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Mount Rainier National Park – A Complete Guide

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is without a doubt one of the most beautiful sites on the planet! From flowery meadows to old-growth forest, gorgeous waterfalls and rivers, and an incredible mountain vista, there’s something for everyone. Mount Rainier is indeed a nature lover’s paradise.
Mount Rainier attracts 2.5 million tourists each year, with one million coming just for the wildflowers in August. Mt. Rainier National Park is one of the top things to do in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s no surprise that so many people spend one day there.

It was founded in 1899, making it the fifth national park in the United States. The 14,410-foot-tall active volcano for which it is named is, of course, its most prominent feature. With 25 recognised glaciers, it is the tallest volcano in the Cascade Range and the most glaciated peak in the continental United States. Thousands of people attempt to reach its glaciers each year to marvel at the contrast between the fiery volcano – which last erupted in 1854 – and the freezing rivers that run around its slopes.

How to get there?

Depending on which entrance you use, Mount Rainier National Park is about 2-3 hours southeast of downtown Seattle. Many visitors come from neighboring Oregon, as Paradise is only about a three-hour trip from Portland.
Because public transportation to the park is restricted, I recommend driving or hiring a car instead. Taking picturesque drives through the park’s floral meadows, towering trees, and mountain panoramas is one of the nicest parts of visiting Mount Rainier. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the closest airport to the park.

Best Time to Visit

Summer and October are, in my opinion, the ideal times to visit! The months of July through October, in particular, usually provide the finest weather, snow-free routes, and the best possibility of seeing wildflowers (depending on the season). Keep in mind that Mount Rainier can have a wide range of weather conditions, so it’s always a good idea to research and plan ahead.

I recommend visiting throughout the week and outside of popular holidays like the Fourth of July to avoid crowds. On weekends, parking can be extremely congested, and lineups often form at the entrance gates. Visiting the park before 10 a.m. or after 2:30 p.m. can also help you avoid lines at peak times. For tips on avoiding summer traffic, see this article from the National Park Service (NPS).

If seeing wildflowers is your major goal, you’ll need to be adaptable to the weather, conditions, and season. Each year is unique, and the “peak” bloom will be determined by a variety of circumstances. In general, the wildflowers begin blooming in mid-July and peak in the first week of August, but this might vary from season to season. Every year, the National Park Service publishes updates on their ‘Discover Wildflowers‘ web page.

Park Entrance Fee

The cost of admission to the park varies depending on when you visit (see a breakdown of the fees here). If you visit national parks and recreation areas on a regular basis, I recommend getting an annual pass, sometimes known as the “America the Beautiful” pass. These tickets are only $80 USD and include entrance costs to all national parks and wildlife refuges, as well as day-use fees for national forests, BLM lands, and other locations.

Mount Rainier National Park Hiking Trails

Comet Falls
Grove of the Patriarchs
Fremont Lookout
Naches Peak Loop
Skyline Loop Trail
Skyline Loop Trail
Sourdough Ridge Trail

Where to stay?

Mount Rainier National Park has a variety of hotel alternatives both inside and outside the park. You can stay in the National Park Inn (Longmire) or the Paradise Inn (Paradise) inside the park, or at one of the three major campgrounds (Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, and White River). Throughout the park, there are various overnight backcountry camping areas, albeit these require a wilderness permit.

Cougar Rock, located between Longmire and Paradise in the park’s southwest portion, is the best campground. There are 173 campsites, many of which are available on a first-come, first-served basis, though it is encouraged that you make a reservation in advance at Recreation.gov. Keep in mind that none of the park’s campgrounds have electrical, water, or grey water hookups.

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