16 Best Things To Do in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

If you’re a fellow adventurer looking for your next outdoor escape, Mount Rainier is an idyllic destination that should not go unmissed. With breathtaking natural beauty and exhilarating activities, there are plenty of things to do in Mount Rainier National Park.

Nestled in Washington state, Mount Rainier is a remarkable active volcano that stands at 14,410 feet. The park comprises around 235,000 acres of pristine wilderness to explore. So, whether you’re an avid hiker seeking a satisfying trail or hoping to capture shots of the lush forests, this park has diverse attractions and activities awaiting you.

With so much on offer, figuring out where to start might take some work. But don’t worry, I live in Washington and know all the ins and outs. So without further ado, let’s jump into the top things to do in Mt Rainier National Park, how to get there, where to stay, and other handy insider tips.

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Mount Rainier National Park

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Map Of Best Things To Do In Mount Rainier National Park

How To Get to Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

Before ticking off your Mount Rainier things-to-do list, you’ll need to know how to get there. And luckily, getting there is easy once you’ve planned your route. 

If you’re flying in, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is your best bet. From there, you can rent a car and drive to the park. It’s around a 2-3 hour drive from Seattle to Mount Rainier, and you’ll see the stunning scenery along the way. So make some stops, snap a few shots, and enjoy the view. 

Mount Rainier National Park has four main entrances: 

  • Nisqually Entrance: Southwest
  • Sunrise Entrance: Northeast
  • Stevens Canyon Entrance: Southeast
  • Carbon River: Northwest

Depending on your starting point, you can choose the entrance that’s most convenient for you and the activities you plan to tackle. The Nisqually entrance leading to Paradise is the most popular one for those traveling from Seattle and the only entrance open year-round. 

Tip: As Mount Rainier does not provide shuttle buses, it’s best to rent a car or use your own to get around the park.

Once you’ve arrived, the entrance fee to Mount Rainier is $30 per private vehicle and its passengers. You can also opt for an annual pass for around $55. It provides unlimited entry to Mt Rainier for one year to the pass owner and passengers. 

Another excellent option is the America the Beautiful Pass, which grants access to all national parks in the U.S. for a year. It costs around $80, so you’ll save cash in the long term and enjoy plenty of fun activities across the country. 

Where To Stay Near Mt Rainier National Park

With so many things to do, Mt Rainier National Park trips call for an overnight stay. Here are a few of the best accommodation options in and around the park.

Nisqually Lodge

If you’re looking for a cozy and convenient place to stay near Mount Rainier, Nisqually Lodge in Ashford is an excellent option. It’s just five miles from the Nisqually entrance to the park and 12 miles from Mineral Lake, making it the perfect base for your outdoor adventure.

Whether you’re planning a romantic retreat, a family trip, or a solo escape, there are plenty of rooms to choose from.>>>Check Availability

Paradise Inn

Paradise Inn is a historic, charming lodge located in the heart of the park. Staying at this cozy spot provides easy access to some of the best hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic overlooks in the area. It’s also next to one of the park’s best trails, the Skyline Trail, and just a short walk to Myrtle Falls. >>>Find Out More

Budget: Camping

If you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of Mount Rainier, there’s no better way to do it than by camping in the heart of the park. With several campgrounds, you can pick a site to suit your preferences. Then, wake up in the morning to the melodies of birds chirping, smell the fresh forest air, and end your days gazing at the starry skies. >>>Find Out More

