I can’t wait to show off all these great Mt Rainier hikes. It can seem intimidating to visit Mount Rainier National Park. But it doesn’t have to be. While there’s a good chunk of land, Mount Rainier National Park is easily navigatable.
There are two main areas for Mt Rainier hikes: Sunrise Visitor Center and Paradise Visitor Center. Nearly all of your Mount Rainier hikes will start from these two destinations. Furthermore, if it’s the weekend, get to these early, or else you may be on the outside looking in.
Hopefully, my guide helps point you in the right direction, whether for an extended stay or just a Mount Rainier day trip!
A Complete Guide to Mt Rainier Hikes
Throughout this comprehensive article, we’ll discuss the best hikes and pertinent info you need!
A few things to know about planning a hiking trip to Mount Rainier
Come prepared with appropriate hiking attire
Having the right hiking attire is key for not only enjoying your hike but also being safe. Make sure to have sturdy hiking shoes, plenty of sun protection (hats, sunglasses, sunscreen), 3+ liters of water, good hiking clothes (sun hoodie or hiking shirts), and wool socks to prevent blisters.
Taking these steps while doing your Mt Rainier hikes will make for some incredible moments.
It’s not summer until July or August
Many people who book trips to Washington are pretty shocked when people tell them that the trails are still snowy and it’s not precisely hiking season. For those coming for Mount Rainier hikes, push your trip further into summer. I’ve been in July and August, and they’re great months.
When should I come for the fantastic wildflowers?
It all depends on the snow melt, but you can usually expect some of the most magical wildflowers you have ever seen in late July and early August. It’s really a remarkable sight!
Weekends are VERY crowded – even at 8:30 am.
Arrive early to any spot in Mount Rainier National Park if you visit on the weekend. Both parking lots will be nearly full by about 9 am. Once it hits about 3-4 pm, it will empty out, and your Mt Rainier hikes will be more enjoyable.
Thankfully, during the summer, that means you’ll still have 5-6 hours of light to enjoy yourself.
“I’m visiting for Mt Rainier hikes this summer. Should I fly into Seattle or Portland?”
Great question. It doesn’t matter – though Seattle is about 30 minutes faster. It’s more about which city you want to spend a little more time in before you leave it.
The only difference is if you’re going to the north or south for your Mount Rainier hikes. If you are planning for Sunrise Visitor Center, Seattle is way closer. Visiting Paradise Visitor Center is about a 3.5-hour drive from Portland vs. three hours from Seattle.
Mt Rainier hikes to do around Sunrise Visitor Center
In my opinion, this is the holy grail area of the park. Sunrise Visitor Center has rad Mount Rainier hikes and stunning views. But you’re also close but not on Mount Rainier, giving you a unique perspective.
Add these three to your Mount Rainier hikes bucket list!
Burroughs Mountain Trail
Burroughs Mountain (there are three) gets you the closest to the 14,000-foot Mount Rainier but also shows off all the crazy Cascade views to the north. I loved this hike. Overall, the hike isn’t too strenuous and measures around 9 miles round trip. The hardest part would be the potential snow on the trail, depending on when you go. Honestly, this is my favorite of the things to do in Mount Rainier National Park.
Dege Peak Hike
A shorter of the Mount Rainier hikes than above, Dege Peak gets you way above the Visitor Center, giving you views of Tahoma, Mt. Adams, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, and the entire Cascade Range. It’s a surreal experience and not an awfully crowded place.
For night enthusiasts, this has a great Milky Way view.
Fremont Lookout Trail
The only fire lookout in the park, Fremont Lookout has the chance to blow your mind. We caught it on an inversion night, and it was wicked cool. I’m pretty sure my mind is still blown from that summer night. It has some uphills, but it’s nothing too crazy in terms of mileage.
If I were ranking these Mount Rainier hikes, I’d say, Burroughs, Fremont, then Dege, but you can honestly do all of them and not log too many miles. Furthermore, many people do this as a Mount Rainier day trip, especially with the summer days so long.
Mt Rainier Hikes to do around Paradise Visitor Center
Camp Muir (aka Mt. Rainier Base Camp)
Probably the most challenging hike you can find when visiting Mountain Rainier National Park outside of summiting Tahoma. The trek to Camp Muir can be a slog, with most or all of it in the snow, depending on your season of choice.
However, the views are 100% worth it, and getting to base camp is an experience you’ll never forget. Plus, this is one of those things to do in Mount Rainier that few others will and will set you apart.
Remember to bring microspikes and something to glissade down on to make the descent more enjoyable.
Skyline Trail (and any of the short off-shoots of this loop)
This trail is a loop that takes you to Panorama Point, the halfway point to Camp Muir. It’s a beautiful spot I recommend for sunset if you’re not looking for too hard of a hike. You can then take complete the loop to see some new terrain, including gorgeous wildflowers in the summer.
