Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park
From hiking old-growth forests to driving a scenic byway, Mount Rainier National Park dazzles nearly 2 million visitors each year. No matter the season, visitors will find a wealth of activities and attractions inside its boundaries.
Mount Rainier National Park Activities
Spanning 369 square miles, the park includes five developed areas, three visitor centers, a museum, campgrounds, two inns, and several wilderness and climbing centers. The majority of the park’s 147 miles of roads are open seasonally from late May to early October, while the Longmire and Paradise areas are open year-round.
Due to the park’s popularity, aim to arrive as early as possible or visit during the week. Parking lots can fill up quickly on weekends.
Read on for some of the best things to do in the Mount Rainier National Park.
Get Up Close to Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier dominates Western Washington’s skyline, and the volcano’s 14,411-foot summit remains the most glaciated and prominent peak in the contiguous United States.
Intrepid adventurers can attempt Rainier’s icy summit on their own or recruit an adventure guide such as RMI Expeditions (just don’t forget a permit).
Explore the Longmire District
Dive into the history of the park at the small Longmire Museum, housed in the park’s original 1916 headquarters building, or take a self-guided historic district walking tour. Those looking to stretch their legs in nature can head to nearby trails, including the short Trail of the Shadows.
Paradise is home to the park’s main visitor center and the rough-hewn Paradise Inn, which opened in 1917. Stop by the visitor center for interpretive exhibits, a short film about the active volcanic history, and trail updates from park rangers.
In the spring and summer, the valley’s meadows are awash in colorful wildflowers, making it the perfect time for a hike. In the winter, Paradise is the primary destination in the park, offering activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
Hit the Trails for a Day Hike
More than 260 miles of maintained trails weave through Mount Rainier National Park. Day-hike standouts include the 3.5-mile Naches Peak Loop, which overlaps with the storied Pacific Crest Trail. Another favorite is the route to Panorama Point from Paradise. Those hunting for waterfalls will find plenty of trail options ranging from easy to difficult.
Take in the View at Reflection Lake
Take home a little of the mountain’s majesty with a classic photo op at Reflection Lake. Accessible by car 3 miles east of Paradise on Stevens Canyon Road, the lake is framed with wildflowers in the summer and reflects gorgeous colors in the fall.
One of the most photographed views in Mount Rainier National Park, the crystal-clear pond mirrors Rainier’s beauty best in the stillness of morning. If you have time and energy, hike the nearby Pinnacle Saddle/Plummer Peak trail.
The highest point in Mount Rainier National Park reachable by vehicle at 6,400 feet, Sunrise Point offers nearly 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. Those views, coupled with a stellar trail system, make Sunrise the second most visited location in the park.
Go Berry Picking
August and September are prime berry-picking times at Mount Rainier National Park. Visitors are allowed two quarts per person, per day of huckleberries, blackberries, thimbleberries, and salmonberries. Find an abundance of berries at Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds and along the Noble Knob Trail. A limit of 2 quarts of berries per person per day is enforced in the park.
Drive the Chinook Scenic Byway
The Chinook Scenic Byway, an 87-mile route starting at city of Enumclaw, delivers stunning views of the park’s northern borders. Traveling through Mount Rainier National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the byway takes visitors 5,430 feet up Chinook Pass to the city of Naches. Along the way, you’ll capture views of Mount Rainier, dense forests, lush subalpine meadows, river canyons and several lakes, streams, and waterfalls.
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