The Ultimate Guide to Mount Rainier National Park For 2021

Mount Rainier National Park is an impressive 369 miles of mountain ecosystem that offers a unique balance of summer splendor and winter wonder. It is located in west-central Washington, 35 miles southeast of Tacoma, and 30 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The park’s most prominent feature is Mount Rainer, which ascends to 14,410 ft making it the highest mountain in Washington and the entire Cascade Range.

The volcanic mountain is the most glaciated peak in the 48 contiguous states and is ringed by subalpine wildflower meadows in summer to produce a breathtaking contrast. Five major rivers with cascading waterfalls and scenic groves snake through the ancient temperate inland rainforest that cloak about three-fifths of the park.

Discover amazing wildlife as you hike, drive, and enjoy a wide range of activities. You don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer to appreciate Mount Rainer National Park. It has something for all nature lovers all year round.

History of Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899, a few years after its last eruption as the fifth national park in the country. This was 17 years before the National Park Service was formed. It achieved its park status after a long campaign by conservationists like John Muir, who fought to preserve its unique forest and glacial landscape from the threat of logging and mineral extraction.

Preservation efforts of the mountain landscape were in line with the traditions and practices of the indigenous tribes who were the original stewards of the land. The Nisqually, Cowlitz, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Yakahama, and Squaxin Island tribes are among the people who gathered resources and mapped their values for millennia on the land that is now Mount Rainier National Park. The park is, therefore, a product of a very long volcanic and human history.

The first non-native incursions on the land were made in the late 18th century by European mountaineers eager to summit the iconic peak. Among them was the British explorer Captain George Vancouver who went ahead to christen the peak in 1792 after his close friend Rear Admiral Peter Rainier of the British Royal Navy. Americans who would later settle in the region in the early 19th century with memories of the redcoats still in their minds preferred the name Mount Tacoma.

Scenic appreciation for the mountain and commercial interest in its natural resources drove the park’s development in the early years after its creation. Roads, rails, lodgings, and other visitor facilities were built over the years to accommodate its growing use as a recreational destination and corresponding decreased interest in its natural resources.

Visitation has increased considerably since the 1960s as more people make attempts to summit Mount Rainier. This has attracted funding for natural resource protection, and more effort has been directed towards understanding the human impact on the complex mountain ecosystem.

The Best Time To Visit Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is open to tourists all year round. Most visitors favor the summer months of late July and August when the weather is warm, and the subalpine regions are erupting in a riot of wildflower blooms. The roads, trails, and campgrounds are also clear of snow during this time. Since summer weekends and holidays are very busy, you should visit mid-week to avoid delays and congestion.

If you are looking for a more relaxing vacation surrounded by ephemeral waterfalls and brilliant colors that reach deep into the valleys, visit during the spring and autumns seasons. Because of its mountain climate, Mount Rainer National Park experiences fairly dramatic weather conditions during these seasons. The weather conditions determine the availability and accessibility of certain park areas and facilities.  Always plan ahead and take note of regular updates provided by the National Park Service.

Winter provides a snowy cloak that facilitates winter sports such as snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Access by vehicle is only available from the Nisqually entrance during winter. You can, however, access the Carbon River Entrance on foot or by bicycle.

When planning your trip, you should get up to date information about the status and conditions of the roads, trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, and lodging. You should also have wilderness and climbing permits if you need them for your trip.

How Long to Stay

How long you stay at the Mount Rainier National Park is a personal choice. While some people enjoy a one day experience of the highlights, others like to take their time exploring the park and enjoying everything it has to offer. You can stay for up to 5 days and still not truly see everything that Mount Rainier National Park has to offer. However, staying longer gives you time to take longer hikes and experience the less-visited sections of the park.

If you are planning a one day visit, start early to beat the crowds. Access the park via the Nisqually entrance, and use the Paradise Valley Road to get to Paradise. Make quick stops at Christine Falls Bridge and Ricksecker Point on your drive up to Paradise. Take a quick hike to view the wildflower meadows before grabbing a meal at Paradise Inn.

