Mount Rainier National Park – Visit Planning


What? :


Mount Rainier is 14,411 feet tall and is the 5th tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. It is an active volcano, and it is also the most heavily glaciated mountain in lower 48 states, with 25 named glaciers. The dominate mountain is clearly seen from Seattle (60 miles) and the rest of west Washington state.

It became a National Park in 1899.

Mount Rainier National Park is a must stop location on your Washington state road trip. The visit here can easily combine with visiting the nearby Mount St. Helen, Olympic National Park, and the city of Seattle.


Mount Rainier National Park is large park with many entrances and areas, the 5 park areas are:

·       Longmire (West)

·       Paradise (south central)

·       Carbon River-Mowich Lake area (northwest)

·       Ohanapecosh (southeast),

·       Sunrise (northeast).

Because its size, entrances, roads conditions and the long time it can take you driving between destinations you need to plan your visit in advance.

You can’t cover all what the park has to offer in one day and you need to decide where to focus your visit.

Even one day visit is highly recommended, plan for at least 2-3 days to really explore the park.


Additional Mount Rainier blogs on specific location:


Where? :

Mount Rainier National Park is in southeast Pierce County in Washington state. It is 60 miles south of the city Seattle, about 2 hours drive. Mount Rainier, a 14,410-foot (4,390 m) is the highest point in the Cascade Range, rises abruptly from the surrounding land.

There are several roads leading to the park different regions, from the west (706, 165), south (123), north (410) and the east (410).

Google Map Link



When? :

Mount Rainier National Park is open all year, 24 hours a day. Visitation is at its peak in July and August, when the weather is warm and dry and the wildflowers are blooming. If you are planning a summer trip to Mount Rainier, consider visiting mid-week, which is generally less crowded. Parking is limited in many areas of the park. Wait times at the Nisqually and White River Entrances can be over an hour on the very busiest summer weekends and holidays.


Vehicle access to Mount Rainier in the winter is only available from the Nisqually Entrance, in the southwest corner of the park on the way to Paradise.

All vehicles in the park are required to carry tire chains November 1-May 1



The climate is generally cool and rainy, with summer highs in the 60s and 70s. Rain is possible any day, and very likely in spring, fall, and winter.

Visitors should be aware that mountain weather is very changeable. Although late-July and August are generally the driest and warmest time of the year, summer can also be wet and cool.

Snow will remain at the 5,000 to 8,000 feet elevation well into mid-July.



Road conditions:

The park has many high mountains, long and winding roads connecting the different park sections around the mountain.

Always check for road conditions, closer and road construction prior your visit in the park website.

Many of the park roads are close during the winter month, check when they get open.

Paradise road is kept open also during the winter month.

During the short summer months road construction can create delays and extend you driving time. They to see in the park website where they are doing road construction so you can plan your visit.

During weekends and holidays the park overcrowded with visitor, this create slow traffic and challenges to find parking spot at popular location.

They to come as early as you can and beat the traffic and the crowd.




As in my most blogs also here I will not cover in details accommodation.

You can google for hotels options or if your visit to the park is a day trip you will stay at Seattle, or Tacoma area.

If this is multi-day visit it is better to find a close location for the night.

If this is part of a road trip night arrangements and trip planning is dependent on your way into and out from the park. There are two inns located inside Mount Rainier National Park. National Park Inn and Paradise Inn.

There are few large campgrounds in different sections of park, but you better plan your visit and make your campsite reservation at the park well in advance. Campgrounds as well as roads can be close for the winter months.

See more information in the park web site:



Due note 1: Entrances are guaranteed to be staffed during daylight hours, though may be staffed earlier or later. Entrance fee is 30$ per car.


Due note 2: Rainier’s weather can be unpredictable, and it is always better to be prepared for all weather conditions.


Due note 3: You can find restrooms in many locations at the park, at major stops along the main roads.


Due note 4: Come as early as you can, during nice summer weekends and holidays you can have a long line of cars before entering the park, this can take you even up to one hour just to enter the park.


Due note 5: When visiting have a general visit plan but also prepare yourself for plan B.


Due note 6: Limited supplies are available at the National Park Inn at Longmire, Sunrise Lodge, and in the communities of Ashford, Packwood, Eatonville and Enumclaw. Ice is available at Longmire and in Ashford and Packwood.


