Mount Rainier Vacation Planning Made Easy

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, Mount Rainier National 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

Mount Rainier National Park is located southeast of Seattle. 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 or the White River area.

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 more detailed directions here.

Where to stay

With so much to see and do, you’ll certainly want to stay the night. For those who want to stay inside the park boundaries, you’ll find two inns, three car campgrounds, and numerous wilderness camping sites. Be sure to book early to secure your spot.

Outside the park, you’ll find an exhaustive list of lodging options. Rent a rustic log cabin or stay in a lodge with exposed timbers and open-hearth fireplaces. Discover affordable roadside motels, charming country inns, and more unique accommodations.

Gateway communities surrounding the area make a great base. Here are a few communities to consider:

Ashford

Just minutes from Mount Rainier National Park’s only year-round entrance (and access to Paradise and Longmire), attractions in Ashford include locally owned shops and galleries, community parks, and family friendly eateries. Lodging in Ashford includes a variety of intimate cabins and lodges perfect for families.

Crystal Mountain

Here you’ll find Crystal Mountain Resort, home to the highest elevation dining experience in all of Washington, as well as seasonal hiking, horseback riding, scenic gondola rides, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Elbe

This small town is big on trains. Here, visitors can dine in a train car or stay overnight in a caboose. The Elbe foothills offer trails for ATVs and horseback riding.

Enumclaw

Find great shopping, a thriving local culinary scene, and hot air balloon rides. The largest gateway community near the park, Enumclaw is a historic logging town with a variety of local businesses and public parks for hiking, fishing, and other recreation.

What to do

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

Visit Sunrise or Paradise for stunning 360-degree views. Paradise is famous for its wildflower meadows and is home to the park’s main visitor center, while Sunrise is the highest point that can be reached by vehicle. The park offers ranger-led tours for those interested in learning more about the history and biology of the park.

Hikers will find a multitude of trails ranging from short, paved walks perfect for families to more strenuous routes to scenic waterfalls. Please note pets are prohibited on all trails and wilderness areas within the park.

For more inspiration, check out Visit Rainier, the official site of Mount Rainier Tourism. In addition to lodging and helpful tips, you’ll find everything you need to book your trip or find the perfect hike or attraction. The website also features suggested trip itineraries to help with the planning process.