Continue to Make quick stops at scenic pullouts like Reflection Lakes as you continue towards Sunrise. Take the Sourdough Ridge Trail or hike to Fremont Lookout to finish the day with a view of the sunset.       

If you want to stay for more than a day to give yourself more time to explore different sections of the park, consider basing yourself in a nearby town like Ashford. You can also split your accommodation among the campgrounds. White River Campground, Cougar Rock Campground, and Mowich Lake Campground are excellent choices. 

Getting from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park

Driving or renting a car is the best way to get to the park from Seattle since public transport is very limited. The 95-mile drive from Seattle takes around two to three hours, depending on the entrance you use to access the park. To use the Nisqually Entrance on the Southwest corner, take the I-5 from Seattle and join SR 512 on Exit 127 before heading south on SR 7 to Elbe. Drive a further 15 miles east of the town on SR 706 to get to the entrance.

The Northwest entrance is a shorter drive from Seattle on SR 165 from Wilkenson town. Getting to the Sunrise Visitor Center through the East entrances is a two-hour drive. The east entrances are accessible during the warmer months via the seasonal Chinook Pass.

Visitors who want to avoid the frustrations of driving and parking can get from Seattle to the park by organized tour or transfer service. 

Where to Stop On The Way

There is a lot to see and experience en route to Mt Rainier National Park. The park has four main entrances, and each features several; worthwhile stopping points. Here are four side excursions you can enjoy on the way:

The Puyallup Farmer’s Market

When you take State Route 410 towards the White River entrance, stop at the Puyallup Farmer’s Market. Here, seasonal produce, handmade wares, plant starts, and international food carts abound. You can shop for a few food items for a picnic in the park.

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Crystal Mountain Resort

Turn onto Crystal Mountain Boulevard along SR 410 to get to the Crystal Mountain Resort. This resort’s highlights are a spectacular gondola ride and Summit House, which is Washington’s highest elevation restaurant. Take a scenic gondola ride to get a close-up view of Mt Rainier or enjoy a meal before proceeding to the park.

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Black Diamond Bakery

When using 169 Maple Valley Highway, you should stop at the Black Diamond Bakery. Enjoy a hearty classic breakfast with a great view of Mt Rainier through the windows.

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Greenwater, Washington

This small town gives you the last opportunity to get gas before getting to the park. True to its name, there is an emerald green river that crosses the town. It’s not a big town, though, by any means. The population was 67 at the 2010 census.

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Entering Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is accessible via five different roads despite its mountainous topography. There are four main entrances to the vehicle accessible by vehicle. The most popular is the Nisqually Entrance, which is located in the southwest corner. It is the only that is accessible all-year-round by vehicle.

The northwest corner of the park has two access points. The Carbon River entrance, where vehicles are not permitted access beyond this point, and the Mowich lake entrance, which is only open in summer. The east entrances of Stephens Canyon and White River are also accessible in summer via the seasonal Chinook pass.   

Getting Around The Park

Marvel at the wildflowers, tranquil waters of glacier lakes and rivers that feature stunning cascades that gush all year long as you get around Mount Rainier National Park on the well-maintained system of paved roads and nature trails. Visitors can get around the park on foot, bicycle, vehicle, or horseback, depending on the area they want to access. Pets are, however, not allowed.  

Day hikers have various options, from short family-friendly trails to longer trails that connect the various areas of the park. Cyclists are not allowed on hiking trails. They can ride on the park roads, which can be narrow, steep, winding, and unpaved shoulders. Horseback riders can enjoy long excursions on several trails, including the Laughing Water Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

One of the best things about touring the park is being able to take scenic drives on its network of roads. Visitors can get around the park by personal vehicles. During winter, all vehicles are required to carry tire chains. The park receives most traffic on summer weekends, making it quite challenging to find parking at the parking lots and trailheads between Paradise and Longmire. There are, however, several tips to avoid summer congestion.     

Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park

The best way to experience Mount Rainier National Park is hiking its trails. The park boasts more than 260 miles of well-maintained trails. These trails lead to the most beautiful spots in the park, including cascading waterfalls, sub-alpine meadows, crystalline high mountain lakes, wildflower fields, meandering streams, and viewpoints offering picturesque views of the landscape.

The trails vary in length from the shortest to the 93-mile long Wonderland Trail that encircles the entire mountain. When you decide to hike in Mount Rainier National Park, choose your hike depending on the amount of time you have and hiking ability. Pets and bicycles are not allowed on the trails.  

Five Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park

While the below five hikes are in no way comprehensive to the hiking opportunities offered inside Mount Rainier National Park, these are definitely some of the most popular Mount Rainier National Park hiking options.

For a full breakdown of the ten best hikes in the park, please see our new guide Finding the 10 Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park

Skyline Trail

Skyline Trail is a moderately strenuous 5.5-mile round trip hike that goes around the scenic Paradise area. The hike begins from Paradise at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and ascends with an elevation gain of about 1500 feet to the aptly named Panorama Point. The loop then descends past Sluiskin Falls, Stevens-Van Trump Memorial, and Myrtle Falls Viewpoint back to Paradise.

We dive more into this trail in our guide Ultimate Guide To The Skyline Trail in Washington For 2021

Hikers are treated to picturesque views of Mount Rainier, mighty glaciers, cascading waterfalls, and subalpine meadows erupting with colorful splashes of wild blooms in the summer peak season. Depending on your preference, you can hike the trail clockwise or counterclockwise.

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Glacier Basin Trail

best hikes in mount rainier national parkGlacier Basin trail is popular with hikers exploring the park’s northeast area and climbers accessing the famous Emmons Glacier. The hike begins at the White River Campground and follows an 11.5-mile path that takes you to the summit of Burroughs Mountain, down to Frozen Lake, through Sunrise Camp and past Shadow Lake before getting you back to where you started.

Hikers traverse majestic old-growth conifers, luxurious meadows, and cross successive tumbling creeks, all the while marveling at close-up views of Mount Rainier shrouded in snow and ice. The trail provides excellent chances to spot deer, mountain goats, and bears.

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Naches Peak Loop

Located on the park’s northeastern side, the Naches Peak Loop Trail is a 3.5-mile roundtrip that goes around Naches Peak. It is a family-friendly hike with an elevation gain of approximately 500 feet. Hikers are treated to beautiful, lush meadows that come alive with crimson huckleberry bushes and colorful wildflowers in Late July and early August.

Hiking clockwise begins at Tipsoo Lake and follows the Pacific Crest Trail on the north before getting to the Dewey Lake viewpoint. The viewpoint provides an excellent place to rest and enjoy a snack before looping back using the Naches Peak Trail on the southern flank.

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Mount Freemont Lookout

This hiking trail features the highest of the four remaining fire lookouts in the park built in 1934. It begins at the Sunrise Visitors Center and heads west on Sourdough Ridge to the Frozen Lake Junction. The direct route to the lake is 1.3 miles. Four trails converge here, and it is an excellent place to take a snack break and interact with other hikers. To add variety to your hike, consider heading back using another route.

Hikers get to experience incredible views of Mount Rainier all the way.  You can also spot frolicking deer, ground squirrels, and marmots on Yakima Park’s emerald lawn.

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Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland trail is a strenuous, all-encompassing 93-mile trail that encircles the entire base of Mt. Rainier. It is the most challenging and rewarding hiking trail in the park as it passes through major life zones from dense forests to luscious meadows to wild water systems. Hikers get a complete picture of the varied faces of Mt. Rainier. 

For a deep dive into this, please see our guide The Wonderland Trail: An Incredible 93-Mile Adventure

This rugged route features steep hiking with substantial elevation changes as you climb up ridges and go down valleys. Most hikers take an average of ten days to complete the hike. Excellent hiking skills, proper research, and planning are required before making this bucket-list hike.