Read More: Where To Stay In Mt Rainier National Park

What To Pack For Mount Rainier

  • Bug Spray: The bugs are insane here! Bring some good bug spray. >Buy Some Here
  • Sunscreen: One of the ten essentials! I always bring this with me. >Buy Sunscreen
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes: If you use tennis shoes, you can easily hurt your toes hitting a rock by accident (Trust me I have done it so many times). Make sure you bring good shoes when you hike Mount Rainier. >Check Out My Hiking Shoes
  • Hiking socks: Having the correct socks helps prevent blisters while hiking at Mt Rainier. Smart Wool is probably my favorite brand out there. I also love how they now have pink socks too 🙂 >Buy Hiking Socks
  • Refillable water bottle: I always bring a Hydroflask on all my adventures. They are on the heavier side, but I know for a fact they will not break. I have had a few cheap water bottles break on me before. >Check Prices Now
  • Water Reservoir: You might need more water than a water bottles worth. The great thing about this reservoir is that it doesn’t have the plastic taste. >Here Is My Water Reservoir
  • Water: Stay nice and hydrated.
  • Sunglasses: It can get sunny, so make sure to pack some sunglasses. >Check Out These Sunglasses
  • Snacks: The best snacks are jerky, nuts, energy bars, and extra food. >>>Check Out These Snacks!
  • Camera: The camera I have linked was one of the first cameras I started using on my travels. The Sony A6000 is an excellent camera for people that want to start improving at travel photography.  >Buy Sony Camera Here
  • First Aid Kit: This is one of the first things I bought when I first started going on adventures. It is super portable. >Buy This Awesome First Aid Kit Here
  • Day Pack to carry all your things: The REI bag I have linked, we have had for seven years now, and it is still going strong! >Buy This Great Quality Backpack
  • Leggings or Hiking Pants: I love wearing leggings while hiking because I love how comfy they are. Here are my leggings.  >Click For My Leggings
  • Breathable sweat-wicking shirts: Try not to wear cotton because it soaks up your sweat and can cause hypothermia in the mountains. >Buy Shirt Here
  • Sports Bra: For women >>>Click Here
  • Jacket: It can get pretty chilly all year long. Bring a Jacket! >Buy My Favorite Jacket
  • Rain Jacket: When hiking in Washington, you need this in case it starts pouring on you, which is always a possibility in the PNW. >Buy A Great Rain Jacket Here
  • Tripod: This is an optional item, but it is excellent for getting the ideal sunset pictures. >Check out this tripod
  • Fire Starter and Matches: This is just in case of an emergency. >Buy These Stormproof Matches Just In Case
  • Compass: I always carry this with me, just in case. >Click Here To Buy
  • Knife: You never know if you will need it. >Buy My Knife Here
  • Headlamp: A headlamp is an absolute must in case you get lost, or you take longer than you thought you would to complete a hike. Trust me, it happens even to me. >Buy A Headlamp Now
  • Trekking Poles: I recommend these for people with bad knees like me. >Buy The Poles Shown In My Picture
  • Crampons: If you are hiking outside of the summer months, I highly recommend always having this in your backpack. >Buy My Handy Dandy Crampons 
  • Bear Spray: I always carry bear spray around Washington State just in case. >Buy Bear Spray Here
  • Mount Rainier Map: A map is essential so you don’t get lost. I usually bring with me AllTrails+ map on my phone, and I have many of the Washington area maps. I love National Geographic’s maps. They are good quality. >>>Check It Out Here

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Best Time To Visit Mount Rainier National Park

The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park is mid-summer to early fall. From July through October, you can enjoy pleasant weather and snow-free hiking trails, and you might also see beautiful wildflowers. 

Visiting from July to August provides the best chances of seeing the wildflowers in bloom. However, this is also the busiest time, so be prepared for the crowds. 

If you want to avoid the masses, visiting from September to October is best. You’ll get to admire the gorgeous fall colors. But remember that there might be snow at the end of the season, which can be dangerous. 

When winter hits, there is a ton of snow. Fortunately, the park isn’t closed, and you can enter via the Nisqually and Carbon River entrances. In winter, you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in Mount Rainier. 

Top Things To Do: Mount Rainier National Park

Ready to discover what to do at Mount Rainier? This park offers abundant, exciting experiences and views that will take your breath away. So let’s take a look at the top things to do at Mount Rainier National Park.

Hike the Skyline Trail

  • Distance: 6.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,788 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

If you’re up for a challenge, the Skyline Trail is one of the best hikes Mount Rainier has to offer. Hiking this 6.2-mile trail is an unforgettable experience with spectacular views. The best viewpoints along the way are Panorama Point, Myrtle Falls, and Glacier Vista. 

This winding trail passes fields scattered with trees and offers awe-inspiring views of Mount Rainier, so it’s easy to see why it is so popular. While the Skyline Trail is open year-round, the best time to hike it is during late spring or summer. During this time, the wildflowers in the surrounding fields are a treat to the eyes.

If you’re visiting during winter, the trail becomes the 5-mile, roundtrip Panorama Point Snowshoe trail. This is, however, for more advanced hikers, and it’s always best to seek guidance from a park ranger before tackling it.

Note: With such a high elevation, the trail experiences drastic weather changes, so be sure to check the forecast beforehand and pack accordingly. 

See Myrtle Falls

You might not be up for hiking the entire Skyline Trail, but you simply can’t miss the mesmerizing beauty of Myrtle Falls during your visit to Mount Rainier National Park. 

Picture this, you’re surrounded by nature and see impressive cascading falls plummeting 72 feet into a rugged gorge with Mount Rainier as its backdrop. This beautiful natural attraction is one of the most photographed spots in the park, and the view is absolutely breathtaking. So bring along your camera for some hiking photography – it’s a sight you won’t want to forget!

How do you get to this stunning spot? If you’re not tackling the entire Skyline Trail, you can take the out-and-back trail to the Myrtle Falls Viewpoint. It’s around 0.8 miles from the parking lot and should take around 20 minutes to complete.

