Mount Rainier Vacation Planning Made Easy

Alpine meadows, 1,000-year-old forests, temperate rainforests, and the unmistakable domed summit of a glaciated volcano—it’s all part of the magic of Mount Rainier National Park.

From capturing photos of world-famous wildflower meadows in the summer to snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, no visit to Washington is complete without a trip to experience the natural sanctuary and year-round recreational paradise that is Mt. Rainier. But with some 2,800 square miles to explore, multiple entrances to Mount Rainier National Park and a myriad of recreational opportunities, it can be tricky knowing where to start.

This article will help you get your mind around all there is to see and do at and around “America’s Everest.”

Let’s start with getting there. Mount Rainier National Park is located in the west-central portion of Washington state and is about 2-3 hours by car or bus from Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, and Portland. At 14,410 feet, you can’t miss it on a clear day: Just look up. The Rainier area offers year-round activities for visitors, but keep in mind some roads and entrances to the national park are open seasonally. The Nisqually Entrance is the only entrance to Mount Rainier National Park open year-round.

With so much to see and do, you’ll want to stay the night. And with more than 60 places to stay when visiting Mount Rainier, you’ve got options. You’ll find an exhaustive list of lodging options at visitrainier.com. Choose from cabin rentals ranging from cozy rustic log cabins to posh sprawling vacation rentals you won’t want to leave. Find the best historic lodges with exposed timbers and open-hearth fireplaces. Discover affordable roadside motels, cabooses, a tranquil treehouse, and charming country inns. If camping, glamping, or farm stays are more your style, you’ll find that too.

If you’d like to stay near the national park, gateway communities surrounding the area also boast unique attractions and fantastic places to stay. Here are a few communities to consider:

  • Ashford: Just minutes from Mount Rainier National Park’s only year-round entrance (the Nisqually Entrance, with access to Paradise and Longmire areas,), 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 sized for all types of travelers.
  • Crystal Mountain: Here you’ll find Crystal Mountain Resort, with the highest elevation dining experience in all of Washington state and seasonal hiking, horseback riding, scenic gondola rides, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
  • Elbe: This is a small town that’s big on trains. Here visitors can dine in a train car and even stay overnight in a caboose. The Elbe foothills offer trails for ATVs and year-round trail rides on horseback; additional activities include renting a canoe to paddle out on Alder Lake.
  • Enumclaw: Find great shopping, a thriving local culinary scene, hot air balloon flights and the Enumclaw Expo Center hosting special events. Less than an hour from Seattle and the largest gateway community near the park, Enumclaw is a historic logging town with a variety of local businesses and more than 10 public parks for hiking, fishing and other recreation.

Additional resources to plan your visit:

  • Visitrainier.com is the official site of Mount Rainier Tourism. In addition to lodging, here you’ll find everything you need to book your trip, find a hike, attractions, and even tips on avoiding peak summer crowds. Use the friendly chatbot to find answers to your travel questions.
  • Download your free travel guides and itineraries to find travel tips to the mountain that will help you plan your perfect vacation any time of the year.

You’ve seen the postcards. Now create a few memories of your own. You’ve got everything you need to make this the year you Rainier.

Nearest Airports:

  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Enumclaw Municipal

Photo Credits in order: Mike Peters, Derby Dixon, Janelle Walker, Ian McRae, Craig Romano, Guest Services, Derby Dixon, Jeff Caven, Derby Dixon, Ian McRae