Due note 7: I do recommend that you will bring your food for the day with you. It will save you the time and it is more convenient. You can find places to buy food near the main visitor centers.



My thoughts:

Mount Rainier National Park is amazing place to visit and it relatively proximate to Seattle turn it to a perfect one-day travel destination.

You will have a lot of things to see and do, no matter if you are coming for only one day or plan to visit here for few days.

The park offer amazing viewpoints, hikes in all difficulties level, alpine mountain ranges, forest, lakes, and above all towering the iconic shape of Mount Rainier glacier covered peak.

I was here only 2 times for one day each and enjoy my visit and I’m sure I will visit here again, next time for few days so can hike more and visit the many things this park has to offer.



The Park:


There are 5 areas of Mount Rainier National Park.

These are Paradise, Longmire, Ohanapecosh, Carbon River and Sunrise.


There are 4 entrances to the park and 5 areas to visit:

·       The Nisqually entrance in the southwest gives you access to the Longmire historic district and the Paradise area on the southern slopes of Mount Rainier.

·       The Stevens Canyon entrance in the southeast gives you access to the Ohanapecosh area. This area is known for its ancient forests.

·       The White River entrance in the northeast gives you access to the Sunrise area.

·       The Carbon River entrance in the northwest gives you access to the Carbon River area. This area is more remote and thus has a lot less visitors.



Mount Rainier is a beautiful large national park with many epic hikes, places to visit and amazing views. and so how in the world do you decide on what to do in Mt Rainier in one day and is it even possible to do a day trip to Mount Rainer?


It is recommended to dedicate 2-3 days to the park, but it is definitely possible and also worth the long drive efforts to spend one day in Mt Rainier.


As the park is so large with long sections of mountain roads connecting the different areas, I recommend focusing your day to one section of the park.

There are 5 different areas but the best to focus on in a day trip from Seattle to Mount Rainier would be to visit either Paradise (via the Ashford / Nisqually Entrance) or Sunrise (via the White River Entrance).



One-Day Visit Itinerary:

The two most popular areas of Mount Rainier are Paradise and Sunrise, and my recommended one-day itinerary will be focus on them.

Both Sunrise and Paradise have their own access roads, visitor centers and a lots of hiking options in all difficulty levels with amazing views of Mt Rainier.


If you are coming to Mt Rainier from Seattle, it is about 2.5 hours’ drive to Mount Rainier (Paradise or Sunrise). Exit early in the morning so you will beat the crowd and have a full day at the park.


The plans may vary mainly depending on how early you arrive to the park, if you are driving from Paradise to Sunrise and how much hiking activity you want to do.


One day focus on Paradise area:

Short stop at Longmire

Option to hike to Comet Falls

Option to see Christine Falls Bridge

Must visit Paradise visitor center.

Must hike Skyline Trail

Stop at Inspiration Point

Stop at Reflection Lake

From here all is depending on the time of the day (probably late at the afternoon) and where you are heading for the night.

If you have daylight time drive to Sunrise and see the sunset.



One day focus on Sunrise area:

Start your day at Naches Peak Loop Trail

On your way up to sunrise stop at Sunrise Point Lookout

Hike at Sunrise

Start at Sourdough Ridge Trailhead

One of the most recommended hikes is: Mt. Fremont Fire Lookout

Depending on your time and your direction: if you have time drive to Paradise.

Stop at Reflection Lake and Inspiration Point

Visit Paradise area, maybe do a short hike before sunset.



My actual one-day visit, morning - night itinerary:

I drive out of Seattle area at 8am on a nice weekend day.

Arriving to Sunrise entrance at 10am.

It was already too late, I hit a long line of cars that were not moving at the sunrise road entrance.

After 15 minutes I decided to turn around heading to Paradise section of the park.

The road to Paradise was in partly under construction so the drive was slow with a lot of stops.

I arrived near Louise Lake and went for a short Hike. The weather was warm and after short hike I return to my car.

My next stop was Reflection Lake, just near the road. After taking few pictures I drove one to Inspiration Point.

From here I drove up to Paradise Visitor Center.

It was already around noon and all parking lots where full, so I parked at the lower section parking, far from the visitor center.

