, and vice versa. 

Permits are released 90 days in advance in blocks. 

Here are the release dates for 2024 for the Paradise Corridor Timed Entry Permits:

  • February 21, 2024: Reservations available for May 24 – June 30, 2024
  • April 1, 2024: Reservations available for July 1 – July 31, 2024
  • May 1, 2024: Reservations available for August 1 – September 2, 2024

Here are the release dates for 2024 for the Sunrise Corridor Timed Entry Permits:

  • April 1, 2024: Reservations available for July 4 – July 31, 2024

It’s well worth reading the timed entry reservation page AND the timed entry FAQ for all the information you might need. 

Implications of Timed Entry Permits for Your Trip

For what it’s worth, we saw this timed entry reservation process unfold at multiple other national parks across the western United States during our two year road trip a few years back .  

During that period, we visited every national park west of the Rockies, and saw multiple parks trying their best to deal with increased visitation numbers. 

It’s a complicated situation, because on one hand, the record visitation numbers are putting a huge strain on park resources and ecosystems. 

On the other hand, we want to make our national parks accessible (and we want that access to be equitable) because seeing the national parks in person makes everyone want to come together to protect them!

However, putting that all aside, the number one implication that we saw in places like Rocky Mountain National Park and Glacier National Park is that the timed entry permits will force many people to enter the park before that 7am window kicks in . 

Parking lots in Rocky Mountain National Park and Glacier National Park were full by 6am or so as people rushed to get into the park before the permits were required.

We’d anticipate that something similar will play out here. 

Keep that in mind as you plan your own visit, since parking at Sunrise and Paradise is limited to begin with. 

Where to Stay at Mount Rainier

Because the park is fairly spread out and sprawling, circumnavigating the Mountain, it really matters where you stay, and this section is meant to help you decide the best home base (or home bases) for exploring the park. For a taste of why it matters, it takes a full three hours (if not more due to traffic) to drive from Mowich Lake to the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, and about the same to the Sunrise Visitor Center. 

Our high level recommendation here is to split up your nights in the park so that you’re staying in each region that you’re visiting in order to maximize your time and minimize time driving back and forth. 

For example, if you’re doing both Paradise and Sunrise over three days, spend your first two nights at Paradise, and then spend your last night near Sunrise. 

It’s worth mentioning up front that if you want to spend all of your nights in one place, Packwood is the best place to do that . It’s about an hour from both Paradise and Sunrise, and it’s also the most well-equipped town near the park. 

Here’s a summary of the best places to stay in the park (and nearby).

For more details and information, head over to our guide to where to stay near Mount Rainier . 

Campgrounds Inside Mount Rainier National Park

mt rainier places to visit

There are four main campgrounds inside the park and, conveniently, there is one campground in each of the park’s four regions. 

However, the bad news here is that they are all very competitive (especially the three that you can reserve in advance), and the rules for when they go on sale are complicated and ever-changing. 

We’ll do our best to cover it all in this short section, but for more on camping in the park, head to the National Park Service’s guide . 

mt rainier places to visit

Cougar Rock Campground (Paradise): Located on the southwestern side of Mount Rainier just 10 miles from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, Cougar Rock is a prime camping location for exploring the Paradise area of the Park, and has 173 sites (including some group sites) with drinking water, flush toilets, and tree-covered campsites. We’ve stayed here a couple of times, and it’s by far the best place to stay for Paradise. 

  • Reservations for Cougar Rock are released in multiple stages . It’s first-come, first served from May 24, 2024 to June 23, 2024 AND September 07, 2024 – October 10, 2024. During peak season (June 24 through September 6th), reservations are released on a rolling basis – either 6 months or 7 days in advance – which gives you multiple opportunities to snag a site. 

White River Campground (Sunrise): Situated 12 miles from the Sunrise Visitor Center, White River Campground has 88 individual sites – all with access to flush toilets and potable drinking water – although there are no group campsites. Because of the elevation, the season here is slightly shorter – late June through the month of September. We’ve also camped here, and it’s a great base for the Sunrise section of the park (we’d argue the BEST base, because it’s the closest place to stay near all of the trailheads). 

  • Reservations for White River are solely first-come, first-served . You need to arrive early in the day (we’d get here around 8am for the best shot), and midweek is going to give you the best chance of getting a site. There is no guarantee, and the campground is usually full for summer weekends by Thursday night. 

Ohanapecosh Campground (Ohanapecosh): Another big campground with 179 sites, all with potable water and flush toilets and a few group sites sprinkled in. It’s tucked into an old growth forest, and is the best location in terms of access to BOTH Sunrise and Paradise (though it is 45-60 minutes to either one), so if you want to stay in one location for your entire trip to the park, this is your best choice. 

  • Reservations at Ohanapecosh are released in multiple stages . It’s first-come, first served from May 24, 2024 to June 23, 2024 AND September 07, 2024 – October 10, 2024. During peak season (June 24 through September 6th), reservations are released on a rolling basis – either 6 months or 7 days in advance – which gives you multiple opportunities to snag a site. 

Mowich Lake Campground (Mowich Lake): A small, primitive campground with just 13 tent-only walk-in sites and vault toilets with no potable water, this is the best place to stay – BY FAR – to do either Spray Park or Tolmie Peak. Plus, it’s right on Mowich Lake, which is a nice place to relax post-hike. It’s very limited in terms of amenities, but makes up for it with the proximity to the trailheads for those two hikes. 

  • Reservations for Mowich Lake are solely first-come, first-served . It’s much less popular than the other campgrounds in the park, but that doesn’t mean you should show up at 5pm on a summer Saturday and expect to get a spot. 

Hotels and Lodges Inside the Park

There are two national park lodges inside the park, and both are near Paradise. 

The first is the Paradise Inn , which is a historic lodge right at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. It’s very rustic and charming, and it’s worth stepping inside even if you’re not staying here to marvel at the architecture. 

mt rainier places to visit

Like most lodges inside national parks, the Inn probably needs a little bit of TLC, you basically have to eat at the onsite restaurant (or bring food that doesn’t need to be cooked OR refrigerated), and you’re going to pay a premium for the location. 

Still, for one night or a special occasion, it might be worth it for the location alone. And the rustic charm is nice, too!

The second is the National Park Inn , which is down in Longmire just inside the Nisqually entrance. 

It’s a 25 minute drive up to the visitor center and main trailheads at Paradise, but it has been renovated far more recently (though it’s still nothing to write home about, if we’re being honest). 

There are only 25 rooms here, and rooms either have one queen or double or two twin beds (there are also some two-room options). Some rooms have shared bathroom facilities, which make them a little cheaper. 

Staying Outside the Park

If you’re not up for camping and don’t want to pay a premium to stay at one of the national park lodges inside the park, you have a few options.

Near Paradise, the best place to stay outside the park is going to be in the small town of Ashford , which is just outside of the Nisqually Entrance. 

There are a smattering of hotels in town, along with a grocery store and a few restaurants, and a plethora of cabins in the woods near Ashford that would be our choice if we weren’t camping. 

Unfortunately, the options near Sunrise are limited at best if you’re not up for camping . 

If you do want to camp, we like Silver Springs Campground , which is just outside the park entrance along Highway 410. 

If you don’t want to camp, your best bet is to stay at LOGE Alta Crystal , which is a nice hotel just down the road from Silver Springs. We’ve stayed at LOGE properties before in Leavenworth, and enjoy them (they’re very hip and outdoorsy). 

Packwood , which is just outside the Ohanapecosh entrance of the park to the south, is the best-equipped town near the park. It’s also roughly equidistant between Paradise and Sunrise – about 45-60 minutes to each – which makes it the best option if you want to stay in one spot for your entire trip.

There are a couple of hotels in town, along with a grocery store, a good coffee shop, a few restaurants, and a brewery. 

Similar to Ashford, there are also a bunch of cabins in the woods surrounding Packwood that would make for a great place to stay to explore the park and come back to a relaxing, private space at the end of a long day. 

We have also stayed at La Wis Wis Campground just outside Packwood, and would recommend it if you can’t snag a site at any of the campgrounds in the park. It’s right outside the park entrance, and is reservable six months in advance. 

What to Do at Mount Rainier (the Highlights)

Here are the highlights that we think you should prioritize while you’re in Mount Rainier National Park. 

The Skyline Trail . The best hike in the park, we think, and in the top 3 of our favorite hikes in Washington State . Great wildflowers, spectacular views of Rainier’s face, and sweeping vistas out over the Tatoosh Range, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams to the south. All packed into one moderate six mile journey! It’s also one of the most popular hikes in the state, so get there early and get on the trail as early as you can to avoid wading through hordes of hikers.  

mt rainier places to visit

The waterfalls at Paradise . There are four excellent waterfalls at Paradise, and three of them are basically right along the road. Starting from the Nisqually entrance heading uphill, you’ll pass the trailhead for Comet Falls first, which is the most impressive but requires a moderate six mile hike to reach. Next is Christine Falls , framed by a nice stone bridge. Then comes Narada Falls , which is a pull off along the road and a short walk down to the viewpoint. And last is Myrtle Falls , which you’ll see along the Skyline Trail (and it’s our favorite of the four thanks to Rainier’s glaciated peak in the background). 

mt rainier places to visit

The wildflower meadows . In the early summer – call it the last week of July and the first week of August – the wildflower meadows at Rainier are…something else. Fun fact: we named our dog, Lupine, several years before we got her while standing in a lupine-covered meadow at Rainier! Our favorite places to see flowers are the Lakes Loop at Paradise, Berkeley Park at Sunrise, and all around Sourdough Ridge at Sunrise. 

mt rainier places to visit

Reflection Lakes . The best sunrise or sunset spot at Paradise, we think. Right off the road, and a nice little lake with a view of Rainier’s peak perfectly reflected in the water (at least on a clear day, which is relatively rare here). 

mt rainier places to visit

The hiking at Sunrise . While Skyline is our single favorite hike in the park, Sunrise has the best collection of hikes that all leave from one place. The Burroughs Mountain Trail , Mount Fremont Lookout , and Berkeley Park all follow the spectacular Sourdough Ridge Trail for a few miles before branching off to their own unique viewpoints (close up views of Rainier, sweeping views from a historic fire lookout, and incredible wildflower meadows in the early summer). 

mt rainier places to visit

Tipsoo Lake and the Naches Peak Loop (Sunrise) . One of our favorite bang-for-your-buck hikes in the state – the Naches Peak Loop – starts at Tipsoo Lake and makes a nice little loop with great views of Rainier through the second half of the loop (if you go clockwise, which you should). Tipsoo Lake is also a great sunrise location (the sun comes up over your shoulder, illuminating Rainier’s peak) and a slightly less good sunset location, because you’re looking right at the sun. 

mt rainier places to visit

Mowich Lake and Spray Park / Tolmie Peak . Don’t let the hour-long detour on a washboard gravel road deter you. If you want to escape the crowds that descend on Paradise and Sunrise, this part of the park is a great option. And two of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park – Spray Park and Tolmie Peak – leave from the shore of Mowich Lake!

mt rainier places to visit

In the next section, we’ll cover how to fit it all together. 

Planning Your Mount Rainier National Park Itinerary

In this section, let’s talk about putting it all together and planning your itinerary for visiting Mount Rainier National Park. 

Like we mentioned in the “How Much Time” section above, we think 3 days is the right amount of time to see both Paradise AND Sunrise (along with a short stop at Ohanapecosh in between them, which is all you really need). 

If you only have a day or two, focus on one section of the park (we’d choose Paradise for the diversity of things to do and see, but we can also see the argument for Sunrise). 

A full five days will allow you to see all four regions of the park, albeit in a bit of a rushed fashion. 

Here are a few itinerary ideas for one, two, three, and five (or more) days in the park. 

One Day (Paradise) 

With one day at Paradise, we’d start your day with an early morning hike on the Skyline Trail , which is both our favorite hike in the entire park. Don’t miss Myrtle Falls along the trail! 

It will take you the better part of a morning. Afterwards, pop into the Paradise Inn to check it out, and then hop in the car and drive over to Reflection Lakes for your lunch break. 

After lunch (if you’re up for it), tackle the relatively short hike to Bench and Snow Lakes, which is another of our favorites. We love a good hike with a lake that has a reflection of Mount Rainier!

From there, head back down the road towards the Nisqually Entrance and stop at both Narada Falls and Christine Falls along the way. 

If you’re sticking around for sunset, head back up to Reflection Lakes , which is our favorite place to catch a sunset in this part of the park. 

Two Days (Paradise) 

With two days at Paradise, spend your first morning hiking Skyline exactly as written above, then head to Ohanapecosh for the afternoon to check out Silver Falls and the Grove of the Patriarchs , ending with a sunset at Reflection Lakes . 

