Top Things to Do and See at Mt. Rainier

If you're like most people, you will probably be eager to get out of the car and start exploring the park by the time you drive through the entrance gates. To make the most of your visit, read our detailed overview of Mt. Rainier tourist attractions, and then start planning your trip.

What you Need to Know

There are five areas which serve as bases for exploration:

    1. Longmire (southwest corner)
    1. Paradise (south side)
    1. Ohanapecosh (southeast corner)
    1. Sunrise/White River (north side)
    1. Carbon River/Mowich Lake (northwest corner)

You'll want to be prepared for your visit with these tips for parking and enjoying the park

  • Parking can be difficult or impossible to find on sunny summer weekends at Paradise, Sunrise, Grove of the Patriarchs, and at trailheads between Longmire and Paradise. Try to visit these areas on weekdays, arrive early in the day, and carpool to the park.
  • Park roads are winding, road shoulders are narrow, and the maximum speed limit is 35 mph in most areas. Watch for pedestrians, sightseers, and wildlife. Use pull-outs to allow faster drivers to pass you safely.
  • Keep wildlife wild. Feeding park animals and birds is unhealthy for them and dangerous to you.

The Southwest Entrance

Nisqually Gate entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park
Nisqually Gate entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park

You'll enter via the Nisqually gate. The arch of giant cedar logs, first erected in 1911, and the 1908 Oscar Brown cabin, south of the road, are examples of the rustic style of park architecture that became popular at Mount Rainier and other national parks. The Nisqually Entrance serves as the primary park entrance in winter. Our cabin called Three Bears Lodge is 300 yards from the park entrance. Sunshine Point Campground and Picnic Area are located near the park entrance.

The Westside Road, 1 mile from the park entrance, is open during the summer only. Several hikes begin at the road closure at Dry Creek, 3 miles up the road. At the closure, view dramatic results of flooding and rockfall.

The Longmire Historic District, 6.5 miles from the park entrance, was the site of James Longmire's homestead, lodging, and mineral springs resort. The first park headquarters was established here in 1916. Services at Longmire include:

  • Longmire Museumopen daily year-round. Exhibits, information, books sales, and climbing and wilderness permits issued in the winter.
  • Wilderness Information Center: open daily late May to early October, closed in winter. Wilderness permits and hiking/backcountry camping information.
  • National Park Innopen daily year-round. Food, lodging, and gift shop.
  • Rampart Ridge Hike: a rewarding afternoon hike with great views of Mt. Rainier.
  • The road between Longmire and Paradise: is winding and steep, and was designed for scenery rather than speed. En route, consider stopping at:
  • Cougar Rock picnic area: 2 miles past Longmire. Open late May to early October.
  • Christine Falls: 4 miles past Longmire. A short walk from the pullout provides a classic view of the falls below the rustic stone bridge. Parking is limited. For your safety do not stop your car or walk on the bridge!
  • The Glacier Bridge: 5 miles past Longmire. Definitely worth a stop for the view, but do not stop your car on the bridge! Park in a paved pullout at either end of the bridge and use the walkway. The lower end of the Nisqually Glacier is just around the rocky cliff on the left side as you look up the valley.
  • Ricksecker Point Road: 6 miles past Longmire. Open in the summer only.Take this one-way road for fantastic views of Mt Rainier, Nisqually Valley and the Tatoosh Range.
  • Narada Falls: 8 miles past Longmire. Walk the steep but short trail for the best view of this spectacular waterfall. Parking is limited.
  • Paradise: 11 miles past Longmire. This is the most popular destination in the park and  famous for its wildflower meadows in summer and world record snowfall in winter. Services at Paradise include:
  • Jackson Memorial Visitor Centeropen daily May to early October, weekends and holidays only the rest of the year. Exhibits, films, guided interpretive programs, book store, food service, gift shop, and restrooms.
  • Paradise Inn: open daily late May to early October, closed in winter. Lodging, dining room, gift shop, and restrooms.
  • Guide House: the Guide House is the home of the Paradise Wilderness Information Center.
  • Paradise Ranger Station: open in summer, closed in winter. Climbing and wilderness permits and climbing information.