I went to hike Skyline Trail Loop Hike that is probably the best hike in Mount Rainier National Park. This was 6.5 miles long hike with a lot of climbing but the view of the mountain the Cascade Range was amazing.

I arrived back to my car and drove the one-way Paradise Road; there I saw a Black Bear just near the road. I follow the bear for about 1 hour.

From here I drove back in the direction of Sunrise but on my way, I stop for a short hike to Silver Falls.

I arrived at Paradise parking very late, just at sunset and immediately went for a short hike in this ridgeline, just north of the visitor center.

Here I enjoy the sunset behind Mount Rainier, the alpine meadows views and my time with a large Mountain Goat.

It was well after sunset when I came back to the parking lot.

From here it was another 2.5 hours driving back to Seattle.

As you can see, I did manage to do a lot on one intensive non-stop activity day but this was without any lunch breaks or taking it easy.

I felt that I must come again and do more hike and explore more destinations.



I do recommend spending in the park at least 2-3 days, exploring the different areas and park destinations, have enough time for longs hikes in other locations and enjoy the time with nature.




High level information on different popular locations in the park

(I did not visit all of them):



Longmire is located slightly west of Paradise and when Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899, Longmire became the park’s headquarters. Now it is designated a National Historic District, and you can visit the Longmire Museum which is open daily all year-round. In Longmire, there is also the Wilderness Information Centre



Comet Falls

Comet Falls is 301 tall and is a beautiful waterfall in the park. The hike to the waterfall and back should take you around 2 hours.



Christine Falls Bridge

Christine Falls is 69 feet high and are best known for the Christine Falls Bridge spanning the lower drop.



Ricksecker Point

Ricksecker Point Road is one-way road begins 6 miles east of Longmire and offers fantastic views of Mount Rainier, Nisqually Valley, and the Tatoosh Range. Note that this road may experience seasonal closures.



Narada Falls

Narada Falls is said to be the most popular waterfalls in Mount Rainier Park because their proximity to the road. The waterfall drops 188 feet in two tiers of 168 feet and 20 feet. You can see the upper sections of the falls also from Inspiration Point.



Paradise and Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center

The park's main and most popular visitor center, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, is in Paradise area and is famous for its glorious views and wildflower meadows.

The Skyline Trail Loop Hike is probably the best hike in Mount Rainier National Park, start/end at Paradise visitor center.



Inspiration Point

As the nearby Reflection Lake Inspiration Point is another premier roadside view of Mt. Rainier.

In addition to an excellent view of The Mountain rising above the forest line from this location you have an open view to the west, the Paradise River, and the Nisqually River Valley.


Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake is one of the most iconic views of Mt. Rainier in the park.

With easy access during summer months, park alongside Steven Canyon Rd. and enjoy the lake reflection with Mt. Rainier towering above.

A must stop on your Mount Rainier drive.



Box Canyon

Box Canyon is a narrow and deep canyon. It's accessible by following the Wonderland Trail a short distance from the parking lot. The trail is paved in the summer and features views of Rainier and glacial striations.



Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and Campground

Ohanapecosh is home to some ancient forests containing Douglas-firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks. This section of the park is located in the southeast corner. There is a campground which is open from late May to early October.



Silver Falls

The most popular hike from Ohanapecosh is the hike to the 40 ft tall Silver Falls.

This is a 3 miles long easy hike.



Tipsoo Lake

Located on the east entrance to Mounta Rainier National Park on highway 410 Tipsoo Lake is an alpine lake in the Northern Cascade Range, with an elevation of 5,298 feet.




Located on the Park northeast side, the Sunrise Visitor Center located in much higher elevation of 6,400 ft. The road to Sunrise is one of the highest drivable roads in the entire state of Washington.

The Sunrise area is only open for about 3 months each year, early July to late September. In this short season, Sunrise offers stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountain Range, many hiking options in all difficulty level, open alpine wildflower meadows, and potential wildlife viewing.




Carbon River and Mowich Lake:

Carbon River located in the park northwest corner, and it is not connected to other sections of the park. This is the park area that consistently receives high amounts of rainfall. The climate and plant life in the Carbon River area of Mount Rainier resemble that of a temperate rainforest.









Additional Pictures: