Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
- How To Get to Mount Rainier National Park
- Getting Around Mount Rainier National Park
- What To See and Do in Mount Rainier National Park
- Best Times To Visit Mount Rainier National Park
- Where To Stay in Mount Rainier National Park
- Where To Eat In and Near Mount Rainier National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park Facts
- Final Thoughts
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Mount Rainier National Park is 97 percent wilderness and marked by a stunning, sleeping volcano named Mount Rainier. This national park is filled with fields of wildflowers, alpine meadows, forests with giant trees, towering waterfalls, and tundra, all resting upon an episodically active volcano.
Each year, nearly 2 million visitors come to experience the beauty and wonder of Mount Rainier National Park and learn about its incredible cultural and natural history. A trip to this park is an unforgettable experience with spectacular opportunities for creating memories that will last a lifetime.
How To Get to Mount Rainier National Park
Where Is Mount Rainier National Park?
Mount Rainier National Park is located in Western Washington. Several gateway communities are located near this national park, including Ashford, Buckley, and Packwood. Some major cities near Mount Rainier National Park include Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Portland.
Each major city is less than 200 miles from this national park. Mount Rainier National Park has 4 different entrances leading to other areas in the park. The entrances are the Nisqually, the Carbon River, The White River, and the Stevens Canyon entrance.
Nearest Airports to Mount Rainier National Park
There are several airports that visitors use when flying to Mount Rainier National Park. Let’s look at the 2 major airports near Mount Rainier National Park and see which will work best for your vacation needs. Each airport option will require a bit of a drive to the park, but the ride will be beautiful and well worth the drive.
Portland International Airport (PDX)
Portland International Airport is located in Portland, Oregon, about 131 miles from Mount Rainier National Park. This airport offers dozens of nonstop flights to places around America and many more flights with single connections to many locations worldwide.
Some popular airlines serviced by Portland International Airport include Air Canada, Alaska, American, JetBlue, and Southwest.
While Portland International Airport is further than other options, it is worth the long drive as there are incredible sites and points of interest, including the Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon Zoo, and the International Rose Test Garden.
Portland International Airport would make an excellent choice for your journey to Mount Rainier National Park.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of the closest options for major airports near Mount Rainier National Park. This airport is located in Seattle, Washington, about 85 miles from the park.
This airline offers nonstop flights to 91 domestic locations and 28 international destinations. Seattle-Tacoma services 31 airlines, including Aeromexico, Air France, American, JetBlue, Southwest, and Sun Country Airlines.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is only a few minutes from downtown Seattle, which makes it a fun place for a quick visit on your journey to Mount Rainier National Park. Not only is this the closest major airline to the park, but it’s one with plenty of excitement.
Driving to Mount Rainier National Park
There are several different routes for arriving at Mount Rainier National Park. Your chosen path will depend on which area you want to enter.
This national park can be accessed by state road 706 from the west, state roads 123 and 410 for those arriving from the east, and state road 165 for visitors from the northwest. Detailed driving instructions with specific routes can be found on the National Park Service website for Mount Rainier National Park.
Taking the Train to Mount Rainier National Park
A national park vacation by rail is an incredible way to experience the journey and let someone else take care of the driving stress.
There is no train service that will take you directly to Mount Rainier National Park, but Amtrak offers train service to Auburn, California. This train station is approximately 60 miles from the park’s entrance.
Amtrak is a wonderful option for a memorable trip to Mount Rainier National Park. Let your worries go and try this mode of transportation for an unforgettable experience.
Getting Around Mount Rainier National Park
The best way to get around Mount Rainier National Park is by private vehicle. This park does not have any form of shuttles or transit systems within the park boundaries. Driving your own vehicle will help you access the areas you’d like to visit. The National Park Service also provides many interactive and printable maps on its website to help you plan your itinerary.
What To See and Do in Mount Rainier National Park
There’s no shortage of activities and programming at Mount Rainier National Park. From exciting interactive quests to climbing an active volcano, and from hiking incredible trails to admiring the sparkling waters of the lakes, there’s something for every visitor. Let’s explore the top activities at Mount Rainier National Park and see which ones you’d like to add to your park must-experience list.