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Other Activities in Mount Rainier National Park

Besides hiking, Mount Rainier National Park offers fantastic opportunities for a wide range of activities. These activities include mountain climbing, camping, scenic drives, winter sports, horseback riding, dining, fishing, wildlife viewing, fruit and mushroom foraging, and taking railroad and gondola rides.

Every season is an opportune time to visit Mount Rainier, National Park. There is always something to do at the park. Each season provides an opportunity to participate in a thrilling activity. To make planning for your next visit more straightforward than ever, we have compiled five activities that are set to make your visit to the park memorable.

5 Activities in Mount Rainier National Park

Ride Mt. Rainier Scenic Rail Road

Mount Rainier 18-mile Railroad offers train fanatics and anyone who wants to experience a beautiful train ride through the foothills. Visitors get to ride a vintage logging locomotive from the small town of Elbe, which lies a short distance south of the park, to a logging museum in Mineral. The train features several bathrooms, a snack bar, and plenty of room for children to walk around.

The train ride offers a fun and friendly atmosphere with kind conductors giving brief history lessons as it takes you through the ancient forest and across the Upper Nisqually River. The railroad excursion is provided from May through October. 

Mount Rainier National Park Mountain Climbing

The heavily glaciated Mount Rainier makes for an exciting climbing challenge to mountaineers. It attracts climbers from across the globe, from amateur mountaineers to professionals training for higher climbs. The mountain is popular for its accessibility through the Sea-Tac International Airport and climbing routes that cater for mountaineers of all skill levels.

Climbers must register and obtain a valid climbing permit before making any attempt to scale Mt Rainier. Suitable specialized equipment is mandatory, and serious physical preparation is strongly recommended. Novices are strongly encouraged to obtain knowledge and training from the local guide services and take suitable routes under experienced climbers’ supervision.

Camping Opportunities in Mount Rainier National Park

Several campgrounds at the park provide campers an opportunity to sit around a campfire and sleep under the stars as they listen to the soothing sounds of the night. There are several options for tent camping and automobile sightseers.

Ohanapecosh campground is the largest. It opens longer than most campgrounds thanks to its sheltered environment and low elevation. The central location of Cougar Mountain Campground gives easy access to trails in the southern part of the park. 

Consistent, delicate serenade of the White River and proximity to the visitor amenities at Sunrise make the White River Campground an excellent base camp for climbers and hikers taking the Wonderland Trail. 

Winter Activities Available in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park turns into a winter wonderland during the coldest months of the year, with most of its landscape covered by thick sheets of snow. Hikers, with the right supplies and little know-how, get to explore the park’s winter trails on snowshoes.

Six hundred and forty inches of snow also allow snow lovers and thrill-seekers to engage in a broad range of exciting winter activities. Winter recreational activities at the park come in all forms, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and skate skiing. Mid-November to mid-April provides the best conditions for winter activities.

Paradise is the most popular snow play area, but Mount Tahoma provides an excellent alternative.

Wildlife Viewing in Mount Rainier National Park

Wildlife abounds in the Mount Rainier National Park ecosystem. The largest animals include the Roosevelt elk, Black-tailed deer, mountain goats, and black bears. Squirrels, raccoons, and marmots are some of the most common small animals.

Hairy woodpeckers, warblers, Clark’s nutcrackers, and gray and Steller’s jays are among the more than 220 bird species that have been observed in the park.  

Wildlife viewing at the park is an exciting activity. It is dependent on the elevation and season. The best times to view wildlife are early in the morning and late at dusk. Move quietly and observe the animals from a distance using binoculars. 

The Best Hotels Near Mount Rainier National Park

There is so much to see and do at Mt Rainier National Park. One day visits often prove inadequate. Some visitors prefer to spend more time exploring the wonders of the park. Camping is not for everyone. Most people prefer taking a hot shower and sleeping in a cozy bed after a day of adventure at the park. If you want to stay for more than a day to explore different sections of the park, consider basing yourself in a nearby hotel.