On your second day, tackle the Comet Falls Trail first – the most impressive waterfall at Paradise – and then head to Christine Falls and Narada Falls on your way up to hike Bench and Snow Lakes for a nice afternoon stroll.

Catch the afternoon light on Rainier by walking the short, paved Nisqually Vista Loop to cap it all off.  

One Day (Sunrise) 

If you’re spending one day at Sunrise, you’re going to want to head straight to the Sunrise Visitor Center to get an early start on your big hike of the day.

There are three great hikes that leave from here, and which you choose depends on what you’re up for and what kind of scenery you’d like. 

Choose from the Burroughs Mountain trail (difficult, with up close and personal views of Rainier), the Mount Fremont Lookout (moderate, with sweeping views from a historic fire lookout), or the Berkeley Park Trail (moderate, great wildflower meadows in the early summer). 

After your hike, enjoy your lunch at the Sunrise Visitor Center and then do the short stroll out to Shadow Lake , which takes you through some stunning wildflower meadows with some good peek-a-boo views of Rainier and the White River Valley. 

End your day down at Tipsoo Lake , which is one of our favorite photo locations in the park (specifically, here on Google Maps where you have a view of the lake with Rainier looming in the background). 

Two Days (Sunrise)

At Sunrise, it’s truly all about the hiking. 

If you’re adding a second day here, we’d follow the one day version above as written for your first day. 

On your second day, add another hike (either one of the ones you didn’t do above, or the equally epic Summerland Trail ) in the morning, and an afternoon trip over to Ohanapecosh to see Silver Falls and the Grove of the Patriarchs .  

Three Days (Paradise, Ohanapecosh, & Sunrise) 

If you’ve got three days to spend exploring the south and eastern sides of the park – Paradise, Ohanapecosh, and Sunrise – here’s how we’d spend it. 

Note that you can totally reverse this itinerary to start with Sunrise and end with Paradise if that works better. 

Start by following our one day (Paradise) itinerary above for your first day.

That means an early hike on the Skyline Trail , followed by a trip to Reflection Lakes and Bench and Snow Lakes (and back to Reflection Lakes for sunset, if you’d like) before heading back to your hotel or campground. 

On your second day, start your day with a hike to Comet Falls , followed by trips to Christine Falls and Narada Falls en route to Ohanapecosh, where you’ll stop for lunch and a quick forested stroll to Silver Falls and Grove of the Patriarchs .

End your second day at Tipsoo Lake , where you can hike the easy (but VERY worthwhile) Naches Peak Loop and catch sunset over the lake. 

On your last day, follow our “One Day – Sunrise” itinerary above by heading up to the Sunrise Visitor Center, tackling a hike, checking out the views and wildflowers on the way to Shadow Lake. 

Optional : Save Naches Peak and Tipsoo for your third night and head up to Sunrise to do the Mount Fremont Lookout at sunset to close out your second day. 

Five Days (All Regions)

With Five Days, we’d essentially follow each of the two day itineraries above (two nights at Paradise, two nights at Sunrise) and use your fifth day to add a trip to Mowich Lake to hike either Tolmie Peak (better views) or Spray Park (longer, but better meadows). 

You can either stay overnight at the primitive campground at Mowich Lake, or relax at the lake post-hike before making the long drive around the mountain to Paradise to set yourself up for a good early morning start on your next day. 

You could also do Mowich Lake as your last stop at Rainier, which would put you in a good position to get back to the airport or Seattle.

Our Mount Rainier National Park Visitor Guide, Mapped

More on Visiting Mount Rainier National Park

mt rainier places to visit

Matt is the founder and main writer behind Wheatless Wanderlust, which he started back in 2018 as a way to share his gluten free travel guides with his fellow Celiac travelers.

Since then, Matt and his wife Alysha have visited 18 national parks, spent three months in Europe and six weeks in Colombia, and have explored every corner of the Pacific Northwest, which is where Matt grew up.

He writes super detailed guides to the places they visit, bringing together personal experience and historical context to help YOU plan an amazing trip.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

  • SI SWIMSUIT
  • SI SPORTSBOOK
  • Mountaineering
  • National Parks

The Most Popular and Challenging Climbing Routes on Mt. Rainier

John waechter | 15 hours ago.

Iconic Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier , the 14,410 ft. iconic stratovolcano in Washington State, offers climbers a wide range of diverse and challenging routes. These routes vary in difficulty, length, and scenery, making Mt. Rainier a popular destination for both new and experienced mountaineers. Here, we'll give a brief introduction to some of the different climbing routes on this majestic peak.  Novice climbers are advised to look into guided climbs to ensure proper instruction, preparation and guidance.

Mt. Rainier Climbing Routes

Disappointment cleaver route, emmons-winthrop route, kautz glacier route, liberty ridge, fuhrer finger, gibralter ledges, sunset ridge.

This is the most popular and frequented route on Mount Rainier. Climbers start at Paradise (Approximately 5,000 ft.) and reach Camp Muir, a high-altitude base camp at 10,080 ft., on the first day of climbing. From there, they ascend the Ingraham Glacier to Disappointment Cleaver, and then navigate crevasses and steep snow slopes before reaching the summit. The route offers stunning views and a challenging, but manageable, climb. I recommend this route for first-time and novice climbers.

Known for its vast glaciers and vistas, this route starts at White River Campground. Climbers trek across the Emmons Glacier, tackling icefalls and seracs as they ascend. The Emmons-Winthrop is less crowded than the Disappointment Cleaver route, providing a more secluded experience. There are no structures on any route other than the DC route, so all gear must be carried in and out these routes.

This challenging route begins at Paradise and traverses the Kautz Glacier. Climbers navigate steep ice, snowfields, and crevasses, often requiring technical ice climbing skills. The Kautz Glacier route offers a thrilling adventure for experienced mountaineers seeking a less crowded path. This route is not for first-time climbers!

For the truly adventurous, Liberty Ridge presents one of the most demanding and rewarding routes on Mount Rainier. Starting at White River Campground, climbers ascend steep ice and rock faces, including the infamous "Black Pyramid." This route is known for its technical challenges and is reserved for highly skilled alpinists.

Beginning at the Nisqually Glacier, this route takes climbers up the Fuhrer Finger, a prominent rock and ice formation. The ascent is known for its steepness and avalanche danger, making it suitable only for experienced climbers with a taste for adrenaline. Experienced mountaineers with excellent skiing skills should skiing this descent in the spring!