Citizen Ranger Quests
Mount Rainier National Park has exciting quests for older children (12+) and adults. These quests have a variety of topics and activities where visitors can interact with the park and learn while having a blast. Visitors choose the quest they want to participate in. When the activities are completed, they are awarded the Mount Rainier Citizen Ranger title and receive a certificate and patch.
The Citizen Ranger Quests are very much like the Junior Ranger program but geared toward older kids and adults. Some of the quests include the Paradise Amazing Adventures Race, the Moods of a Mountain quest, Ancient Wonder, and Flower Power.
These quests take place in different parts of the park, each with its own theme and unique activity list. Participating in a quest on your own or with a group is an exciting way to explore the wonders of Mount Rainier National Park.
Visitors can hike over 260 miles of hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park. Many of the trails begin in the Carbon, Longmire, Mowich, Paradise, and Sunrise areas. Visitors can choose from different landscapes to travel through and around, including mountain ridges, alpine lakes, meadows of wildflowers, and forests.
One famous trail in Mount Rainier National Park is the Wonderland Trail. This trail is a 93-mile loop that takes several days for visitors to complete it. This trail is a backcountry trail with backcountry campsites along the route.
Another well-known trail at this park is the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail. This trail is less than a mile and a half long and takes hikers through a forest of trees towering over 300 feet tall. These trees are estimated to have lived for over 1,000 years.
Hiking through Mount Rainier National Park is one of the best ways to discover the beauty of the park, especially when hiking in the backcountry. You could easily spend multiple days exploring the park by hiking these remarkable trails.
The lakes are incredible to visit while touring Mount Rainier National Park. Tipsoo Lake and Reflection Lakes are 2 of the most popular sites for hiking, photography, and viewing the wildflowers in bloom.
Other activities that can be enjoyed at the park’s lakes that can be enjoyed at the lakes of Mount Rainier National Park include boating and fishing. Adding a trip to one of the gorgeous lakes to your Mount Rainier National Park will give you the opportunity to take in the serenity and breathtaking views of the park.
With a park named after a mountain, you probably assume that this park would be an excellent place for climbing. If so, you would be correct. Mount Rainier is a massive mountain that many people each year attempt to climb.
This mountain is 14,410 feet tall and is not just a mountain but an active volcano. The park has over 20 different routes for climbing and skiing up this mountain.
Mount Rainier National Park has many ranger-led programs for visitors throughout the year. These free programs have a wide range of topics, including wildlife, mountaineering, geology, park history, and ecology.
The majority of the ranger-led programs at Mount Rainier National Park take place from late June until Labor Day. Still, there are some programs available in the winter.
Participating in a ranger-led program is an excellent way to learn all about Mount Rainier National Park from an experienced park ranger with a deep knowledge of the park and its fascinating natural and cultural history.
Mount Rainier National Park is well known for its fields of wildflowers that bloom yearly. The best time to see these wildflowers in bloom is in mid-July. Visiting these fields is a great way to spend time in the park, especially if you like photography. The best places to see the wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park are in the Paradise and Sunrise areas.
Photographers enjoy capturing incredible shots of the vibrant bursts of color that spread through the meadows and around the lakes. The park has an online group where visitors can share their wildflower photos with others. Seeing these vibrant bursts of color is a remarkable experience you won’t want to miss when visiting Mount Rainier National Park.
Many animals make their home in Mount Rainier National Park. Some of the amazing animals that have been spotted in the park include black bears, mule deer, red foxes, coyotes, elk, and a multitude of birds.
One of the best times to see these animals out and about is in the spring when the snow begins to melt, and the grass is starting to green up. The Paradise area is one of the best places to see the animals who live in the park.
Best Times To Visit Mount Rainier National Park
No matter when you can visit Mount Rainier National Park, you are in for a treat. If you hope to enjoy a specific event or see a particular site, there may be a better time to plan a visit than others. Let’s explore the best times to visit Mount Rainier National Park for various activities and events.
Best Time To Visit Mount Rainier National Park in Winter
The winter months in Mount Rainier National Park can begin as early as October and extend until March. This National Park typically receives an impressive amount of snow during the winter months. If you are seeking an exciting winter adventure, you should visit the park in November.
On average, Mount Rainier National Park gets the most precipitation in the month of November. Because of its frigid temperatures, that precipitation comes down as snow. Mount Rainier National Park is excellent for winter activities such as snowboarding, ranger-led snowshoe walks, and skiing.
If you are hoping to play in a winter wonderland at Mount Rainier National Park, you should aim for the month of November for the optimal experience.
Best Time To Visit Mount Rainier National Park To Avoid the Crowds
Suppose you hope to visit Mount Rainier National Park and avoid the crowds. In that case, you should plan a trip in the month of September period after Labor Day. The crowds seem to disappear after Labor Day at this national park due to schools returning to session.
Other advantages of traveling this month include comfortable temperatures and visitor centers and facilities still open for the season. To enjoy Mount Rainier National Park at your own pace with less stress, book your trip in September.
Best Time To Visit Mount Rainier National Park for Viewing Wildflowers
If you hope to see the wildflowers field in bloom at Mount Rainier National Park, you should plan a trip in July. July is when the wildflowers are at their peak in vibrant colors and blooms. The weather is also extremely nice, with warm and dry days at this time of the year.
Cheapest Time To Visit Mount Rainier National Park
The cheapest time to visit Mount Rainier National Park is in its off-season. This park receives a lot of snow during the winter months, from October to March. Planning a November trip will help travelers secure flights and accommodations at a lower rate.
On top of saving lots of money when traveling, the park also has a reduced rate for visiting during the winter months. A November trip to Mount Rainier National Park is your best option for experiencing this amazing place while keeping your budget in check.
Annual Events in Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park hosts events for guests to enjoy and learn about the park. There are some events that take place annually at this national park. Take a look at the annual events to see if there’s one that you may want to visit during your vacation to Mount Rainier National Park.
National Park Week
National Park Week takes place each April in Mount Rainier National Park. During this week, all fees are waived for entering the park. National Park Week has a variety of programs offered to celebrate America’s national parks.
Some activities that take place during National Park Week at Mount Rainier National Park include special ranger-led walks, programming, and workshops for visitors of all ages. This is a spectacular week to visit Mount Rainier National Park to learn about its natural and cultural history and how the park works to conserve and preserve the area today.
RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day)
RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day) takes place each year at Mount Rainier National Park in July. This event is hosted by the Redmond Cycling Club and is an epic one-day ultra marathon cycling event.
Participants can appreciate the beauty of Mount Rainier National Park while cycling a challenging course that winds through the park. This race is a spectacular way to experience Mount Rainier National Park in a single day.
Where To Stay in Mount Rainier National Park
Lodging opportunities are abundant in Mount Rainier National Park and surrounding communities. No matter if you prefer staying in the park boundaries or a town nearby, you will find the perfect solution for your national park vacation. Check out the options for lodging inside or near Mount Rainier National Park.
Inside the Park
There are plenty of accommodations available in Mount Rainier National Park. Whether you desire to camp in the great outdoors or stay in a historic lodge, this national park has you covered. Let’s look at the lodging options inside the park’s boundaries.
There are several campgrounds for those wanting to sleep under the stars at Mount Rainier National Park. Three campgrounds are auto campgrounds, while the fourth is a primitive campground exclusively for tent camping.
All the campsites in the park are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but some are reservable in advance. These campgrounds include the Cougar Rock Campground, Mowich Lake Campground, Ohanapecosh Campground, and White River Campground.
There’s simply no better way to gain an appreciation for the great outdoors than setting up camp for the night in the park’s boundaries. Camping at one of the 450 campsites is an excellent way to discover the beauty and wonder of Mount Rainier National Park.
National Park Inn
National Park Inn is located in the Historic Longmire District, close to the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park.
This inn has a variety of rooms to choose from, including single rooms, double rooms, and ADA-accessible rooms. The rooms here are primitive, without the distractions of telephones, televisions, and Wi-Fi.
National Park Inn showcases spectacular views of Mount Rainier that can be enjoyed from the rocking chairs on the veranda or in the dining room over a delicious meal. For a beautiful place to reset from the adventures of exploring Mount Rainier National Park, be sure to reserve a room at National Park Inn. You will love its rustic ambiance and convenient location.
Paradise Inn is a historic inn built in 1916 and located in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park. This inn has everything you need and more when traveling, including accommodations, a café, a gift shop, a post office, and a full-service dining room. This inn is open from the middle of May through the beginning of October.
Paradise Inn is a perfect place to step back in time as it does not have modern amenities like internet, telephones, or televisions. Guests can take a break from the daily grind and truly enjoy the simplicity and beauty of nature and serenity.
A stay at Paradise Inn is an excellent option if you don’t want to leave the park property. This historic inn is designated as one of the Great Lodges of the West, so it is sure to impress you.
Towns Near Mount Rainier National Park
Several towns near Mount Rainier National Park make excellent options for lodging near the park. The nearby cities range in the distance from 6 to 17 miles. Let’s look at 3 of the closest towns to the park and see which one would fit your vacation needs.
Ashford is 6 miles outside of the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. This town makes a fantastic home base during a vacation to Mount Rainier.
Ashford offers a variety of vacation rentals, cabins, inns, and campgrounds for lodging. Most properties in Ashford are open year-round, which takes a lot of stress out of selecting the perfect place to unwind during your stay.
There are many family-owned restaurants, cafes, and grills for dining. These dining options are perfect for families, couples, or groups traveling together. Ashford has plenty of options for recreation, both indoor and outdoor. There are winter hiking and snowshoeing opportunities, unique shops, and galleries for art appreciation.
This cozy town is tucked into the forested foothills of the mountains. This town is a lovely place to call home when visiting Mount Rainier National Park.
Olympia is the state’s capital and is quite large. This city has much to offer visitors to Mount Rainier National Park and is only 17 miles from the park. Olympia has many modern hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds for visitors to choose from. There’s an accommodation for every traveler in this fantastic city.
The dining scene is a true culinary experience in Olympia. Various restaurants range from food trucks to fresh seafood restaurants, taprooms, to bakeries. No matter what you crave, you will find the perfect solution in Olympia.
Opportunities for adventure are endless in this town. Whether you seek activities for outdoor recreation, shopping excursions, history, art, or music, Olympia has it all. Olympia makes a perfect home away from home during your national park vacation with its close proximity to Mount Rainier National Park and its endless list of restaurants, lodging, and dining.
Packwood is only a 10-mile drive from the Stevens Canyon Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. During your national park vacation, this is a stunning area to set up a base camp between Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams.
This town has several options for accommodations, including budget-friendly motels, campgrounds, private vacation rentals, and historic hotels and inns. Whatever you seek for accommodations, you can find the perfect fit in Packwood.
Because of its location in the mountains, visitors can find opportunities for adventure no matter what time of year they visit. Flea markets, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and fishing are just some of the activities that can be enjoyed in Packwood.
There are several restaurants for dining in Packwood. Some popular dining options include coffee shops, local dives serving classic favorites like burgers and hot dogs, breweries, and authentic Mexican restaurants.
Where To Eat In and Near Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park has several options for dining inside the park. For guests who want to eat in or near the park, there are plenty of places to choose from in the towns close to the park. These restaurants serve various meals, from quick bites to gourmet creations. Let’s take a look at the different dining options in and near Mount Rainier National Park.
National Park Inn Dining
The dining room at National Park Inn is located in the Longmire park area. This restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week, with lunch and dinner hours on the weekends. This is the only dining facility in Mount Rainier National Park open throughout the year.
