Finding the 10 Best Hikes In Mount Rainier National Park

For more than 120 years, Mount Rainier National Park has been one of the crown jewels in America’s national parks system. Though it’s best known for its most visible landmark—its majestic, 14,411-foot namesake peak—the park’s nearly 240,000 acres offer a wide variety of ecosystems and recreational activities for visitors to explore. 

Among the most popular attractions are the park’s hundreds of miles of hiking trails, which lead trekkers of all skill levels through pristine subalpine meadows, across thundering creeks and rivers, past breathtaking waterfalls and through dense stands of ancient growth forests. As you plan your next visit, be sure to include one of the following 10 best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park. 

For a list of the best hotels in Mount Rainier National Park, please visit our article The 6 Best Hotels Near Mt Rainier National Park

Our Picks For The Best Hikes In Mount Rainier National Park

Burroughs Mountain Trail

best hikes in mount rainier national parkNamed for naturalist and essayist John Burroughs, this visually spectacular hike offers dramatic views of the Cascade Mountains throughout the route. Starting from the Sunrise parking area on Mount Rainier’s northeast side and heading clockwise, the trail leads hikers on a gentle grade past Shadow Lake before beginning its steep climb to the overlook above the White River. From this vantage point, hikers will enjoy prime views of the vast Emmons Glacier sparkling on the slopes of Mount Rainier. 

Moving forward, hikers will reach the plateau atop First Burroughs Mountain before arriving at the junction with the Frozen Lake trail. From this point, the trail continues another 1.4 miles to return to the starting point. Hikers wishing to extend their trek can continue to the base of Second Burroughs Mountain or connect with the Glacier Basin Trail for a total of 11.5 miles. 

  • Trailhead: Sunrise parking area
  • Distance (round-trip): 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet

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Glacier Basin Trail

best hikes in mount rainier national parkThis scenic trail is popular with day hikers as well as climbers aspiring to summit Mount Rainier. The trailhead is located at the upper end of the White River Campground and follows an old mining road that has since been converted into a pedestrian trail. 

The trail hugs the White River for the first several miles, treating hikers to gradual inclines until it gets close to Glacier Basin. About a mile from the trailhead, hikers can take an optional side trip on the Emmons Moraine Trail, which adds about a mile to the hike’s total distance and provides incredible views of the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the lower 48 states. 

The main route features outstanding views of Mount Rainier as well as verdant meadows painted with colorful wildflowers during the late spring and summer months. Hikers will notice a significant increase in elevation about 3.5 miles into the hike as it gets near Glacier Basin Campground, where many visitors opt to make the turnaround back to the trailhead. Beyond this point, a climber’s track continues through patches of fragile wetland plants to the base of the Inter Glacier.

  • Trailhead: White River Campground
  • Distance (round-trip): 7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,280 feet

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Grove of the Patriarchs Loop

best hikes in mount rainier national parkThis easy 1.3-mile loop features wide, well-maintained paths and minimal elevation gain, making it ideal for families and visitors simply looking for a glimpse of the park’s stunning scenery. Located west of the Stevens Canyon Entrance on the park’s southeast side, the Grove of the Patriarchs trail is lined with massive western red cedars and old-growth Douglas firs. A boardwalk path makes up much of the route, which includes a trip over the photogenic suspension bridge that spans the Ohanapecosh River. Interpretive signs along the way provide information about the enormous trees looming over the trail, some of which have grown to as much as 40 feet in diameter over the centuries. 

  • Trailhead: Stevens Canyon Entrance
  • Distance (round-trip): 1.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: Negligible

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Mount Fremont Lookout 

best hikes in mount rainier national parkStarting at the Sunrise Visitors Center along Mount Rainier’s northeast side, this rugged trail leads to one of the park’s few remaining fire lookouts, which offers fantastic views throughout the hike and even better ones at the top of the lookout. In clear conditions, Mount Rainier is visible throughout the 5.6-mile trek, and thanks to the relatively high elevation of the trailhead—6,300 feet—the climb to the top only requires hikers to navigate around 900 feet in elevation gain. 

From the trailhead, hikers will follow Sourdough Ridge to the west for 1.5 miles before joining the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail. The route runs through tranquil meadowland and across rocky crags, with vistas that include glimpses of the Cascades and Olympic Mountains as well as Mount Rainier itself. From the high point at the fire lookout, hikers can also look out over the gorgeous Grand Park meadows before returning to the start. 

  • Trailhead: Sunrise Visitors Center
  • Distance (round-trip): 5.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet

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Naches Peak Loop Trail

best-hikes-in-mount-rainier-national-parkWith modest elevation gain and a wide, picturesque path, the Naches Peak Loop Trail is extremely popular with families. The route begins near Chinook Pass at the Tipsoo Lake parking lot, leading hikers along portions of the Pacific Coast Trail and through meadows dotted with wildflowers, with the familiar snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier as a stunning backdrop. 

The loop may be navigated in either direction, although most visitors opt for a clockwise approach. At the midpoint, hikers will enjoy excellent views of Dewey Lake before meandering back to the start.  

  • Trailhead: Tipsoo Lake parking area
  • Distance (round-trip): 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet

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Rampart Ridge Trail

best-hikes-in-mount-rainier-national-parkRampart Ridge was formed by an ancient lava flow that emanated from Mount Rainier, which remains an active volcano—albeit one that’s currently in an extended period of dormancy.  Alternately referred to as the Ramparts, this lovely loop trail presents multiple opportunities to spot several species of wildlife that make their homes in Mount Rainier National Park, including mountain goats, deer, woodpeckers and grouse. 

Starting from the trailhead at the west end of the Trail of the Shadows, hikers can take a clockwise or counterclockwise approach to the trail, although the former presents more frequent views of Mount Rainier. The trail gets straight to business with rigorous ascents through thick old-growth forest to the ridge’s high point. Around 1.8 miles into the hike, a break in the trees offers glimpses of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually River Valley. The route continues along the ridgetop for another 1.3 miles of mostly flat trail before descending along the Wonderland Trail back to the trailhead. 

  • Trailhead: Across from the National Park Inn, near Trail of the Shadows 
  • Distance (round-trip): 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,339 feet

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Skyline Trail 

best-hikes-in-mount-rainier-national-parkIf you must choose only one hike to complete during your visit to Mount Rainier National Park, make it the Skyline Trail. This challenging 5.5-mile route leads hikers on an unforgettable tour of the Paradise section of the park, with breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier as well as wildflower-strewn meadows, crystal-clear creeks and playful marmots.  

The trailhead is located at the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise, which is also near the iconic Paradise Inn. Though the significant elevation gain ensures an intense workout, hiking the Skyline Trail is within reach for most visitors of average fitness, as evidenced by the crowds of tourists that pack the trail during the peak months of July and August. 

Expect to pause several times along your journey to take in the incredible sights along the trail, including a stop at Panorama Point, which offers wide vistas incorporating Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and even Oregon’s Mount Hood in clear weather. 

  • Trailhead: Jackson Visitor Center (Paradise) 
  • Distance (round-trip): 5.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,700 feet

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Spray Park Trail

best-hikes-in-mount-rainier-national-park This grueling hike starts at the Mowich Lake Campground, situated at the end of an unpaved service road on Mount Rainier’s northwest side. The out-and-back route takes hikers up 1,300 feet of rugged terrain, ultimately rewarding their effort with the stunning scenery of the 350-foot cascade of Spray Falls and the surrounding alpine meadows. Along the way, you’ll also trace a path through peaceful, dense forests and have an opportunity to view the Mowich Glacier from a vantage point at Eagle’s Cliff. 

  • Trailhead: Southeast side of Mowich Lake Campground 
  • Distance (round-trip): 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet

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Summerland Trail

best-hikes-in-mount-rainier-national-parkPlan to arrive early if you’re visiting the Summerland Trail during the busy summer months. As one of the park’s most popular trails, it’s not unusual for the parking area to hit maximum capacity throughout the day, especially on weekends. To reach the trailhead, use the White River Entrance and drive three miles to the parking area adjacent to the Fryingpan Creek bridge; trail access is across the road. 

The hike begins with a moderate ascent through old-growth forest for a few miles before leveling out a bit in the upper valley of Fryingpan Creek. The trail crosses the creek and begins a steep half-mile climb before it arrives in Summerland’s vast subalpine meadows. Highlights along the route include panoramic views of Mount Rainier and Little Tahoma, splashes of brightly-colored wildflowers and the likely appearance of mountain goats and other wildlife. 

  • Trailhead: Three miles from the White River Entrance near the Fryingpan Creek bridge 
  • Distance (round-trip): 8.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,100 feet

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Wonderland Trail 

best-hikes-in-mount-rainier-national-parkHiking the Wonderland Trail isn’t a spontaneous decision, but the result of months of advance planning and preparation. However, the accomplishment of completing the full 93-mile, multiday trek is well worth the effort it takes to make it happen. 

Hikers will need to apply for a limited-quantity permit months in advance of their planned visit. The application process opens in mid-March, and peak hiking season on the trail starts in late July and goes through mid-September. 

The strenuous trek circumnavigates Mount Rainier, leading hikers through major elevation gains and losses from lowland forests and valleys into rugged alpine terrain. Most trekkers will need around 10 days to complete the hike, requiring them to carry or cache the necessary provisions to sustain them through the challenging endeavor. 

  • Trailhead: Multiple 
  • Distance (round-trip): 93 miles
  • Elevation gain: 23,000 feet

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