For the full scoop, please see our comprehensive guide The 6 Best Hotels Near Mt Rainier National Park: Our Picks

Several hotels near Mt Rainier National Park offer excellent accommodation and delicious meals to make your park adventure comfortable and memorable. They include:

Cowlitz River Lodge

Cowlitz River Lodge is a 32 unit hotel lodge located in the heart of Packwood, a short drive from Mt Rainier National Park. Its rooms are beautifully maintained and equipped with all the amenities a guest would need for a comfortable stay.

Breakfast is served every morning with specialties including sausage, Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, juices, and muffins. 2 glasses of complimentary wine are served in the evening.

Paradise Village

Paradise Village is a hotel located in Ashford, 23 miles from Mt Rainier. It features recently remodeled cabins and family rooms with special amenities, including a 46 inch TV. Breakfast, which includes homemade honey and strawberry jam, is served with a special touch.

Whitaker’s Motel and Historic Bunkhouse

Whitaker’s Motel and Historic Bunkhouse is located in downtown Ashford. This hotel has housed hikers, climbers, sightseers, and skiers visiting Mount Rainier National Park since 1990. The motel has 18 rooms with private baths while the Bunk Room can host up to 6 people with shared bathroom.

Alexander’s Lodge

This historic hotel is located in Ashford, a 10-minute walk from the Mount Rainier National Park’s Nisqually entrance. It features a vacation home, Yurts, King, and Queen Suites. There is a gift shop on-site, a waterfall, two beautiful ponds, and an old-style waterwheel.

Nisqually Lodge

This quiet lodge is located in Ashford, within 6 miles of Mount Rainier National Park. Free self-parking and free Wi-Fi are provided as well as laundry facilities and a computer station. Family Suites are provided in addition to comfortable standard rooms.

Mountain Meadows Inn

Mountain Meadows Inn is located in Ashford, a short distance from Mount Rainier National Park. It offers scenic views of the mountain landscape from the sun terrace and the garden. The rooms are cozy and well decorated, and the breakfast served is quite delicious.

Mill Village Motel

This hotel is located in Eatonville, very close to Mt Rainier National Park. It features comfortable rooms complete with a wide range of amenities to make your stay relaxing. A full continental breakfast is served every morning.

Crystal Mountain Hotels

Crystal Mountain Hotel is located on Crystal Mountain. It features three slope side lodging properties: The Village Inn, the Alpine Inn, and Quicksilver Lodge. It also offers two eateries: The Snorting Elk Cellar & Deli and the Alpine Inn Restaurant.

Seasons Motel

This family-friendly hotel is located in Morton. Its rooms are equipped with amenities such as a flat-screen TV, refrigerator, and air conditioning. A picnic area, free breakfast, and free parking are some of the special conveniences offered.

Stormking Cabins & Spa

Storm King Hotel is located in Ashford 2 miles from Mount Rainier National Park. It features a sauna, barbecue grills, picnic area, garden, and free Wi-Fi. Guests can spend the night in 4 individually decorated cabins with upscale touches and housekeeping.

Where To Eat At Mount Rainier National Park

A great getaway is not complete without great food. Whether you are hiking, mountaineering, or sledding in the snow, you will need a refreshing beverage or food to keep your strength up.

Bringing snacks to the park is recommended, especially when engaging in strenuous activities like hiking and mountaineering. If you haven’t carried enough, you can enjoy a snack or meal at one of the park’s eateries. Places to eat at Mt Rainier National Park include:

