hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is the gem of Washington State, comprising nearly 370 square miles of pristine scenery. The star of the show is 14410ft Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the state. With endless carpets of lush wildflowers, dense forests, and rushing waterfalls around every turn, this park is a dream for hikers and adventurers of all ages and a premier destination in the Pacific Northwest. Drawing over 2 million visitors each year, Mount Rainier National Park is a haven for hiking, photographing, camping, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States. The park protects a portion of the Cascade Range, 91,000 acres of old-growth forest, and countless gorgeous wildflower meadows, glaciers, and valleys. As the foundation document for the park reads, “The purpose of Mount Rainier National Park is to protect and preserve unimpaired the majestic icon of Mount Rainier, along with its natural and cultural resources, values, and dynamic processes. The park provides opportunities for people to experience, understand, and care for the park environment, and also provides for wilderness experiences and sustains wilderness values.”
With a dizzying array of trails, campsites, and stellar corners to explore, we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes in Mount Rainier National Park to help you plan your trip. This is just the start, though- there’s so much to see here!
The 10 Epic Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
There are so many hikes to choose from in Mount Rainier National Park, it can be hard to know where to start! We’ve chosen some of our favourite trails in all corners of the park to help you choose your adventure.
Every kind of hiker can find their perfect trail here. There are family-friendly trails, more challenging hikes, and long multi-day backpacking trips on offer, so you’ll be able to choose the right trail no matter what you’re in the mood for. With lots of mid-difficulty routes in the park, intermediate hikers can balance a good workout and fabulous views. On hot days, hikes featuring waterfalls are a hugely popular choice in the park. And if you’ve got little ones tagging along, you can even find stroller-friendly trails to enjoy!
No matter which hike you take, you’ll be treated to splendid views of the snow-clad Cascades, countless flowers, waterfalls, or ancient trees.
- Pinnacle Peak Saddle Trail - The Pinnacle Peak Saddle trail offers a lofty viewpoint over the Paradise area with only moderate effort required. With no technical challenges and a consistent steady incline, it offers a great quick workout with views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams to reward you.
- Grove of the Patriarchs Trail - The Grove of the Patriarchs hike is a family-friendly hike that takes you through an old-growth forest and over a suspension bridge. This relaxed path requires very little elevation gain but gets you right up next to trees over 300ft tall. En route, you’ll notice interpretive signs that offer nice insight into the natural flora and fauna of the forest.
- Skyline Loop Trail - The Skyline Loop Trail boasts exceptional views and wide swathes of wildflowers in the summertime. Not only will you see countless wildflowers, but this moderate-length hike packs a punch when it comes to stunning scenery. Expect to pass by cascading waterfalls and mighty glaciers. Of course, the star of the show is the grand view of Mount Rainier.
- Tipsoo Lake Trail - The Tipsoo Lake Loop is an easy, short hike around a lake suitable for all ages and skill levels. This short hike is often combined with an ascent of Naches Peak, but the lake loop in itself is perfect for a low-key outing. It offers extremely mild elevation gain and the chance to see lush wildflowers.
- Naches Peak Loop - The popular Naches Peak Loop hike offers diverse alpine scenery in a short, easy to complete loop. You’ll crest a small valley, enjoy views of Tipsoo Lake, walk through vast wildflower meadows, and do it all with views of Mount Rainier. The Naches Peak Loop hike follows the Pacific Crest Trail for a portion of the trek, giving you the honor of a few steps on an epic thru-hike.
- Tolmie Peak Trail - The Tolmie Peak Trail takes you up to an old fire lookout, where you’ll enjoy incredible up-close views of Mount Rainier and Eunice Lake. These two viewpoints are go-to spots for sunrise and sunset photographers. The Tolmie Peak Trail crosses over part of the Wonderland Trail, one of Washington’s most impressive long-distance trails.
- Narada Falls to Reflection Lake - The hike between Narada Falls and Reflection Lake links the serene Reflection Lake with the thundering Narada Falls. Instead of driving to see both, you can take this enjoyable trail in between. This trail can be hiked in either direction, allowing you to tailor your adventure to your day’s plans. On a hot day, the cool mist of the falls and water of the lake is a welcome treat.
- Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge - The Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge trail is an easy hike in Mount Rainier National Park that takes you to a small, icy lake. The trail also rewards you with great views from Sourdough Ridge of Mount Rainier itself. The hike is fairly short, requires little elevation gain, and is perfect for a quick outing or a trip with adventurous kids. Enjoy this quiet, scenic hike and savour those peaceful moments on the lakeshore.
- Silver Falls Hike - The Silver Falls hike is a family-friendly hike that takes you to a cascading waterfall and that can be easily linked with the popular Grove of the Patriarchs trail. The hike requires little elevation gain and the trail is wide, making it a nice choice for families. As you hike, you can read the collection of interpretive signs along the trail that highlight the history of this spot.