If you’re looking for a single hike on a Mount Rainier day trip, this is it!
Bench and Snow Lake
A little less of a “wow” or “intense” hike, but if you get the right conditions, it will be fantastic. About a two-mile – primarily flat – stroll through chest-high flowers, you’ll get deposited at a small lake with a reflection of Mount Rainier.
We were skunked out but trust me when I say this has great potential. It’s also one of the Mount Rainier hikes perfect for families and for a Mount Rainier day trip.
Places to go for a great photo in Mount Rainier National Park
Immediately off the road near the park’s East Entrance, Tipsoo Lake is perfect for a quick sunrise jaunt or sunset lounge. There are plenty of options to shoot, and the lake’s reflection is mesmerizing with no wind.
We hit this for sunrise, and 40 minutes later, we were back asleep. While no secret, it’s still one of the things to do in Mount Rainier that is beautiful.
Reflection Lake is less than 75 yards from the parking lot, making it a must-stop spot when visiting Mount Rainer National Park. The views are great, but the bugs are not. Be prepared for mosquitoes galore, so maybe bring your bug nets or shoot quickly and get out.
This is an excellent add-on if you take a day trip. Plus, there are some short Mount Rainier hikes near the lake.
Naches Peak Look
Naches Peak Loop has an INCREDIBLE array of wildflowers when you nail it right. It’s a gentle 5-6 mile hike, and the views (without Rainier) are gorgeous. Still, this is one of the Mt Rainier hikes you need to add to your summer list.
Mt Rainier Hikes to tackle in the Northwest Region
For some reason, this area gets less attention than the Paradise and Sunrise sections of the park. One reason may be the long dirt road, and the second could be the lack of facilities. Either way, this part is still spectacular!
Spray Park and Spray Falls
I finally tackled this for summer wildflowers, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once you get into Spray Park, it opens p and is friggin amazing! I highly recommend this as one of the better Mt Rainier hikes to do in the park.
About halfway in, you’ll come to Spray Falls, which is a beautiful cascading waterfall. Make sure to stop and check it out.
Overall, we clocked about 9.5 miles though you could go less or more as once you’re in Spray Park, it’s a free for all.
Another fire lookout in Mt Rainer National Park. This hike is eight miles, and you overlook Mowich Lake. I haven’t gotten to do this, but it’s a classic and a great post-work hike during the summer months.
1 Place to go outside of Mount Rainier National Park
High Rock Lookout
About 40 minutes outside the park entrance, High Rock Lookout is a challenging yet short hike to unparalleled views of Mount Rainier. Sitting on the literal edge of a 1,000-foot cliff, this is a must for anyone visiting Mout Rainier National Park.
Even more astonishing is that pictures and words will not do this place justice. You have to go do this Mt Rainier hike.
FAQs About Mt. Rainier hikes
Are there family-friendly hikes at Mt. Rainier?
Yes! There are many things to do in Mount Rainier National Park that are all good for all ages. Going to Myrtle Falls is the best option at the Paradise Visitor Center.
Can I visit in the winter?
Yes, but this year, 2023, Paradise Visitor Center is only open on the weekends due to staffing. The Sunrise Visitor Center is closed. That are tons of snowshoeing options that lead to stunning mountain views.
I loved my two trips here during the winter. Seeing it covered in snow is a beautiful sight.
Is a day trip worth it to Mount Rainier?
Yes, there are a lot of things to do in Mount Rainier in just one day. I recommend visiting Paradise early in the morning and staying until dusk. Hiking the Skyline Loop Trail would be perfect!
Will Mount Rainier erupt soon?
Odds are it will not erupt anytime in the future.
Where to Stay at Mount Rainier
What are my camping options in Mt. Rainier?
There are plenty of camping options in and around the park. Cougar Rock will be the most desirable as it’s minutes from Paradise. White River is also close to Sunrise, making it a 1B choice.
Ohanapecosh would come next, as it’s about halfway between Paradise and Sunrise. A bit further out, there are also plenty of non-NPS campgrounds surrounding the park, so go crazy picking which one you’d want.
Then, and this is a big one, there’s a FREE area at Buck Creek Campground, AKA the airplane landing field. (You can also search Ranger Creek State Aiport.) Camping is limited, so come early on the weekends, but it’s a perfect spot to do dispersed camping. From there, the park entrance is about 20 minutes away.
You can also stay in the town of Ashford, which is just outside of the Mount Rainier National Park entrance. This is a perfect place to call home while you’re exploring the park.
Wrapping Up – Mt Rainier Hikes
Whether you visit this year, in five years, or many more years down the road, a trip to Mount Rainier will be one you’ll never forget. It will evoke emotions you never knew you had and attempt to pull you back again and again. So, if this does happen, do return. It will surely be worth it.
I know I’m longing for the next time I get to stare do some epic Mt Rainier hikes.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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