The menu at National Park Inn features an impressive selection of home-cooked meals, delicious desserts, and refreshing drinks. Some favorite guest items include the home-style pot roast, cedar plank red trout, and the warm blackberry cobbler à la mode.
Guests can enjoy the food at National Park Inn and the breathtaking views right outside the dining room. This is a great place to take a break or end your day while visiting Mount Rainier National Park.
Paradise Camp Deli
Paradise Camp Deli is located in the Jackson Visitor Center. This is an excellent place to stop if you find your stomach grumbling during your Mount Rainier National Park excursions.
The deli serves a variety of items for snacks and lunch, including pizza, deli sandwiches, soups, salads, hot dogs, hot entrees, and espresso drinks. Its dessert menu features specialty sweets, milkshakes, and soft-serve ice cream. Visitors can dine in and take a break from their adventures or grab their food on the go for a quick picnic in the park.
Paradise Camp Deli will ensure your belly is full, so you can return to your park explorations without that annoying growling distracting you.
Paradise Inn Dining Room
Paradise Inn Dining Room is in the historic Paradise Inn right inside Mount Rainier National Park. This restaurant is open from May through September daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers brunch on Sundays.
The menu at this restaurant serves classic American favorites and signature dishes created by the chef. One guest-favorite dish is the Bourbon Buffalo Meatloaf. Paradise Inn Dining Room is perfect for fueling up before, during, or after your park adventures. Grab a seat near the cozy hearth and enjoy the calming atmosphere and a delicious meal.
Ranier BaseCamp Bar & Grill
Ranier BaseCamp Bar and Grill is 10 minutes from Mount Rainier National Park in Ashford. This restaurant is open during the spring and summer and is an excellent place for a bite and a refreshing drink.
This restaurant has a menu that appeals to every diner. Each dish is prepared with fresh ingredients and made to order. Popular menu items include the bacon cheeseburger with hickory smoked bacon and Tillamook cheddar cheese, the black bean chipotle burger, and the made-to-order wood-fired fresh pizzas. There are many options for food sensitivities or special diets, such as vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan.
For a meal you’ll never forget, be sure to take a 10-minute detour to Ranier BaseCamp Bar and Grill. Your taste buds will thank you.
Sunrise Day Lodge
Sunrise Day Lodge is the highest point in Mount Rainier National Park and is accessible by car. This lodge has a snack bar with delicious options for refueling during your park outings.
Some favorite menu items at Sunrise Day Lodge include juicy grilled cheeseburgers, all-beef hot dogs, stacked deli sandwiches, soup, chili, and soft-serve ice cream cones. Sunrise Day Lodge is an excellent option for dining in or taking your meal on the go to enjoy the stunning views of the volcanoes, mountains, and glaciers nearby.
Wildberry Restaurant is located in Ashford, just 2 minutes from Mount Rainier National Park. This restaurant is loved by locals and tourists alike. The restaurant proudly serves lunch and dinner daily and offers indoor and outdoor seating.
A traditional American mountain menu is served with some Nepalese sprinkled in. Popular menu items include the blue portobello burger, the fish and chips, and the kukhura thali. For an unforgettable culinary experience, be sure to stop at Wildberry Restaurant while on your Mount Rainier National Park vacation.
Mount Rainier National Park Facts
1. A New National Park
Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899 as the fifth national park in America. John Muir and Bailey Willis were key leaders in having this park established.
2. A Monumental Mountain
Mount Rainier measures 14,410 feet above sea level. This massive mountain is one that visitors attempt to climb each year. In 2022, 9,530 visitors tried to climb this mountain. Only half of them were able to reach the summit.
3. National Historic Landmark District
Mount Rainier National Park was declared a National Historic Landmark District in March 1997. This park received this prestigious award because it showcases the 1920s and 1930s architecture in a rustic style.
4. Impressive Glacial System
Mount Rainier National Park comprises the greatest single-peak glacial system in the U.S. This glacial system begins from the summit of an ancient volcano and includes forests and sub-alpine meadows.
