Last updated: November 25, 2023
Mount Rainier, a magnificent and active 14,411 ft volcano, is the highest peak in the Cascade Range of Washington state. Mt Rainier National Park holds beauty and adventure in every direction, especially for hikers. Here are 17 absolutely stunning Mt Rainier hikes for you to consider.
I’ve been hiking here for several decades and there is no end of things to see and do. Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP) is a fantastic destination for hikers of every experience level.
Whatever hike you choose you will be overwhelmed by beauty, perhaps by wildflowers and wildlife, and certainly by the views.
17 Stunning Mt Rainier Hikes
I’ve done these trails as amazing day hikes, at least once, and they make for some rather beautiful and unforgettable days. Here they are, in order of easiest to most difficult.
Easy Hikes in Mt Rainier National Park
1. Tipsoo Lake and Upper Tipsoo Lake
- Distance: 0.8 miles
- Elevation: 40 feet
- Location: Chinook Pass near Paradise
Tipsoo Lake is a beautiful alpine lake just off scenic SR410. Upper Tipsoo Lake, is just across the road. Both have a relatively flat, unpaved path going around them.
Both lakes offer a stunning view of Mount Rainier and the surrounding landscape, especially during the summer months when the wildflowers are in bloom. You’ll see lupine, partridge foot and Indian Paintbrush, among many other beautiful pinks, purples and yellows.
Both Tipsoo and Upper Tipsoo are fantastic hikes for families with small children. I stop here every time I’m in the area, just to check out the view.
2. Nisqually Vista Loop
- Distance: 1.1 miles
- Elevation:180 feet
- Location: Paradise
The Nisqually Vista Trail is an easy, paved, and glorious hiking trail that offers stunning views of the Nisqually Glacier and surrounding mountain scenery.
It’s the perfect hike for beginners and little ones to experience the magic of wildflower season at Paradise if you can time it right. It’s also a fantastic snowshoe trail in the winter months.
3. Naches Peak Loop
- Distance: 3.3 miles
- Elevation: 640 feet
- Location: Parking at Tipsoo Lake, above
The Naches Peak Loop trailhead is located on the east side of the Chinook Pass Highway (State Route 410), near the Pacific Crest Trail crossing. Follow the PCT trail for a short distance, and possibly meet up with some thru-hikers, before it splits off in another direction.
The best time to do this one in my experience, is during wildflower season. Do this loop in the clockwise direction and you won’t regret it! If you can manage, do it at sunset for additional magic and wonder.
4. Carter Falls
- Distance: 2.6 miles
- Elevation: 560 feet
- Location: near Longmire
Carter Falls is a popular waterfall located on the south side of the park, near the Longmire Historic District. The trail offers wonderful views of old-growth forests, wildflowers, and the Carter Falls waterfall, which drops approximately 40 feet (12 meters) over a rocky cliff.
5. Grove of the Patriarchs
- Distance: 1.1 miles
- Elevation: 52 feet
- Location: Ohanapecosh
While this area is currently closed for reconstruction, it’s surely worth waiting for. An easy and photo-worthy trail through some incredible old-growth forest with a delightful suspension bridge, this hike is for all ages. This is always on my list for when I’m in the area.
Moderate Mt Rainier Hikes
6.Bench and Snow lakes
- Distance: 2.2 miles
- Elevation: 450 feet
- Location: Paradise
Bench and Snow Lakes are two extremely beautiful alpine lakes within easy walking distance of your car. Bench Lake, slightly smaller, is approximately ¾ of a mile from the trailhead, while Snow Lake is about 1.25 miles from the trailhead.
Bring a picnic lunch, your swimsuit, your inflatable paddleboard if you have one and you’ve got the perfect day.
7. High Rock Lookout
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Elevation: 1299 feet
- Location: near Ashford
High Rock Lookout is a unique hiking trail with one of the most impressive views of Mt Rainier. The lookout was disassembled for restoration and is expected to be returned to its original location in the summer of 2023.
But even without the lookout itself, it’s a surreal spot with an epic view of the mountain. And one of the best sunrise hikes you can find for such a short hike.