Starting at Paradise, this route involves ascending the Gibralter Ledges to reach the upper mountain. While less technical than some other routes, climbers still need to navigate crevasses and steep snow slopes. It's a good option for intermediate climbers.

This route offers a different perspective on Mount Rainier. Climbers begin at White River Campground and ascend the Sunset Ridge on the mountain's west side. The route is less crowded and provides spectacular sunset views from high-altitude campsites.

Climbing Mount Rainier is a serious endeavor - climbers should be well prepared with proper equipment, training, and knowledge of glacier travel and avalanche safety. Weather conditions on the mountain can change rapidly, so climbers must plan to adjust their plans accordingly.

Picture shows crevasses on Mt. Rainier

JOHN WAECHTER

  • A visit to Mount Rainier is not as easy as it used to be

David Horsey

I seem to have reached the age when a person more and more frequently says, “I remember the good old days before (fill in the blank) made things worse.” Of course, I can imagine a 25-year-old saying, “I remember the good old days before the Supreme Court took us back to the Dark Ages,” so maybe it is not a matter of age.

Anyway, I remember the good old days when, on the spur of the moment, my mom and dad would pack me and my sister into the station wagon and we would drive down to Mount Rainier for a walk among the wildflowers and up to the Ice Caves. (Remember those? They melted away a few years ago; another good old days thing.) Not only did we not need reservations, there were no traffic jams at the park entrance.

Not so, anymore. This summer, people seeking to enter the park between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. need a reservation. After 3 p.m., getting in is a matter of sitting in a line of cars that can extend two or three miles back from the entrance gate.

A couple of weekends ago, some good friends of mine went camping at Rainier. They had wisely obtained their timed entry and easily rolled into the park and on to their campsite. Then, they discovered they were short of propane and the only place to buy more was at a shop outside the park perimeter. They zipped down to get the propane without noticing the time. Returning from this deceptively short trip around 3 p.m., my friends got stuck in the lineup of folks without reservations. It was another three hours before they got back to camp.

Like I said, I remember the good old days.

See more of David Horsey’s cartoons at:  st.news/davidhorsey

View other syndicated cartoonists at:  st.news/cartoons

Editor’s note: Seattle Times Opinion no longer appends comment threads on David Horsey’s cartoons. Too many comments violated our  community policies  and reviewing the dozens that were flagged as inappropriate required too much of our limited staff time. You can comment via a Letter to the Editor. Please email us at  [email protected]  and include your full name, address and telephone number for verification only. Letters are limited to 200 words.

Most Read Opinion Stories

  • U.S Supreme Court seems no longer interested in 'the common good'
  • The United States of the Monarchy
  • Star-Spangled Banner or God Save the King?
  • Skeptical about election security? Come have a look behind the scenes

Home

Where to View the Perseids Meteor Shower Around Puget Sound

Best seattle-area spots for families to see the stars and more night-sky awesomeness.

Jennifer Johnson

By Jennifer Johnson

Published on: july 05, 2024.

Seattle night sky with meteor shower

One summer while camping at Mount Rainier National Park , my two children and I went up to Paradise to catch the sunset and look at the stars. We were pleasantly surprised to find park rangers and volunteers setting up for an evening of stargazing with telescopes. We hung around until almost midnight, taking turns with other park visitors looking through large telescopes at distant stars, planets and even other galaxies. My kids were entranced.

There are plenty of stellar opportunities around Puget Sound to learn about the night sky during the summer. And one of the peak stargazing events of the year is approaching: The Perseid meteor shower, which you can view from Puget Sound urban areas, will peak August 12–13, 2024 . The Perseids produce the most star trails after midnight, when the sky is darker.

The Perseids happen when the earth travels through the debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Families can also enjoy watching for the International Space Station as it passes overhead. And the aurora borealis sometimes makes an appearance — keep track on spaceweather.com for possible magnetic storms.

"Aurora borealis is sometimes visible from the Seattle area, look for geomagnetic storms to know when"

Stargazing in Seattle

Dark and cloudless skies are required for stargazing, which makes Seattle and other urban areas less than ideal. But for families just starting out, there are still some urban spots dark enough to lay your blanket out and see the night sky.

Alice Enevoldsen , a local expert on astronomy and education, recommends several different sites in the city for urban stargazing, including Myrtle Reservoir , Lincoln Park and Solstice Park in West Seattle.  Green Lake is also a popular stargazing site, as it is one of the few city parks open after 11:30 p.m.

The Seattle Astronomical Society periodically hosts star parties at various locations, including Paramount School Park , Snoqualmie Point Park , Bonney Lake , and Covington Community Park , weather permitting. Members of the Society bring telescopes for the general public to use and enjoy sharing astronomical facts with people of all ages.

In the South Sound, the Tacoma Astronomical Society also hosts star parties for the public at Pierce College. If you’re headed to the Tri-Cities, the Tri-City Astronomy Club hosts public events, including lunar viewing parties with astronomers.

Brie Hawkins, a local weather enthusiast and photographer, recommends Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo for urban stargazing. Some of her favorite spots away from the city include the Diablo Lake and Washington Pass overlooks along Highway 20 in the North Cascades. These places are open at night and have toilets available. You can find camping at Newhalem or Colonial Creek near Diablo Lake or Lone Fir , Klipchuck or Early Winters campgrounds near Washington Pass.

"Watch for meteor showers from Washington Pass Overlook outside of Seattle"

Starry camping and backpacking

Getting farther away from the city, of course, will earn you more Perseids action. One of Enevoldsen’s favorite spots is the boat dock at Lake Kachess along I-90, and Staircase Campground in Olympic National Park. (If you’re not staying overnight at the campground, talk to the ranger to get permission to be there.)

For families who are looking for more adventure, consider attending an event at one of our national parks or monuments. The Olympia Astronomical Society (OAS) occasionally hosts star parties and night hikes at  Hurricane Ridge . Check the OAS website for future events, including its biannual four-night event, Camp Delany Star Party .

The Mount St. Helens Institute sponsors sky and star parties on occasion, with one planned for August 3, 2024.

"Stars in the sky above Mount Saint Helens, one of the bests spots to see Perseid meteor showers outside of Seattle"

Families who enjoy backpacking will find even more places to be away from city lights. Child-friendly backpacking trips with open skies include Shadow Lake at Mount Rainier and Lake Ann in the North Cascades.

Other popular camping and photography areas include Tipsoo Lake near Mount Rainier, Slate Peak out of Mazama, Salmon La Sac and the surrounding camping areas and Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park in Central Washington. 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published several years ago and updated most recently on July 2, 2024 by ParentMap’s family fun editor, Meredith Charaba , with additional details for watching the 2024 Perseids meteor shower.