5. A New Name
Before becoming an established U.S. National Park, Mount Rainier was called the Pacific Forest Reserve. This reserve was designated in 1893, and Mount Rainier was within its boundaries. Later, in 1897, the reserve was enlarged and renamed Mount Rainier Forest Reserve. Finally, in 1899, the national park was established as Mount Rainier National Park.
6. An Abundance of Animals
Mount Rainier National Park is home to an abundance of animals. This park has about 54 mammal species, 126 types of birds, and approximately 17 kinds of reptiles and amphibians.
7. Substantial Snowfall
Mount Rainier National Park gets a substantial amount of snowfall each year. One area in the park, known as Paradise, averages 53.6 feet of snow annually. It’s no wonder why this national park is a fun place for winter activities.
8. Volcanic Eruptions
It is estimated that Mount Rainier erupted about 1,000 years ago. This volcano is classified as episodically active. This volcano will explode in the future, it is just unknown when that will occur.
9. Record Height
Mount Rainier is the tallest volcano in the U.S. It is the fifth-highest peak in the lower U.S.
10. Tribal History
Mount Rainier National Park has an extensive history with 6 different Native American tribes. Archaeologists have traced artifacts back 9,000 years from the indigenous people living there. The park today still has connections with these tribes. Some tribes from this area include the Cowlitz, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, and Yakama. Areas of the park are reserved for Native American rituals and celebrations to this day.
11. A Massive Park
Mount Rainier National Park Stretches over 369.3 square miles of land. Congress has designated 97% of the park as wilderness.
12. The First Climbing Success
In August of 1870, General Hazard Stevens and PB Van Trump were the first people who successfully climbed Mount Rainier.
13. Glaciers Galore
Mount Rainier National Park has over 25 glaciers within its boundaries. These glaciers are the source of water for 5 major river systems. The largest glacier in Mount Rainier National Park is Emmons Glacier, with an area of 4.3 square miles. Some of the other glaciers in the park include Carbon Glacier, Winthrop Glacier, Cowlitz and Ingraham Glaciers, and South Tahoma and Tahoma Glaciers.
14. Celebrity Guests
Walt Disney and his wife Lillian visited Mount Rainier National Park for their honeymoon in July of 1925.
15. First Hotel
The first hotel in Mount Rainier National Park was built on the mountain. This hotel was called Longmire’s Mineral Spring Resort, and it was built in 1890 by James Longmire and his wife Virinda.
As you can see, Mount Rainier National Park is a true treasure providing tourists with unforgettable experiences. From gorgeous landscapes and incredible hiking trails to mountain climbing and volcano discovery, there’s something every traveler will enjoy when visiting this national park. Book your trip to Mount Rainier National Park and discover the natural beauty and wonder of this fantastic place in America.
Featured Image Credit: Joshua Peacock via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fee for entering Mount Rainier National Park?
The fee for visiting Mount Rainier National Park is $30 per private vehicle or $15 for visitors who enter as individuals or on bicycle. These fees purchase a pass that is valid for 7 days of visitation.
How many days should I plan a trip to Mount Rainier National Park?
Many visitors recommend 3 to 5 days for visiting Mount Rainier National Park, depending on the activities you wish to participate in throughout your time. There is much to see and do at this national park, so the more days you can visit, the more leisurely your trip will be.
Can I bring my dog to Mount Rainier National Park?
Dogs are welcomed at Mount Rainier National Park. There are several regulations that need to be followed if you plan to bring your pet to the park with you. A general rule of thumb is that a dog can go wherever a car can, including parking lots and campgrounds. Pets must be supervised, on a leash, and cleaned up after at all times.
Is Mount Rainier National Park open all year?
Mount Rainier National Park is open all year, but some areas in the park close at certain times. Be sure to check with the park to see if the area you hope to visit is open, especially in winter. Some areas that are open seasonally include White River, Sunrise, State Routes 410 and 123, and Stevens Canyon Road.
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