8. Tolmie Peak Trail
- Distance: 5.6 miles
- Elevation: 1540 feet
- Location: Carbonado
The Tolmie Peak trail is a popular hike from the Mowich Lake Campground. The biggest challenge of this trail is driving to the trailhead, which is rough, steep and winding.
The trail is worth it though, with stunning views of Mount Rainier, Eunice Lake, and the surrounding mountain range. It’s also not quite so crowded, due to the difficulty of the road on the way in.
9. Spray Park Loop
- Distance: 8 miles
- Elevation: 1700 feet
- Location: near Carbonado
One of my favorite hikes, this one has gorgeous meadows, an impressive and charming waterfall and unbelievable mountain views. Instead of turning around at the end of the Spray Park Trail, take the extra time to go left on the trail to Mist Park.
Many people forgo this hike in favor of Tolmie Peak, above. I would have to say that if you’re doing one, you should make time for both, because both of them are equally impressive and well-worth the extra effort.
Fun Fact: Mt Rainier’s original name is Tahoma, which means “the source of nourishment from the many streams coming from the slopes.”
10. Mt Fremont Lookout
- Distance: 5.7 miles
- Elevation: 1112 feet
- Location: Sunrise
The iconic Mt Fremont Lookout Trail offers stunning panoramic views of Mount Rainier, the Emmons Glacier, and the surrounding Cascade Range. It really is one of the best views in the park. The trail passes through alpine meadows, subalpine forests, and rocky terrain.
Marmots and goats are extremely popular in this area.
This is one of the best sunrise and sunset hikes in the park. You will also find many people parked along the side of the trail, closer to the parking lot, who are there for some epic star-gazing as well.
11. Crystal Lakes
- Distance: 6 miles
- Elevation: 2300 feet
- Location: Sunrise
A spectacular hike during wildflower season, this hike has many possible adventures. Make sure you take the short left toward the lower lake before returning to the right for the upper lake. You can also climb to Crystal Peak for a little extra mileage and jaw-dropping views.
12. Dege Peak Trail
- Distance: 3.1 miles
- Elevation: 820 feet
- Location: Greenwater
This is a lovely short hike, if not for all the stopping you will do for the views. Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak and Mount Adams can be seen along this trail through meadows of magical wildflowers in late summer.
It’s not as popular and I have no idea why, though you’re unlikely to ever have the trail to yourself.
Difficult Rainier Hikes
13. Kautz Creek to Mirror Lakes
- Distance: 12.1 miles
- Elevation: 3933 feet
- Location: Longmire
The Kautz Creek Trail is a popular, breath-taking hiking trail on the southwest side of the park, near the Nisqually entrance. The gorgeous trail is considered difficult and is suitable for experienced hikers only.
It meets up with the Wonderland trail at about 5000 feet. If you can get a permit, the more time you spend here the happier you will be.
14. Skyline Trail Mt Rainier
- Distance: 6.2 miles
- Elevation: 1788 feet
- Location: Paradise Inn
The Skyline Loop is a lovely mixture of marmot sightings, unforgettable mountain views and even a waterfall. Myrtle Falls is perhaps one of the most photographed waterfalls in Washington state. Be sure to take the short detour to Glacier Vista for even more stunning views.
This is possibly the most popular for day hiking, and most crowded, at Paradise. My best advice for getting away from the masses is to go on a weekday, at sunrise, and in a counter-clockwise direction.
This is one of the best hikes for wildflowers and autumn colors, depending on when you go.
15.. Third Burroughs Trail
- Distance: 9 miles
- Elevation: 2562 feet
- Location: Sunrise
While there are multiple hikes along this trail, 1st and 2nd Burroughs, going all the way is truly one of the more hidden gems at Mt Rainier. It will give you the most dramatic view of Mt Rainier. There are often mountain goats and bears along this unbelievably barren trail, and no shade on a sunny day.
This hike is best done with an early start. Catch the sunrise at Mt Fremont Lookout and you’re already 1.5 miles into the Burroughs trail. Then head towards the Burroughs for a crazy up-close and personal experience with the north face of Rainier.
