Mount Rainier National Park is centered around an active volcano and is a whopping 14,410 feet above sea level. Though it is often hidden behind clouds, it is nevertheless an amazing place. There are some gorgeous trails, waterfalls, glaciers, rivers, wildlife and more to discover in this park. It is one of the most incredible places in the entire Pacific Northwest, not to mention the world. Come check out our top tips for visiting Mount Rainier National Park as well as the best things to do!
Follow in our steps:
Thanks to one of my dearest friends from college who let us stay in her West Seattle home for a few nights, we left for Mount Rainier with fresh laundry, full bellies and lots of new memories. From the Seattle area it’s only about an hour and a half to the White River entrance to the park. We drove our van, restocked our supplies in Enumclaw and were inside the park in less than a half a day.
Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise
Open year-round with limited hours in the winter (October to May).
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center
This visitor center is typically open late June through mid September.
Sunrise Visitor Center
Sunrise is usually open July through mid September.
For up to date information about openings, closures, road work or delays, call 1-360-569-2211
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm
Best Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park
The museum is usually open every day. There are exhibits as well as a small bookstore. Come learn about the park!
Hike a section of the Wonderland Trail!
This trail makes a 93 mile loop around Mount Rainier. Even if you don’t have the time to do the entire thing, make a point to get out on it for even just a short hike. There are some really easy access points in the southern part of the park. Box Canyon and Narada Falls are easy way places to pick up the trail. One of our favorite sections goes by Reflection Lakes and Louise Lake!
There are numerous waterfalls in this park, some of which you can see with very little effort. Christine Falls is one of those. There’s a parking lot near the road and a very short trail which will allow you to see one of the most beautiful sights in the whole park!
Grove of the Patriarchs
Take a walk under and around giant, ancient trees, some of which are about 1,000 years old! It’s a great place for a picnic and a wonderful place to take a walk. There’s a suspension bridge that is fun to cross and interpretive signs to help you understand more of what you’re looking at. It’s also fairly flat!
See Louise Lake
The cover photo of this story is of Louise Lake. You can see it from the road in your vehicle but if you really want to experience it, get out of the car and hike to the bottom! It’s a strenuous hike but totally worth it.
Take the time to drive the one way road to Paradise. It’s as cool and as beautiful as the name suggests. There is food, lodging, bathrooms, hiking trails, a visitor center and more up there. Plus, the view is just incredible.
Where to Stay in Mount Rainier
We camped at three different campsites in the park:
White River Campground – Northeast Section
There are several different loops within this campground. We chose loop D because it was close to the trailhead (Glacier Basin) that we wanted to access the next morning. The site was flat and offered a picnic table, bear locker and easy access to potable water and a flushing toilet and sink. There is no hot water or showers there. The campground is at 4,400 feet and several of the sites (there are 112 campsites total) look down upon the river. There’s hardly a bad spot in the whole campground.
Open late June to late September
Ohanapecosh Campground – Southeast Section
This campground was a few degrees warmer than the White River Campground because it sits at 1,914 feet of elevation. It was also $20 and offered a picnic table, bear locker, water and flush toilets. Again, no showers or hot water are at this one but you’re in a great location for exploring the southeast part of the park. This campground opens a little earlier in the year and it has 188 sites.
Open late May to late September
Cougar Rock Campground – Southwest Section
There are 173 campgrounds at this site. You can expect the same amenities at this one as mentioned above. In addition, however, there is a dump station. We loved this campground because of it’s proximity to the Wonderland Trail as well as Christine Falls.
Open late May to late September
Note: There are no water, gray water or electrical hookups at any of the campgrounds in Mount Rainier National Park.
Mowich Lake – Northwest Section
Though we didn’t stay at this campground, we want to. Out of all four campgrounds it sits at the highest elevation in the park: 4,929 feet. It’s tent-only and primitive. There is no potable water but there is a vault toilet.
If you don’t want to camp, no worries, book a room at the Paradise Inn or the National Park Inn!
Top Tips for Visiting Mount Rainier National Park
Be sure to fuel up before entering the park. And by that, we mean gasoline as well as food (and beer and camp fuel, etc.). Though there is a general store at the south end of the park near the National Park Inn, you’ll be hard pressed to find any supplies in other ares of the park.
There are webcams! If you want to check in on your favorite spots, give them a look! https://www.nps.gov/mora/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm
There are very few places within the park where you can get a signal. We were able to access LTE at the White River Entrance (northeast) but that was about it. Once you’re in the park, you’ll have to wait before you exit it to get re-connected with the world.
Mount Rainier National Park Recap
This is one of the best national parks in the United States. It’s got virtually everything you could want in an outdoor playground. For those of you living the van life, this is one park you won’t want to miss. What do you think about our suggestions on the best things to do in Mount Rainier National Park?
Have you visited this park? If so, we’d love to know what you thought. Please leave your comments below!