JOIN THE PARENTMAP COMMUNITY Get our weekly roundup of Seattle-area outings and parenting tips straight to your inbox.

Related Topics

Share this resource with your friends, about the author.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson tries to create time in nature whenever she can, no matter the weather. Nature and knitting have kept her sane through homeschooling and motherhood. Usually her two kids are with her, and together they explore the Pacific Northwest. She’s also known as The Hiker Mama, and writes about their adventures at  thehikermama.com .

Mother and son hike in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington state, USA new reservation system

Visiting Mount Rainier This Summer? Plan Ahead

Young girl smiling and holding a bagel at one of seattle's best bagels shops

Where to Score Seattle’s Best Bagels

Waterfront Alderbrook Resort on Snowy Day

Giveaway: Win an Overnight Getaway to Alderbrook Resort & Spa

You might also like.

View of Indian Paintbrush wildflowers in a meadow near Mount Rainier with mountain peaks in the background; best wildflower hikes for Seattle families

The Great Outdoors

7 stunning wildflower hikes for seattle-area families.

a young boy spins the ground-level merry-go-round at an inclusive playground near Seattle, one of the many things to do this weekend

Seasonal Fun

Weekender: family fun ideas for july 4–7.

Kids play in a shallow pool of water in the sand on Everett's Jetty Island opening for summer

Jetty Island: One of Puget Sound’s Best Beaches for Summer Fun

Big Eddy Skykomish river kid-friendly swimming hole near Seattle

5 Kid-Friendly Swimming Holes Around Puget Sound

Dark Skies & UFOs: Here's Where The Weirdest Stuff Happens In The US

4

Your changes have been saved

Email Is sent

Please verify your email address.

You’ve reached your account maximum for followed topics.

  • Some of the top destinations in the United States for UFO sightings include Mount Rainier National Park, known for its amazing hiking trails, challenging climbs, and spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains. It is also a popular spot for UFO sightings, with 6,812 reports since the 1940s.
  • Skinwalker Ranch, Utah, has risen in fame as an active spot for UFO sightings and paranormal incidents of all kinds. The surrounding Uintah County has been a hotbed for UFO sightings and cattle mutilation incidents going back to at least the 1970s.

While UFOs are a global phenomenon, the United States in many ways remains the global capital for UFO sightings. Not only have many of the 20th century's most famous UFO incidents occurred in the United States, but American politics, military power, and pop culture have defined UFOs in the popular imagination across the world.

The "UFO" craze in the United States really took off (so to speak) in the early days of the Cold War. In the late 1940s and 1950s, a huge increase in reported sightings prompted mass interest and paranoia of alien visitors coming to Earth.

So prevalent were sightings that the U.S. Air Force even took notice, with secret studies like Project Sign, Project Grudge, and Project Blue Book investigating the identities of these unidentified objects and their potential threat to national security. Though these reports were ultimately inconclusive, they have fueled interest and speculation about UFOs to this day.

More recently, the release of purported UFO footage from the military, such as the now-infamous videos released by the Pentagon in 2020 , renewed interest in UFOs both in the public and in the American government.

While answers still elude experts, tourists across the United States often want to flock to spots where people are more likely to see UFOs and other strange aerial phenomena in person. Though details about UFOs are still murky, including how best to witness them, these spots across the US have the closest historical ties to UFOs and other unexplained "dark sky" events.

7 Best Dark Tourism Destinations To Visit In America

These historical sites are the spots of terrible tragedies, horrific crimes, or otherwise eerie events - and they're all open to the public.

7 Area 51 & Lincoln County

Though it doesn't look like much on a map, Nevada's Lincoln County is in many ways the epicenter of UFO activity in the United States. According to the National UFO Reporting Center , a non-governmental organization that tracks credible UFO sightings, Lincoln County has more reported UFO sightings per capita than any other spot in the country. Per the Center, Lincoln County had 830.9 sightings per 100,000 residents, more than 200 sightings per capita more than the next county on their list.

Lincoln County's abundance of UFO activity is much less surprising once you learn more about it. The county is the location of a highly classified Air Force facility officially called "Homey Airport," but more commonly known by its popular moniker, " Area 51 ."

Since all current operations within Area 51 are classified, there is no "official" information about what happens there. However, de-classified documents and investigative journalism have revealed that the site has been used for the development of experimental aircraft and weapons since the 1950s.

Experimental aircraft like the U2 spy plane and the stealth bomber may account for many of the region's UFO sightings. Of course, without any official information, conspiracy theories and speculation on Area 51 have run rampant. In popular imagination, the facility houses alien spacecraft, alien technology, and even extraterrestrial bodies.

Regardless of what actually goes on in Area 51, the surrounding parts of Lincoln County have cashed in on its infamy as major tourist destinations. The nearby town of Rachel is a great spot to enjoy fun UFO-themed kitsch, and even take advantage of the region's dark skies in hopes of seeing a UFO for yourself!

Area 51 is a heavily-restricted military facility that is NOT open to the public. Attempts to enter Area 51 without authorization may result in arrest and criminal prosecution.

No single town in the world is as singularly identified with UFOs as the small New Mexico city of Roswell . The infamous UFO incident that transformed Roswell from a random spot on the map to an international tourist hub has been so enmeshed in popular culture that the actual details may be hard to come by.

However, despite potential embellishments of the story, and possible official explanations coming to light in subsequent years, there's no denying that the famous "Roswell" incident is perhaps the most famous UFO encounter in history.

In the summer of 1947, residents of Roswell reported encountering strange, metallic debris scattered in the desert outside the town. Later reports reference eyewitnesses seeing a metallic object actually crash-land near Roswell, and many accounts eventually included details about the military shutting down the area and possibly recovering an alien body. However, after decades of pop culture speculation, the story has entered something of a feedback loop that makes it hard to tell what is an actual eyewitness report and what is a later embellishment.

Regardless, we do know that on July 8, an Air Force public information officer gave an official press release stating that the military had recovered a "flying disc" from the Roswell area. Unsurprisingly, this report caused a media frenzy, and soon the story spread across the world.

The Air Force later tried to quell the rampant speculation by "clarifying" that the object was merely a weather balloon. But, by this point, it was too late. Roswell had already implanted itself in the popular imagination as the site of the world's most famous UFO encounter.