16. Camp Muir via the Skyline Trail
- Distance: 8.4 miles
- Elevation: 4606 feet
- Location: Paradise Inn
Camp Muir is a popular backcountry camping area and hiking destination on the south side of Mount Rainier. This is as close as you can get to the summit without a permit.
The trail is strenuous and only recommended for experienced hikers who are in good physical condition and extremely comfortable with their navigation skills. The trail is not marked beyond the creek crossing before the snowfields.
On a clear day, you will have unparalleled views of Mt Adams and Mt St Helens from the top.
17. Summerland to Panhandle Gap
- Distance: 12 miles
- Elevation: 3000 feet
- Location: Sunrise
Old growth forests, spectacular mountain views, marmots, bears and goats are all fine and good here, but it’s the wildflower fields that makes it most worthwhile. If you can time it right, you will not regret your time and effort.
The wildflower meadows are at mile 4.5 and is often a turn-around point for many. The gap is an extra push, no doubt, but the rewards are unending.
Mount Rainier National Park offers hikes for every level of hiker, from easy nature walks to strenuous mountain climbs. The park has over 275 miles of maintained trails that range in difficulty and length, offering something for everyone.
It’s important to choose a hike that matches your fitness level and experience, and to always be prepared with appropriate clothing, food, and water. And to simply enjoy being in nature!
How to Get to Mount Rainier National Park
If you are driving from Seattle to Mt Rainier, the park is located approximately 2 hours south of Seattle and 3 hours north of Portland. There are multiple entrances to the park, depending on where you want to hike.
So it’s important to know which region your trailhead is located in before heading out. There are 5 regions of Mount Rainier National Park, as follows:
- Paradise Mt Rainier is located on the south side of Mount Rainier and is known for its stunning wildflower meadows, glaciers, and hiking trails. It is the most popular area of the park.
- Longmire is on the west side of the park and is known for its historic buildings, including the Longmire Museum and the National Park Inn.
- Sunrise is located on the northeast side of Mount Rainier and is the highest point in the park that is accessible by car.
- Ohanapecosh is on the southeast side of the park and is known for its hot springs, old-growth forests, and waterfalls.
- The Carbon River area is located on the northwest side of the park and is known for its lush rainforest, rivers, and waterfalls.
When is the Best Time to Hike Mt Rainier?
The best time to hike Mount Rainier National Park depends on your preferences and goals for your hike. The park’s hiking season typically runs from mid-June to mid-October, when most trails are snow-free and accessible.
The park can be quite crowded during peak season in July and August, which is typically when the wildflowers are blooming. Fall foliage can be stunning however, with the leaves turning golden yellow and red in late September to mid-October.
What to Bring for hiking Rainier?
Here are some essential items to bring when hiking at Mount Rainier National Park.
- Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially on longer hikes.
- Bring high-energy snacks to keep your energy levels up during the hike.
- Wear sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes or boots with good traction.
- Dress in layers to be prepared for changing weather conditions.
- Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from sun exposure.
- Bring a map and compass, or a GPS device, to help you navigate the trails.
- Bring a basic first-aid kit with items such as band-aids, gauze, and pain relievers.
- Bring insect repellent as some areas are simply swarming with bugs.
- Bring Bear spray, just in case, as there is plenty of wildlife in the park.
Tips for Mt Rainier Hiking
Here are some tips for hiking at Mount Rainier National Park, quite possibly the most popular attraction in Washington state.
Be prepared. Make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and extra layers. Check the weather forecast which can change quickly at higher elevations, and be prepared for any conditions.
Stay on the trail. Stick to established trails to minimize damage to the environment and avoid getting lost. Trails at higher elevations may be covered in snow or ice, so it’s important to have proper gear and footwear.
Follow Leave No Trace principles. To minimize your impact on the environment, follow the Leave No Trace principles discussed earlier. This includes packing out all trash, staying on durable surfaces, and respecting wildlife.