  • The Paradise Inn: This historic, heavy-timbered dining room at Paradise serves American dishes with terrific views of Mt Rainier through its tall windows. The menu features burgers, salads, wild salmon, hazelnut chicken, red trout, and prime rib. Tattoosh café inside Paradise Inn serves a variety of beverages and snacks.
  • The Paradise Camp Deli: This cafeteria is located inside the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. It serves snacks like pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches, milkshakes, and ice cream.
  • The Sunrise Snack Bar: Located inside the Sunrise Day Lodge, the Sunrise Snack bar serves cheeseburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, soup, ice cream, and other snack and beverage options. Visitors can dine in or order take-out for picnics.   
  • The National Park Inn Restaurant: This is a family-style inn that comprises a large dining room with professional photos of Mt. Rainier on the walls. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner offering hearty meal selections in a casual setting all year long. The menu features seared halibut, pot roast with mashed potatoes, and cedar-plank trout.  
  • Summit House: Summit House is Washington’s highest-elevation restaurant. Enjoying a delicious meal and a refreshing glass of wine at 6,872 ft gives guests the experience of dining at the top of the world. The restaurant is accessed by riding the iconic Mt. Rainier Gondola to the summit of Crystal Mountain. The menu features halibut fish-and-chips, elk and bison chili, grilled salmon other dishes inspired by the Northwest cuisine. 

Top 5 Photo Spots In Mount Rainier National Park

There is so much to entice a photographer at Mount Rainier National park. On a clear day, viewpoints offer opportunities for breathtaking shots of the surrounding landscape. Hidden gems around the park also make spectacular photo spots for amateur and professional photographers.

They include poignantly-beautiful lakes, sprawling meadows erupting with colorful wildflowers, rugged historic buildings, wildlife grazing in the grasslands, and thunderous cascades.

Paradise – Myrtle Falls

Paradise is the most popular photo spot in the park because of its southern exposure. Nestled 5,400 ft high in the slopes of Mount Rainier, it affords spectacular views of the peak and a striking contrast of snowfields and wildflower meadows in July and August. 

The most photographed spot at Paradise is the 72 ft high Myrtle falls carved out by Edith Creek as the journeys to the Paradise Valley. The waterfall cascades down a deep gorge creating a picturesque setting with Mount Rainier in the background. Hikers with camera phones and photographers with tripods frequent this area.

Ohanapecosh – Groove of The Patriarchs

Located on the southeast side of the park, Ohanapecosh is home to lush, old-growth forests that comprise western cedar trees and thousand-year-old Douglas fir. You are likely to hear the hooting of a perfectly camouflaged Northern Spotted Owl as you take a delightful nature walk through this ancient forest to a sacred paradise christened the Groove of the Patriarchs.

This special place is located on an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River. You feel like you are entering a magical kingdom as you walk past the enormous ancient trees. It is a humbling experience as you take pictures next to these timeless warriors that have seen human civilizations rise and fall. 

Sunrise

Perched at an elevation of 6,400ft, Sunrise is the highest spot in the park that vehicles can access. It is famous for the panoramic 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys it offers. Visitors can have an up-close view of the glaciated Mt Rainier. Other volcanic mountains in the Cascade Range, such as Mt Adams, can also be seen from this viewpoint.

Sunrise is the second most popular location in the park due to its accessibility via a varied trail system. Sunrise Rim Trail and Sunrise Nature Trail are the most popular since they take hikers through lush meadows and breathtaking sights.

Longmire

Longmire provides an excellent photo spot for visitors looking to capture the history of Mt Rainier National park. This national historic district was the original headquarters of the park when it was established in 1899. Today, it is a year-round museum that houses exhibits and publications that tell the story of the park’s early days. Longmire is also home to the historic National Park Inn, built in the early 1900s.

Visitors get to explore this hidden gem using several hiking trails, including the Trail of Shadows. This 1-mile loop trail begins near the museum and traverses the Longmire hot springs, the surrounding forest, and the classic homestead that is a replica of the early settlement.

Carbon River and Mowich Lake

The quiet northwest corner of the park has a unique ecosystem that resembles a lush inland temperate rainforest. The area offers some of the magnificent views of Mt Rainier you will find anywhere in the park. It features the roaring, glacier-fed Carbon River flowing through the Carbon River Valley. It’s also home to the majestic Mowich Lake set in a glacial basin and surrounded by masses of avalanche lilies.

You can look through the hypnotic, crystal-clear waters of Mowich Lake to the lakebed below. Mowich Lake Campground is one of the most pristine locations to pitch a tent. It is open for non-motorized boating and fishing.