Admire Reflection Lakes

A list of Mount Rainier National Park things to do would be incomplete without including this idyllic area. These still lakes are filled with tranquil, crystal-clear alpine water and provide a perfect mirror-like reflection of the towering peak of Mt. Rainier.

The views are dreamy, making it an ideal spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. If you’re an early bird, the early morning light is wonderful, as it casts a golden glow over the landscape. 

If you’re visiting this U.S. national park in spring and summer, there are colorful opportunities, and you might also capture some wildlife among the flowers. The reflections of the reddish hues from the turning leaves during fall are also magnificent.

To get here, you can drive along Stevens Canyon Road from Paradise. It’s important to note that the road is only open during the warmer months, generally from June to September. You might have to wait for a parking spot, but it’ll certainly be worth the wait.

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Visit a Fire Lookout

If you’re looking for unique things to do at Mt Rainier National Park, why not visit a fire lookout? Not only do they offer stunning views, but they are full of fascinating history to discover. 

At Mount Rainier, there are several fire lookouts that you can explore or stay overnight. The Fremont Lookout is one of the most popular ones. It was built in 1934 and is located at an elevation above 7,000 feet. It overlooks Grand Park, Skyscraper Mountain, Redstone Peak, and Berkeley Park. And, of course, you’ll have stunning views of Mount Rainier too. 

Other noteworthy fire lookouts to visit include the Gobblers Knob Lookout and Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. 

Read More: Best Hikes In Mount Rainier National Park

Check Out Narada Falls

  • Distance: 0.3 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 72 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

Get ready to be wowed by the beauty of Narada Falls in Mount Rainier. This powerful cascading waterfall sits along the road to Paradise and comprises two parts. The first part of Narada Falls is a 159-foot horsetail fall, and the second is a short 17-foot plunge into a glistening pool. 

The hike to the falls is short and easy. However, it’s slippery, too, so be careful when walking. Despite the wet conditions, it is an ideal hike for the entire family, especially if your loved ones enjoy waterfalls. 

There’s also a small parking lot with restrooms and a lovely seating area near the waterfall. While parking space is limited, the turnaround is pretty fast, as the hike is relatively short. So you’ll likely get a spot quickly. 

The best time to visit is during the summer, but the falls are breathtaking in winter when it freezes over.

Go To Christine Falls

If you’re wondering what to do in Mt Rainier and want to see more cascading beauties, make your way to Christine Falls. It’s about halfway between the Nisqually entrance and the Paradise area, less than 10 minutes from Narada Falls.

The two-tiered waterfall drops at 69 feet and flows from Van Trump Creek. Adding to its beauty, the Christine Falls Bridge spans across the lower waterfall. As you can expect, it’s a popular spot for photographers. 

There is a small parking lot for Christine Falls, just past the Cornett Falls trailhead. You’ll then take a few steps to the falls viewpoint. 

Hike the Bench and Snow Lake Trail

  • Distance: 2.2 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 446 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

It’s no secret that tackling a hiking trail is one of the best Mt Rainier things to do. The Bench and Snow Lake Trail is undoubtedly one that you’ll want to put on your hiking boots for. It’s also an excellent alternative option if the Skyline Trail is slightly overcast. 

On the hike, you’ll walk through old-growth forests, leading you to the crystal-clear waters of two alpine lakes. First, you’ll come across the glassy Bench Lake, which reflects the few trees and mountains surrounding it. Continuing on, you’ll reach Snow Lake, nestled amidst stunning greenery.

The 2.2-mile trail takes just over an hour to complete. And if you’re visiting in the fall, the autumn colors on the path are simply magical. 

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Snowshoe in the Winter

If you’re visiting this national park in winter, why not experience the winter wonderland of Mount Rainier by snowshoeing? 

Strap on your snowshoes and explore the snowy trails. You’ll be surrounded by snow-capped peaks and towering trees with miles of trails to choose from. Before you bundle up and get ready for a fun-filled day in the snow, have a look at this guide on snowshoeing in Mount Rainier for some tips and inspiration. 

Take the Wonderland Trail

  • Distance: 89.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 25,436 ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

When it comes to Mt Rainier National Park things to do, hiking the Wonderland Trail is on many outdoor enthusiasts’ bucket lists (including mine). This challenging trail encircles the entire mountain and offers beautiful glaciers, wildflowers, and wildlife views. 

It takes a few weeks to do, but it’s certainly worth it! With various backcountry campsites along the way, you’ll have many opportunities to rest and soak up the natural beauty around you. If you’re up for the challenge, you have to prepare in advance and get permits before tackling the long trek.

Climb to the Summit of Mount Rainier

Another exhilarating bucket list activity is climbing to the summit of Mount Rainier. It’s the ultimate adventure for thrill-seekers and requires technical skill and experience. 

The 14,411-foot peak is the highest point in the Cascade Range. The breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the summit make it all worth it. So are you up for the climb of a lifetime?