In recent years, declassified documents and further statements from the Pentagon further clarified that the Roswell incident may have been caused by a top-secret Air Force operation called " Project Mogul ." The project sought to use high-altitude balloons affixed with recording devices to spy on Soviet nuclear tests.

Given the extreme secrecy of the project, it's no surprise that the Air Force would rather the public believe that an alien spacecraft crashed near Roswell than risk the Soviet Union learning about its spying programs. But millions of UFO believers are not satisfied by this "official" explanation and still flock to Roswell to experience a major part of UFO history.

Today, those visiting Roswell and its wealth of quirky attractions will soon see that the economy is largely based on UFO tourism. Visitors can stop in at the International UFO Museum & Research Center to learn about the Roswell incident and other UFO reports across the world. Each July, the city hosts the annual UFO Festival, which offers fun UFO-themed music, food, parades, and other fun events.

Desert Landscapes To Cultural Gems: The 10 Best Places To See In New Mexico

Whether one is looking for excitement, adventure, picturesque scenery, or simply to unwind in nature, New Mexico is the place to be.

5 Mount Rainier

While places like Roswell and Area 51 are more closely connected with UFOs in pop culture, the incident that first sparked the modern conception of "UFOs" actually occurred near Washington's Mount Rainier. On June 24, 1947, only a week or two before the Roswell Incident, a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold was flying his plane near Mount Rainier when he saw something strange in the sky.

According to his report, he initially saw a "bright, flashing light" off to his left. When he looked closer, he saw what appeared to be 9 shiny, metallic-looking objects flying in a chain at a high speed. Arnold described them as somewhat "crescent-shaped," though he likened their movement to a saucer skipping across water. Though he did not use this term himself, this particular description gave rise to the term "flying saucer."

Arnold tried following these "flying saucers" for a while. But they eventually sped away across the horizon much faster than his plane could go, and he eventually lost sight of them. Based on their speed relative to how fast he was going, he estimated that they were traveling around 1,200-1,700 miles per hour. This speed would have been much faster than any known aircraft at the time.

In the ensuing decades, scores of explanations of what Arnold saw have been put forward, with none quite debunking his account entirely. But believers and skeptics alike generally agree that Arnold's Mount Rainier tale is the first "modern" UFO sighting. Reports of Arnold's sighting, when coupled with the Roswell Incident a few weeks later and the general paranoia of the early Cold War era, ushered in a widespread interest (and panic) in UFOs that persists to this day.

Since Arnold's 1947 sightings, several more witnesses have reported seeing UFOs around Mount Rainier and Washington in general. The National UFO Reporting Centers place Washington as the country's number 1 source for UFO sightings, with 6,812 reports since the 1940s.

Today, Mount Rainier is the centerpiece of Mount Rainier National Park, which is a popular area for outdoor adventures . Visitors to the park often come to enjoy its amazing hiking trails, challenging climbs, and spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains. But UFO enthusiasts can also make Mount Rainier a stop on their country-wide UFO tour, and watch the skies around the mountain in hopes that Kenneth Arnold's famous "flying saucers" make their long-awaited return.

4 Skinwalker Ranch

Beginning in the 1990s, Utah's Skinwalker Ranch has risen in fame as an active spot for UFO sightings and paranormal incidents of all kinds. For serious UFO investigators, comprehensive investigations of reported sightings at Skinwalker Ranch are somewhat difficult, both due to lack of access to the ranch itself and potential ulterior motives on the part of the witnesses.

But regardless of the truth, there's no denying that Skinwalker Ranch and its surrounding Uintah County are major destinations for UFO enthusiasts who want to witness something out of this world.

Utah's Uintah County has been a hotbed for UFO sightings and cattle mutilation incidents going back to at least the 1970s.

In the 1990s, local media began to report on strange occurrences that allegedly happened at the Skinwalker Ranch itself. At the time, the ranch was owned by Terry and Gwen Sherman, who had purchased it from its previous owners in 1994.

The Shermans began to report on numerous bizarre events in and around the ranch, including UFO sightings in the sky, mutilations and disappearances of their cattle, and the appearance of strange animals on their ranch. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, the couple's experience at the ranch got so bad that they eventually sold it to a businessman named Robert Bigelow .

Bigelow happened to be the founder of a private organization called the National Institute for Discovery Science, which sought to study anomalous and paranormal phenomena. Bigelow's efforts to study the supposedly paranormal events that occurred there brought the Skinwalker ranch much further into the popular imagination as a UFO hot spot.

During the subsequent investigations, Bigelow and his organization brought in both scientific and military experts to try and study the ranch's unexplained phenomena. However, the team was unable to obtain "evidence consistent with scientific publication."

In 2004, Bigelow's National Institute for Discovery Science shut down, and in 2016 he sold the ranch to a real estate developer. Today, Skinwalker Ranch is closed to the public, with barbed wire and CCTV cameras surrounding the perimeter to deter intruders. However, to this day, the surrounding towns in Uintah County still receive scores of visitors hoping to catch sight of one of the area's infamous paranormal phenomena.

7 Best Dark Sky Parks For Stargazing In Utah

In an age of light pollution, tourists can visit Utah to see these International Dark Sky Parks with incredible stargazing opportunities

3 Myrtle Beach

South carolina.

The famous seaside town of Myrtle Beach , South Carolina is a popular resort and tourist destination with tons of fun activities for vacationers. With its beautiful beaches and abundant entertainment options, most people do not associate Myrtle Beach with UFOs. But oddly enough, Myrtle Beach may be one of the nation's top spots for sighting UFOs in person, at least according to the National UFO Reporting Center.

Based on the center's data, Myrtle Beach and its surrounding Horry County have 186.8 UFO sightings per 100,000 residents. This would make Myrtle Beach America's top UFO spot east of the Mississippi River. With so many sightings, skeptics, of course, have more than a few rational explanations.

Undoubtedly, the city's bright lights, combined with aerial drones and the copious amounts of alcohol likely consumed by tourists, contribute to more than a few of the city's many UFO sightings. For believers, though, these explanations don't account for the sheer number of sightings that Myrtle Beach has each year. As a result, the city is becoming an increasingly popular destination for UFO tourists.

One good thing about Myrtle Beach as a UFO haven is the wide range of fun recreational activities available to UFO tourists as they wait to witness something strange in the skies. Even if tourists get tired of lounging on the beach or enjoying themselves at the amusement park, Myrtle Beach is also home to many great space-themed attractions, like the Ingram Planetarium and the Space Discovery Zone at the WonderWorks amusement park.

