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Mount Rainier National Park

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park

Find alpine meadows, old-growth forests, and Washington’s highest peak at Mount Rainier National Park.

Towering 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is a state icon. An active volcano, the mountain is also the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. From hiking among wildflowers in the summer to snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, the park is a year-round recreational paradise.

With multiple entrances and a myriad of sights and activities to choose from, it can be tricky knowing where to start. Read on to make the most of your visit.

Getting to Mount Rainier National Park

Several major cities including Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, Olympia, and Portland, Oregon, are within 200 miles of the park. Those coming from Seattle can usually reach the park in about 2.5 hours.

While the park has multiple entrances, the Nisqually Entrance on the southwest side of the park is the only entrance open year-round. This is where you’ll find Paradise, which is famous for its glorious views and wildflower meadows.

Note that using GPS to search for the entrance will often lead you astray. The park service recommends using a physical map or entering this exact address into GPS: 39000 State Route 706 E, Ashford, WA 98304.

In addition to Nisqually, visitors can gain access to the park from the northwest at Carbon River or from multiple east entrances. Use an east entrance if you’re looking to visit Sunrise, the highest point in the park that can be reached by vehicle.

To avoid peak crowds, plan your visit for weekdays in summer or during the shoulder months in spring and fall. Check the National Park Service for more tips on avoiding summer congestion.

The closest international airports are Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) and Portland, Oregon (PDX). Yakima Air Terminal to the east of the park is also served by major airlines.

Find detailed directions.

Two people hiking along a trail at Mount Rainier National Park

Things to Do

From scenic drives to epic hikes, there’s no shortage of sights and attractions to keep you busy.

Climbing

As the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Rainier draws thousands of people each year who hope to ascend the volcano. There are more than 20 climbing routes and ski descents via four main trailheads. Climbers must obtain a climbing permit in person and pay the annual climbing fee. Learn more about climbing.

Day Hiking & Backpacking

Boasting more than 260 miles of maintained trails winding through everything from old-growth forests to high subalpine meadows, Mount Rainier National Park offers tons of day hikes. Visitors will find everything from short family friendly trails to strenuous hikes leading to waterfall views. Even a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail weaves in and out of park’s boundary along the eastern side.

Those looking to sleep under the stars in the backcountry must obtain a permit for the park’s many wilderness backpacking sites. The popular Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail that encircles the mountain, offers 18 trailside camps and three non-wilderness camps. Due to high demand during the summer, reserving a wilderness permit is highly recommended.

Wildflower Viewing

Mount Rainier is home to hundreds of species of wildflowers. Some of the best viewing opportunities can be found at Sunrise and Paradise, which are famous for their impressive meadows that break into a riot of colorful blooms during mid-July and August. The park maintains dozens of trails perfect for wildflower viewing, just be sure to prepare yourself for crowds during peak summer season.

Winter Recreation

Mount Rainier is a popular winter recreation destination thanks to abundant snowfall and fantastic views. Visitors can enjoy many winter activities, from snowshoe walks and sledding to snowboard, snowmobiling, and skiing.

Exterior of Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier

Where to Stay

With so much to see and do, you’ll certainly want to stay the night.

Mount Rainier Campgrounds

Mount Rainier National Park operates three campgrounds that are open seasonally: Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, and White River. Mowich Lake offers a small primitive campground for tents only. There are also numerous wilderness camping sites. Be sure to book early to secure your spot.

Mount Rainier Lodges

In addition to campgrounds, there are also two historic lodging options in the park. Paradise Inn opened in 1917 and offers 121 guest rooms, dining room, and gift shop. Located at Paradise, the inn is open seasonally and offers easy access to hiking trails. In the Longmire Historic District, National Park Inn offers 25 rooms, a casual restaurant, and a general store located in a vintage 1911 log cabin.

Nearby Communities

Gateway communities surrounding the area make a great base for a day of exploring. You’ll find an exhaustive list of lodging options, from affordable roadside motels to charming country inns.

Additional Resources

For more inspiration, check out VisitRainier.com or the national park website. In addition to lodging and helpful tips, you’ll find everything you need to book your trip or find the perfect hike or attraction.