Parks And Forests Near Mount Rainier National Park

Mt Rainier National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the world. Since its establishment, several parks and national forests have been founded near it. They offer excellent alternatives to Mt Rainier National Park by providing various recreational and camping opportunities to visitors looking for a memorable outdoor experience near Mt Rainier.

Baker Snoqualmie National Forest

Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest is located on the western slopes of the Cascade ranges between Mount Rainier National Park and the Canadian border. This forest is one of the most visited in the country. It stretches over 140 miles and features old-growth forests, spectacular meadows, waterfalls, lakes, alpine ecosystems, and glacier-covered peaks.

The forest accommodates educational opportunities and recreational activities favorable for everyone, from amateur hikers to the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts. These include fishing, bird watching, snowshoeing, skiing, and river rafting. Visitors get to experience nature on a personal level as they explore the vast forest.

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Federation Forest State Park

Located north of Mt Rainier along the White River, Federation Forest State Park is 574 acres of day-use natural area with old-growth evergreens. This hidden gem offers family-friendly hiking, picnicking, and a chance to learn an important piece of Washington history. The park features an interpretive center surrounded by a native plant garden where visitors learn about the native Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

Visitors taking strolls on the short, flat, family-friendly, interpretive trails find tranquility by the river and under the cool forest canopy. The trees include old-growth Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas fir, and western red cedar.

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Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Gifford Pinchot National Forest has something for every forest visitor. Visitors seeking social activity, solitude, creative inspiration, scenic beauty, or wildlife can find it in this forest.  The Cowlitz Valley area to the north, Mount St Helens area to the south, and Mt Adams area to the west, are the forest’s three main wilderness areas.

Camping grounds at the forest offer solitude and convenience for backcountry camping in a tent or RV. Visitors can also engage in several recreational activities, including horseback riding, water sports, picnicking, fishing, winter activities, cycling, and hiking on the 1,500 miles of trails in the forest.

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Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

This large and diverse forest located south of Mt Rainier covers over 4 million acres on the Cascade Range’s eastern slopes. It features glaciated alpine peaks, lush valleys of old-growth forest, and dry, rugged shrub. The forest offers miles of hiking trails in the wilderness, majestic landscape views, and acres of space for backcountry camping in solitude.

It is also a prime location for a wide range of activities, including wildlife viewing, horseback riding, hunting, climbing, mountain biking, off-road drives, and several winter activities. Visitors to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest can access several Forest Service cabins for recreational renting.

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Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

This National Volcanic Monument is located south of Mt Rainier National Park. It offers a wide array of exciting activities for all visitors. Its 200 miles of trails, which range from paved walkways to rugged terrain, are ideal for day hiking and overnight backpacking trips.

Visitors can learn the geological, biological, and human history of Mt St. Helens at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. It is open daily from mid-may to October. Visitors are treated to ranger stories, award-winning films, and purchase souvenirs or lunch from the food cart before setting off on a hike.

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Our Final Thoughts on Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier is an icon on the landscape of the entire Pacific Northwest, and its ecosystem features varying life zones that invite exploration. Mount Rainier National Park is home to many different plant and animal species. There are dense coniferous trees on the lower slopes, scenic alpine and subalpine meadows with a profusion of wildflowers in the warm months, waterfalls, lakes, and an abundance of wildlife.

ultimate guide to mount rainier national parkThousands of mountaineers, hikers, backpackers, campers, and snow lovers flock the park every year to experience the best of what it has to offer. When you visit Mount Rainier National Park, prepare for an experience that re-defines spectacular and a lifetime of discovery.

The history of Mt Rainier National Park goes back thousands of years beyond the time of backpackers, rangers, and echoes of logging saws and mining blasts. Human use of Mount Rainier started thousands of years ago when generations of native people depended on resources from the mountainside for survival.

The mountainside has since had several uses, from mining and lumbering to tourism and as a source of clean water to communities near and far. Today, Mount Rainier National park provides thousands of visitors a unique opportunity to experience nature while engaging in a wide range of incredible recreational activities.