Walk Amid Ancient Trees at Grove of the Patriarchs

  • Distance: 1.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 52 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Guide: Link

If you’re seeking an easy trail that’s great for all ages, embark on a journey to the Grove of the Patriarchs. This popular route leads you through a path with Douglas-firs, hemlocks, and cedars. 

You’ll pass by towering old-growth trees, but you’ll need to cross the waters on a suspension bridge to get there. After crossing, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a magical world, so take your time and breathe in the fresh forest air. 

Note: As of November 2021, the trail is closed due to the suspension bridge suffering extensive flood damage.

Take in the Views

When deciding what to do on Mt Rainier, don’t miss out on the stunning viewpoints in the park. From Sunrise to Paradise, there are many viewpoints providing views that’ll leave you awed by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Sunrise or sunset are great times to soak up the views and capture shots of the beautiful mountain and surrounding landscape. A few great spots to see breathtaking views include Sunrise Point, Tipsoo Lake, Reflection Lakes, and Narada Falls.

Marvel at the Wildflowers

Be amazed by the colorful spectacle when you see the wildflower meadows of Mt Rainier, Washington. Summer is when the park transforms into a vibrant wonderland with fields of wildflowers. 

Peak bloom season usually occurs from late July through August. During this time, you can admire a variety of blooms and see every color of the rainbow, from the lupines and paintbrushes to the daisies and purple shooting stars.

Hike the Naches Peak Loop Trail

  • Distance: 3.3 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 636 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

The Naches Loop Trail is a superb spot to see the wildflowers and beautiful views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding valleys. 

The route starts near Tipsoo Lake and takes you through a diverse landscape of wildflowers, lush forests, and alpine terrain. Although some parts are rocky and sandy, this unforgettable hike is relatively flat, so it’s a great option for families. If you want the best views of Mt Rainier, follow the trail in a clockwise direction.

Tackle the Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail

  • Distance: 5.7 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,112 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Guide: Link

The Mt Fremont Lookout Trail is one of my favorite hikes in Mount Rainier. It’s a must-do for anyone visiting the park and offers panoramic views of the Cascade mountains from the top of the Mt. Fremont Fire Lookout. 

The fire lookout is an excellent spot for pictures, so be sure to bring your camera along. It’s a popular trail for sunset and easy enough to hike back with a headlamp. However, you might experience a more crowded trail. 

If you want to escape the crowds, take on this hike in the early morning, bring a flask of coffee, and admire the stunning sunrise.

Tip: If you want a shorter hike, you can take the Sourdough Ridge Trail until the Frozen Lake intersection and turn back. This 2.9-mile trail offers a relaxed version of the Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail, with spectacular views.

Soak Up the Views From Burrough Mountain Trail 

  • Distance: 9.4 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,562 ft
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Guide: Link

Let’s end this list of things to do at Mount Rainier off with a bang. The Burrough Mountain Trail is another one of my new favorite hikes in the park. It’s more challenging than the Fremont Lookout, but the fantastic views of the glaciers are worth it.

The hike takes you to three Burroughs Mountain peaks. If you’re not up for the entire trek, you can simply hike to the First and Second Burrough. However, making your way to the third one will not disappoint. Keep in mind that it is a steep and long trail. 

Tip: For the best views, hike the loop trail instead of the out-and-back. It’s part of the Sourdough Trail and the Burroughs Mountain Trail and offers beautiful views of the clear blue lake and wildflowers.

What To Do on Mount Rainier, Washington? FAQs

Now that you know which Mt Rainier attractions to explore, here are a few commonly asked questions and answers to help you plan the perfect trip.

​​How Much Time is Needed When Visiting Mt Rainier National Park?

Spending at least two to three days in Mount Rainier National Park is recommended. However, the time you need to visit the park depends on the activities and sights you want to see. You can see several of the top Mount Rainier attractions on a day trip, but to experience more of its beauty, visiting for a few days is ideal.

Is Mt. Rainier Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Mount Rainier is definitely worth visiting. It’s a natural wonderland with breathtaking scenery, thrilling hiking trails, beautiful wildflowers, crystal-clear alpine lakes, and endless outdoor experiences. 

Is it Free To Visit Mount Rainier?

No, it is not free to visit the park. The entrance fee to Mount Rainier is $30 per private vehicle and its passengers. 

Wrapping Up Mt Rainier Things To Do

Now that you know what to do in Mount Rainier National Park, it’s time to prepare yourself for an epic adventure. From exhilarating hiking trails to the stunning beauty of Myrtle Falls, this park is home to an array of activities and attractions that will leave you in awe.

So, pack your bags, hit the road, and prepare for an unforgettable Pacific Northwest experience!

If you’d like to explore more of what this state has to offer, have a look at this Washington road trip itinerary.

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