- Fremont Lookout Trail - Watchmen used to watch for wildfires from the cabin atop Mount Fremont, but now the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail serves to give you an excellent vantage point over Grand Peak, Redstone Peak, and Skyscraper Mountain. Take this perfect half-day hike in Rainier National Park for great views and just enough of a challenge!
Scroll down to see the full list of hiking trails in Mount Rainier National Park.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Mount Rainier National Park?
Mount Rainier National Park experiences warm, enjoyable summers and cool winters with lots of precipitation. Parts of the park close in the late fall and remain closed through the spring, so we recommend visiting in the summer months of June through September. If you’re hoping to catch the wildflower blooms in their full glory, a trip between mid-July and mid-August tends to be the best option.
While the summer months offer the best weather and best flowers, they do also bring the heaviest crowds. If you’re okay with running into potential leftover snow on the trail or missing the flowers, visiting in June or mid-September can give you more privacy on the trails while still offering suitable hiking weather.
If you’re seeking to enjoy winter activities in the park, like snowshoeing, visiting between December and early March will be your best bet. Just come prepared, as rangers and services may be unavailable. Take care to plan your visit carefully, since some roads in the park are subject to seasonal closures.
Other Outdoor Activities in Mount Rainier National Park
Hiking and walking is by far the most popular activity in Mount Rainier National Park, but it’s certainly not the only way to spend your time here. The park is a fantastic spot to camp, with both soft-side and hard-side sites available. There are also some backcountry spots you can use during your time in the park, especially if you’re completing a backpacking trip. Most sites need to be booked in advance.
In the winter months, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding are very popular. Many hiking trails are suitable for snowshoeing, and most backcountry users will hike up to Camp Muir to ski or snowboard the Muir snowfields.
For downhill skiing and snowboarding in-bounds, Crystal Mountain is a huge draw. This top-rated resort boasts lots of expert runs. If you’re a powder hound, try White Pass Ski Area, a more off the beaten path zone with great natural terrain.
How to Plan a Trip to Mount Rainier National Park
A hiking trip in Mount Rainier National Park is an unforgettable adventure, but you’ll want to put enough time and energy into planning to make your trip smooth. Whenever you’re planning a trip to a national park, there are fees, permits, transportation requirements, and day-to-day logistics to consider. The official website of the park is a great resource for trip planning, as is the National Park Service, which also posts up-to-date trail conditions, closures, and other important information.
Mount Rainier National Park Adventure Tours
Not so excited about hashing out the details of your itinerary? Letting the pros plan your adventure in Mount Rainier National Park takes the stress out of your holiday, letting you focus on your experiences. Check out some incredible adventure tours in Mount Rainier National Park.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mount Rainier National Park
Do I need a pass or permit to enter Mount Rainier National Park?
Yes, you’ll need to purchase either a day pass or an America the Beautiful Pass to enter the park. This can be done online in advance or when entering the park gates.
How many days do you need in Mount Rainier National Park?
You could spend anywhere from a day to two weeks exploring the park! Most visitors come for one day or a weekend, but some devoted backpackers (like those completing the Wonderland Trail) will spend nearly two weeks in the park. We recommend two full days to have the time to enjoy several different hikes in the park.
Which city is closest to Mount Rainier National Park?
The closest major city to Mount Rainier National Park is Tacoma (50.0mi), which also has the closest international airport, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Seattle is about 80.0mi from the park.
Can you camp in Mount Rainier National Park?
There are both frontcountry and backcountry campsites in the park. Make sure you book your spot ahead and get all the necessary permits before you pitch your tent.
Are dogs allowed in Mount Rainier National Park?
Dogs are not allowed on trails, in the wilderness, inside buildings, in amphitheatres, or on snow in the park. You can have your dog in the car and parking lot with you (on leash only), but because of the firm restrictions in nearly all other parts of the park, we do not recommend bringing dogs into the park at all.
Service animals (not including emotional support animals) are exempted.
Do you need a car in Mount Rainier National Park?
Currently, there is no public transportation available in the park. We recommend either driving your own car, renting a car, or booking a tour that includes transportation.
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The best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
Yes, there are more than 10
Mount Rainier National Park is so beautiful that we can not give you only 10 hikes. So here is a list of bonus hikes in Mount Rainier National Park that you should take a look at as well
The Burroughs Mountain Loop via Glacier Basin Trail is a 10.3mi hard hike… Read More
The Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge to Emerald Ridge Loop is a 11.8mi lightly… Read More
The Skyline, Mazama, Wonderland, and Lower Lakes Trail Loop is a 8.4mi hard… Read More
The Mount Ruth via Glacier Basin and Emmons Moraine Trails hike is a 8.4mi Read More
The hike to Forest Lake via Huckleberry Creek and Sourdough Ridge is an 5.3mi Read More
Skyscraper Pass and Burroughs Mountain via Wonderland Trail is a 8.2mi moderately trafficked… Read More
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