2 Phoenix Metropolitan Area

Most of America's most famous UFO incidents took place in the early days of the Cold War. Back then, a lack of reliable recording equipment combined with secret technology and Cold War espionage made it hard to differentiate hoaxes, military tests, and actual unexplained phenomena.

But one of the most widely reported and mysterious UFO sightings occurred in the 1990s, several years after the end of the Cold War and during the time of portable handheld cameras. The 1997 Phoenix Lights incident was witnessed by scores of people across two states, and subsequent explanations have proven unsatisfactory for many eyewitnesses.

Though the 1997 incident is named after the city of Phoenix , the initial reports began in Southern Nevada. On the evening of March 13, witnesses around the Nevada city of Henderson reported seeing a "large, V-shaped" object traveling through the sky. Some witnesses likened the object to a carpenter's square, and most reports also reference "reddish-orange" lights that seemed to be affixed to it. A short time later, reports of a similar object began to come in across Arizona.

Between 8:30 and 10 pm, residents of Phoenix reported seeing rows of lights flying through the sky in some kind of formation. Though these reports differ slightly from the initial reports of a large, triangular object earlier reported in Nevada, the descriptions of these lights do reference a strange color and unusual movement that suggested they were each individual-piloted aircraft flying in formation.

Some witnesses were able to take camcorder footage of these lights as they flew above the Phoenix skyline, which is still widely considered some of the best authentic UFO footage to this day.

Eventually, the military released a report explaining that the sightings stemmed from a training exercise by the Arizona Air National Guard, and the strange lights were actually illumination flares dropped by military aircraft. However, this explanation did not satisfy many of the witnesses.

Regardless of whether you believe the military's explanation or not, Arizona remains a hotbed of UFO sightings to this day. According to the National UFO Reporting Center, Phoenix's Maricopa County has 56.3 sightings per 100,000 residents , while the neighboring Gila County has 226.5.

10 Charming Small Towns Near Phoenix, Arizona

Discover charming small towns near Phoenix, Arizona, for an exciting getaway with loved ones.

1 Lubbock-Levelland Area

With its vast size, large population, and extensive quantity of dark sky spots, it's no surprise that Texas is one of the country's leaders in UFO sightings. The North Texas Lubbock-Levelland Metropolitan Area in particular was the sight of not one but two of the most mysterious sightings during the UFO craze of the 1950s.

The first of these events was the infamous 1951 "Lubbock Lights" incident . On August 25 of that year, hundreds of residents of Lubbock reported seeing strange "blue-green" lights beaming across the sky in an unusual V-shaped formation. In most cases, hundreds of witnesses reporting seeing such an event would be notable in and of itself. But the Lubbock Lights incident is particularly notable for who was reporting it.

Rather than ordinary rabble or ignorant civilians, the Lubbock Lights were reported by several professors and students of Lubbock's Texas Tech University, many of whom were experienced scientists and engineers. One witness even got a photograph of the phenomenon, though the low quality of the 1950s camera provides little definitive information in the subsequent photos.

Six years later, in 1957, the nearby city of Levelland was the sight of its own mass UFO sighting . On November 2, 1957, several Levelland residents reported seeing a large "fireball" flying across the sky. Most witnesses reported it being ovular or "egg-shaped," and all reported it glowing a very bright orange or blue-green color. Some witnesses even reported experiencing electrical issues with their cars and electronics as the light passed overhead.

Explanations for both of these sightings range from meteors to swamp gas to atmospheric illusions, but none has proven definitive over the subsequent 60 years. Today, North Texas remains a hotbed of UFO sightings, with nearby counties like Hall, Dickens, and Roberts County having some of the most sightings per capita.

IMAGES

  1. Pocket Adventure Guide To Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

    mt rainier places to visit

  2. Mount Rainier National Park

    mt rainier places to visit

  3. Mount Rainier: Where to Find the Best Views

    mt rainier places to visit

  4. 10 JAW-DROPPING Things to Do at MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK

    mt rainier places to visit

  5. Visit Rainier

    mt rainier places to visit

  6. 5 Best Fall Hikes at Mount Rainier

    mt rainier places to visit

COMMENTS

  1. Plan Your Visit

    Places To Go. Mount Rainier has five developed areas: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon River & Mowich.Although the level of development in these areas ranges from basic (little more than a campground and picnic area) to extensive (hotel, restaurant, visitor center, campgrounds, and picnic areas), each can serve as a base for exploring the rest of the park.

  2. 17 BEST Places to See Mount Rainier (Non-Hikers Too!)

    16. Seward Park. No hiking required. Located on Lake Washington, Seward Park is a fantastic place to see scenic views of Mount Rainier across the lake. The park is delightful, with old-growth trees, a children's park area, a loop for walking or jogging, and more.

  3. Places To Go

    View full screen >. Mount Rainier National Park encompasses 235,625 acres or 368 square miles. Of that amount, 228,480 acres (97% of the park) has been designated by Congress as wilderness. The park's National Historic Landmark District includes 2.7% of the park. The park has over 260 miles of maintained trails and 147 miles of roads.

  4. 25 Best Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park

    The Skyline Trail is Mount Rainier National Park's most popular (and most scenic!) hike.If you only have time for one thing in Mount Rainier, don't miss the Skyline Trail! The nearly 6-mile hike starts at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center near Paradise Inn.The ultra-scenic loop is best hiked from late July to early September when the snow has melted and wildflowers are in full ...

  5. What to Do at Mount Rainier: Complete Guide for First Timers

    Paradise - Best for first-time visitors: Paradise is the most popular area to visit, located on the southern side of the Mountain, and home to some great day hikes at Mount Rainier. It's where you'll find the best waterfall hikes at Mount Rainier, along with countless meadows bursting with wildflowers in the summer.

  6. Visit Rainier

    14,410 feet of fun & adventure await your exploration at Mt. Rainier. Explore lodging, area activities, travel information & more. Plan your visit today.

  7. Top 10 Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

    14,410 feet of adventure await at Mount Rainier including hiking, biking, camping, and more! Explore our top ten things to do in Mt. Rainier National Park. ... With over 300 miles of protected wilderness, how much can a visitor see in two days at Mount Rainier National Park? Travel writer, photographer, and blogger Jayson Moorman of Explore ...