If you plan to hike, remember that Paradise is located at 5,400' elevation and most trails are hilly. Stay on the trails: the meadows are very fragile and heavily visited. These trails are usually snow-covered from late October through June.

A number of additional hikes and scenic points are located on the road between Paradise and Ohanapecosh. Ask for information at a ranger station or visitor center.

The Southeast Entrance

Ohanapecosh Visitor Center
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center (photo credit)

The east side of the park is somewhat drier and sunnier than the west side, making it a good destination when Paradise and Longmire are wet and foggy. Hwy. 123/410 is often closed in the winter so check the road status before heading out. Services include:

  • Ohanapecosh Visitor Center: open June to early October. Exhibits, guided interpretive programs, book sales, maps, restrooms.
  • Ohanapecosh picnic area: open late May to early October.

Take Stevens Canyon Road from Highway 123, going through the Stevens Canyon Entrance. Just past the entrance is the Grove of the Patriarchs. Hike the 1.1 mile nature trail along the Ohanapecosh River through old growth forest.

Between Ohanapecosh and White River, a short detour from Cayuse Pass east on Highway 410 (closed in winter) will take you to Tipsoo Lake, which is surrounded by subalpine wildflower meadows. A short and pleasant trail circles the lake.

The section of road between Chinook Pass and the north park boundary is part of the Mather Memorial Parkway, named for Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service.

The White River/Sunrise area is easy to visit in summer if you enter from the east side, but requires quite a bit of driving from the southwest entrance.

The road to Sunrise passes the White River Entrance Station about 1 mile from the junction with Highway 410. The White River Wilderness Information Center here is open daily in summer for climbing and wilderness permits and hiking information. In winter, self-register at Hwy. 410 and Crystal Mountain Blvd.

Five miles from the junction with Highway 410, you'll pass the one-mile spur which leads to the White River campground and trailhead. Services at White River include:

  • White River Ranger Station
  • White River Campground

Eleven miles from White River, the road reaches Sunrise, also called Yakima Park. At 6,400' elevation, this is the highest point to which you can drive in the park. Summer is short here, but the views and excellent trail system make this the second most visited location in the park. Parking can be a problem on sunny weekends; try to arrive early or visit on weekdays.

NOTE: The Sunrise Road usually opens in late June or early July and closes in late September to early October. Call park for road open/closing dates.

Services at Sunrise include:

  • Sunrise Visitor Center: open daily early July to early October, closed in winter. Exhibits, guided interpretive programs, book sales, maps, picnic area.
  • Sunrise Day Lodge: open early July to late September. Food service, gifts (no overnight lodging).
  • Public restrooms and telephones.

The Northwest Entrance

Mowich Lake
Mowich Lake (photo credit)

You can visit the Carbon River and Mowich Lake areas from the northwest side of the park, which is a little over an hour NE from Ashford. Before entering the park, stop at the Wilderness Information Center in downtown Wilkeson. Here you can pay your entrance fee, obtain hiking and climbing permits, enjoy interpretive exhibits, and purchase maps and hiking books. Check current road conditions before traveling to either Carbon River or Mowich Lake.

A short trail near the Carbon River entrance station takes you into a fine example of a temperate rain forest. The graveled Carbon River road, recommended for high clearance vehicles only, ends approximately five miles east of the entrance station at Ipsut Creek campground. The road is prone to flooding and may be closed at any time -- use caution. From Ipsut Creek a trail leads 3.6 miles (one way) to the Carbon Glacier, one of the largest and lowest glaciers in the lower 48 states.

A 22-mile drive on SR 165 from Wilkeson will take you to Mowich Lake, the largest and deepest lake in Mount Rainier National Park. The road is unpaved after the first three miles and may be rough. It is generally open mid-July to mid-October.

If you've exhausted this list, stop at any visitor center or ranger station for more ideas.

Mount Rainier National Park is a favorite destination for about two million people each year. We invite you to reconnect with nature and history by hiking, camping, picnicking, taking photographs, and joining guided interpretive programs.

Climate & Recommended Clothing

July and August are generally sunny and mild, with the chance of showers. The rest of the year is usually quite rainy, with heavy snowfall from November through April. Raingear is recommended year round. Trails are steep and well maintained in summer and snow covered and difficult to follow in winter. For current and typical weather conditions, go to the Mt. Rainier weather page.