Visible from Puget Sound to the west, Mount Rainer looms above the Cascade Range at 14,410 feet above sea level. This peak of fire and ice — an active volcano that is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states — is the centerpiece of the country’s fifth-oldest national park.
Very few visitors will tackle a climb to the top of Mount Rainer. Most will be happy enough exploring old-growth forests, waterfalls and alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers that surround the peak.
Serious backpackers will want to add the Wonderland Trail to their bucket list. Mount Rainier has a ton of great day hikes, overnight backpacking routes, and for the truly ambitious, the peak of Rainier itself. The Wonderland Trail goes all the way around the mountain, usually tackled as a 5-7 day backpacking trip..
Attractions in Mount Rainier National park
Paradise Park – A wide open meadow with outstanding views of Rainier’s south face. There are multiple hiking trails that make their way towards Rainier’s glaciers and viewpoints of waterfalls. Expect this area to be quite crowded with limited parking.
Reflection Lakes – Just east of Paradise and right next to the main park road. The lakes are at their stillest and most reflective in the early morning.
Grove of the Patriarchs – If you like big trees, the Grove of the Patriarchs is worth seeing. There is a cool system of boardwalks in the heart of the grove that is fun for all ages and a nice place to relax. Visit in the morning or evening for smaller crowds.
Sunrise – Located on the north eastern side of the park, Sunrise offers the best network of day hiking options in the park. It’s also is the highest accessible elevation you can reach in a car and it’s great for admiring the largest glaciers on Rainier. Get here in the morning to enjoy the rising sun shining on the mountain.
Mowich Lake – Found in the remote western region of the park – this area is accessible via a dirt road from the town of Fairfax, WA. There are several hiking routes here, including Eunice Lake which is one my favorite destinations in the park (read more about the Eunice Lake hike below). This part of the park is closed during winter.