  8. The Perfect One Day in Mount Rainier National Park Itinerary

    Grove of the Patriarchs is a classic hike and a perfect addition to a one-day itinerary in Mount Rainier National Park. The easy 1.5-mile round-trip trail travels past some of the largest trees you will ever see! It is home to cedars, hemlocks, and Douglas-firs that are 40 feet wide and 300 feet tall.

  9. 22 Incredibly Fun Things to Do in Mt Rainier You Can't Miss

    13. Visit Myrtle Falls (one of the most popular things to do in Mount Rainier) Myrtle Falls along Skyline Trail. Region: Paradise. Best for: chasing waterfalls. The easiest hiking trail in the Paradise area, I'd consider this more of a walk. You can hike to Myrtle Falls via the Skyline Loop Trail.

  10. 6 Best Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park

    Kyle McCarthy|Sharael Kolberg December 4, 2023. Ranking of the top 6 things to do in Mount Rainier National Park. Travelers favorites include #1 Paradise, #2 Sunrise and more.

  11. Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park

    20. Explore the White River Area. Location: Sunrise/White River, Mount Rainier. One of the more unsung places to explore and things to do in Mount Rainier is the White River area. Most folks fly by White River on their way up to see the more famous Sunrise section of the park.

  12. 9 Best Places to See Mount Rainier in Its Namesake National Park

    Image credit: Bram Reusen. One of the most beautiful and popular places in Mount Rainier National Park, the Skyline Trail is nothing short of breathtaking. This 5.5-mile round-trip hike starts at the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, just behind the beautiful historic Paradise Inn, one of the two accommodations at Mount Rainier, climbing 1,700 feet to well above the tree line.

  13. 5 Charming Towns Around Mount Rainier National Park Worth Visiting

    Another must-see site is the "Little White Church" built in 1906 and also on the National Registry of Historic Places. Services are still held here from March to November. Pro Tip: Elbe is located just 13 miles from the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Elbe has the only rest area before the park entrance, which opens back ...

  14. 10 JAW-DROPPING Things to Do at Mt. Rainier National Park

    The stunning alpine views from this high-elevation trail makes this one the best hikes at Mt. Rainier National Park, an experience you would be remiss to skip during your visit. #3. Catch wildflowers at peak bloom. See wildflowers at peak bloom is one of the best things to do at Mt. Rainier National Park.

  15. 11 Can't-Miss Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park + 11 Tips For

    The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center is a good place to stop in if you need any beta on trail conditions, want to get a junior ranger book for the kids, join a ranger talk or guided hike, or just need (slow wifi). ... One of the main reasons you'll want to visit Mount Rainier is to actually see its namesake. This active volcano is over 14,000 ...

  16. 20 Incredible Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

    The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park for stargazing is during the Perseid Meteor Shower, which happens annually between July 17th and August 24th. The peak time to see the Perseids Meteor Shower is August 9-13! Another epic place to see the Milky Way in Mount Rainier National Park is at the Sunrise Area.

  17. 9 Best Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park

    The 1.5-mile loop Sunrise Nature Trail meanders from the Sunrise picnic area, passing through meadows with spectacular Mount Rainier and Cascade views along the way. The 1-mile Sunrise Rim Trail will bring you stunning views of Emmons Glacier from two overlooks. Credit: Crystal Mountain Resort, Washington by Crystal Mountain Resort/Brianna ...

  18. 20 Cool Things To Do at Mt. Rainier National Park: Hikes, Wildlife

    Read on for a complete guide to visiting Rainier. Quick Summary: The Best Things To Do at Mt. Rainier. 1 Hike the Skyline Trail. 2 Visit Reflection Lakes. 3 See Narada Falls. 4 Hike to Mount Fremont Lookout Tower. 5 Check out Myrtle Falls. Mountain goats seen from the Skyline Trail.

  19. Visiting Mount Rainier National Park: What You Need To Know

    Where to Fly Into to Visit Mount Rainier. If you're coming from out-of-state, there are two viable airports near Mount Rainier National Park. The best option in terms of both flight selection and distance from the Mountain is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), which is more commonly known as "Seatac" to Seattleites.. Flying into Seatac is going to put you a hair over two and a ...

  20. How to See Mt. Rainier From Seattle: Where To Get the Best Views

    Summer provides the best opportunity to see Rainier. Seattle summers are beautiful. The skies are clear, the sun is hot, and the temperature usually doesn't get much above 80 degrees F on most days. From June through September, you'll be able to see Mt. Rainier from Seattle more often than not. During the rest of the year, it's a total ...

  21. 10 Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park: Complete Guide To

    The Skyline Trail is a renowned 5.5-mile loop trail that treats hikers to breathtaking 180-degree views of Mount Rainier and the massive Emmons Glacier flowing down the mountain's eastern slope.. As the trail traverses along a prominent ridge line and winds through vibrant wildflower meadows, hikers are surrounded by spectacular vistas of Rainier's icy white peak contrasted against the lush ...

  22. The Most Popular and Challenging Climbing Routes on Mt. Rainier

    This is the most popular and frequented route on Mount Rainier. Climbers start at Paradise (Approximately 5,000 ft.) and reach Camp Muir, a high-altitude base camp at 10,080 ft., on the first day ...

  23. Trip Report: Seattle, Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier

    Visit Quinault Rainforest on the way. Possible detour to Mount St. Helens overlook (was abandoned due to travel taking a long time). Check into Cowlitz River Lodge. Day 9 - Mount Rainier National Park. Day 10 - Mount Rainier National Park, travel back to Seatac, check into Radisson for early flight next morning. Return rental car.

  24. Why Mount Rainier is the US volcano keeping scientists up at night

    Mount St. Helens, which cataclysmically erupted in May 1980, ranked as second most hazardous before Mount Rainier in third place. ... where it would travel at the speed of 13 feet (4 meters) per ...

  25. A visit to Mount Rainier is not as easy as it used to be

    I seem to have reached the age when a person more and more frequently says, "I remember the good old days before (fill in the blank) made things worse." Of course, I can imagine a 25-year-old ...

  26. Where to See the Perseids Meteor Shower

    Stargaze near Mount St. Helens. Photo: iStock. Families who enjoy backpacking will find even more places to be away from city lights. Child-friendly backpacking trips with open skies include Shadow Lake at Mount Rainier and Lake Ann in the North Cascades.

  27. Dark Skies & UFOs: Here's Where The Weirdest Stuff Happens ...

    Some of the top destinations in the United States for UFO sightings include Mount Rainier National Park, known for its amazing hiking trails, challenging climbs, and spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains. It is also a popular spot for UFO sightings, with 6,812 reports since the 1940s.