Mount Rainier National Park is an extraordinary place for modern-day adventurers! Less than 60 miles from Seattle, it’s home to Mount Rainier, the largest active stratovolcano in the Pacific Northwest.
The stunning views of the park’s alpine glacial system and the many things to discover along hiking trails or while biking or climbing enchant many visitors each year.
The most adventurous trekkers should try the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile hike that circumnavigates Mount Rainier and takes between nine days and two weeks.
Over a million people visit Mount Rainier National Park annually, and the region has 9,000 years of human history. Join us to discover what makes this Northwestern gem so magnificent!
In this article, we’re going to cover the top 10 things to do in Mount Rainier National Park.
Mount Rainier Top 10
- Visit Paradise
- Visit Sunrise Rim
- Patriarchs Trail
- Silver Falls Trail
- Skyline Trail
- Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
- Pinnacle Peak Trail
- Myrtle Falls
- Reflection Lake
- Mount Rainier Gondola
The name says it all! The Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park has vibrant wildflowers and picturesque views of the snow-capped peaks.
Because of its annual snowfall, Paradise is a winter wonderland and favorite destination for snow sports such as sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
The Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor’s Center is located in Paradise. It offers tons of helpful information about the area’s year-round activities, including roadside attractions like Reflection Lakes, Inspiration Point, Ricksecker Point, and Paradise Valley Road.
Guests of the park visiting from May-October will want to check out the historic Paradise Inn. There’s an abundance of hiking trails like the Skyline Trail, Paradise Meadow Trails, and Pinnacle Peak for nature lovers and adventurous travelers.
The Paradise Visitor’s Guide is another great resource as your roadmap to a slice of paradise nestled in the mountainous Pacific Northwest.
Visit Sunrise Rim
Sunrise is another beautiful area that you can’t miss in Mount Rainier National Park. This popular overlook gets crowded fast so you’ll want to arrive early.
At 6400 feet in elevation, it’s also the highest point that a vehicle can reach within the park.
The rim offers heart-stopping panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range. On foot, hikers can enjoy tackling the Sunrise Rim Trail or Sunrise Nature Trail. Both self-guided routes are easy to navigate and offer spectacular views and captivating wildlife.
Sunrise Point is a particularly stunning vantage point to view the glacial ranges and Sunrise Lake.
Grove of The Patriarchs Trail
If marveling at ancient trees fills you with excitement, then Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is a must-see during your visit to Mount Rainier National Park.
Along this easy one-mile loop, western red cedar, and Douglas fir trees over a thousand years old tower above creating a shady and enjoyable footpath.
Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is part of the Ohanapecosh (“standing at the edge”) area of the park that gets its name from a habitation of the Taidnapam American Indians, one of the six indigenous tribes native to the region.
Because this area is mostly flat, it’s excellent for families and visitors who aren’t able or interested in scaling the high treks. This part of the park also tends to be sunnier and drier than Paradise and Longmire, which can get dense with precipitation.
The swinging suspension bridge is another exciting draw of the Patriarchs Trail portion of Mount Rainier National Park.
Silver Falls Trail
Another gorgeous trail that begins in the Ohanapecosh Campgrounds area is the Silver Falls Trail.
Silver Falls Trail is another of the park’s flatter trails that’s three miles long in a loop, so it’s a favorite with adventurous families and hikers not wanting a steep climb.
The trail snakes around the river and over a bridge to cascading falls and loops back to the campsite. Its enchanting beauty is like something out of a fairy tale!
If a three-mile trek sounds arduous, even on relatively flat terrain, two alternative trails will take you to the Silver Falls.
One is off the Route 123 parking spot (only a half a mile to the falls), and the other is off the Stevens Canyons Road entrance.
The Skyline Trail to Panorama Point is a breathtaking and unmissable part of your visit.
Nestled in the Paradise area, the five-and-a-half-mile trail boasts some of the most outstanding views of the park at Panorama Point.
Those willing to brave the challenging trek receive ample reward from the stunning sights and glorious wildflowers that guide you along the path.
It’s no wonder, John Muir, the “Father of National Parks,” said Skyline Trail is, “the most luxuriant and most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings”.
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park, the highest region of the park.
At a little over five and a half miles and an elevation gain of 900 feet (on top of the 6400 feet elevation of Sunrise), the trail takes about three hours roundtrip.
The winding paths to the lookout offer attractive views of meadowlands and craggy cliffs along the way before you reach the top.
Once you arrive at the fire lookout built in the 1930s, you will encounter the astounding sights of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and the Cascades from the clouds above.
Pinnacle Peak Trail
Pinnacle Peak is the third highest range in the park. Located in Paradise, it’s a two-and-a-half-mile trek with an elevation gain of 1050 feet.
Because of the steep climb and unpredictable weather conditions, you should wear proper hiking boots. The trek takes about two hours roundtrip.
The Pinnacle Peak Trail offers striking panoramic views of various mountain ranges. On a clear day, you can see Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Oregon’s Mount Hood.
The trail is also on the edge of the Butter Creek Research Natural Area (RNA). Scientists and ecologists study the natural environment in its natural splendor there, so it is essential to keep this area pristine as nature intended.
Myrtle Falls is another gem embedded in the Paradise region of Mount Rainier National Park.
Photographers love heading to this point to capture the iconic beauty of the 72-foot high waterfall with Mount Rainier standing proudly in the background.
It’s a short hike from the Paradise Inn, so folks with kids won’t have to stray too far from their lodgings. You can also see striking views of Myrtle Falls from the Skyline Trails in Paradise.
Another gorgeous cascading waterfall is Narada Falls, located on Paradise Valley Road between Longmire and Paradise.
Located in Paradise, Reflection Lake is a favorite photo op destination with its tranquility and serene beauty.
It is the ideal spot to see the glory of Mount Rainier reflected on the water.
The Reflection Lakes area is peaceful and stunningly picturesque. In the spring and summer, wildflowers of many colors burst with vibrancy. Autumn brings fiery tones of oranges, yellows, and reds to the trees surrounding the lake.
The best time to visit is between July and October. But leave your fishing poles and swimsuits at home. The Reflection Lakes are beautiful to behold but not meant for swimming or fishing.
Mount Rainier Gondola
For those seeking superb sky-high views but don’t want to make the trek to get there, we suggest riding the Mount Rainier Gondola to the peak Crystal Mountain from the elegant, luxurious Crystal Mountain Resort.
Take in the spectacular sights while you wine and dine almost 7,000 feet in the sky at Washington State’s highest restaurant, Summit House Restaurant.
The Grand Finale: Summit Mount Rainier
Most of the attractions in Mount Rainier National Park revolve around views of the stratovolcano, but what about the view from it? Topping our list of best things to do in the park is climbing Mount Rainier itself.
It’s a two to four-day climb to the summit of Mount Rainier at a high altitude.
You’ll need a permit, a guide, and should have experience climbing glacial mountains. It takes a lot of physical and mental stamina, but for those who prefer a view from the top, there’s nothing like it!
That’s A Wrap!
Mount Rainier National Park is for folks who marvel at the splendor of nature and appreciate hiking trails with glacial ridges, extraordinary views, and vibrant wildflowers.
Can’t get enough of the phenomenal scenery? Take the Cayuse Pass or Chinook Pass and drive your vehicle or RV along the Chinook Scenic Byway for more breathtaking views from the comfort of your car or motorhome.
Of course, if you’ve got the stamina, you can hike the Wonderland Trail and see it all!