Be aware of wildlife. Mount Rainier National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears and mountain goats. It’s important to observe wildlife from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them.
Check trail conditions. Trail conditions can change quickly, especially at higher elevations. Before heading out on a hike, check the park’s website or stop by a visitor center to get the latest trail conditions and updates.
Know your limits. Hiking at higher elevations can be strenuous, and it’s important to know your limits. Start with shorter hikes and gradually work up to more challenging trails. Listen to your body and take breaks as needed.
Respect other hikers. Be courteous to other hikers on the trail. Yield to uphill hikers, keep noise levels down, and respect others’ privacy and experience.
By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable hiking experience at Mount Rainier National Park.
Where to Stay at Mt Rainier
There are several options for lodging near Mount Rainier National Park. Here are some of the most popular:
The park has several lodging options within and nearby, including the historic Paradise Inn Mt Rainier and National Park Inn. These lodges offer a range of room types and amenities, including dining options and guided tours. Reserve well in advance.
There are several towns located near the park that offer lodging options, including Ashford, Packwood, and Eatonville. These towns have a variety of accommodations, including hotels, motels, cabins, and vacation rentals.
Mount Rainier National Park has several campgrounds that are open seasonally. These campgrounds offer a range of amenities, including RV sites, tent sites, and group sites. These also need to be reserved well in advance.
For a more rugged experience, you can also camp in the backcountry of Mount Rainier National Park. Permits are required for backcountry camping and can be obtained at the park’s visitor centers.
Where to Eat at Mt Rainier
There are several dining options within Mount Rainier National Park, as well as in nearby towns.
National Park Inn Dining Room – Located inside the National Park Inn at Longmire, this restaurant offers a range of menu options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations are recommended.
Paradise Inn Dining Room – Located inside the historic Paradise Inn, this restaurant offers a fine dining experience with views of Mount Rainier. Reservations are recommended.
Copper Creek Inn – Located in the nearby town of Ashford, this restaurant offers a range of comfort food and Pacific Northwest cuisine.
For hikes near Carbonado, such as Mowich Lake or Tolmie Peak, do NOT miss the opportunity for all things good and wonderful at Simple Goodness Soda Shop. Great meals, even better desserts and even local live music. Not sponsored, just thankful.
Fees and Passes
The fees for parking at Mount Rainier National Park vary depending on the type of vehicle and the length of stay. Be sure to check the park’s website for changes in reservation requirements. Here are the current fees as of Spring 2023:
- Private Vehicle: $30 for a 7-day pass
- Motorcycle: $25 for a 7-day pass
- Per Person: $15 for a 7-day pass for visitors arriving on foot, bicycle, or non-commercial groups.
These fees are for entrance to the park and include parking. It’s important to note that some areas of the park may have limited parking, especially during peak season, so it’s recommended to arrive very early to secure a spot.
Additionally, there are $55 annual passes available for frequent visitors and a range of other passes for specific groups, such as seniors, military personnel, and fourth-grade students.
FAQs about Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park
Here are some commonly asked questions about hiking in the park.
There are many hikes for beginners at Mt Rainier, including Tipsoo Lake, Nisqually Vista Point and Myrtle Falls. A beginner cannot however, hike to the summit of Mt Rainier itself.
The hardest hike at Mt Rainier, other than the summit itself, is said to be Liberty Ridge.
While there are certainly some easy hikes at Mt Rainier National Park, Mt Rainier itself is definitely not an easy hike.
One day is enough if that is all you have. There are many sites worth visiting however, and you will have to pick and choose which ones you wish to see the most with your limited time.
Final Thoughts on Hiking at Mount Rainier
Mt Rainier is one of the most stunningly beautiful National Parks you can visit, though I agree there are many. MRNP covers over 236,000 acres and includes forests, subalpine meadows, glaciers, and rivers. It is home to black bears, moose, mountain goats, elk, and over 50 species of mammals.
Rainier offers unforgettable views and heavenly hikes for every fitness level and is an experience you should not pass up if given the opportunity. Take a day, or two, or as many as you can, to make Mt Rainier a priority.