15 Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park You Need to Do

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One of the best things about Washington is how many hiking trails there are all over the state. While I love hiking in the Cascade Mountains, some of my favorite hikes are in the national parks we have in the state. Some of the most scenic ones are at Mount Rainier, which is why I recommend everyone does at least one of these best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park when looking for a good hike.

While the national parks take a bit of time to get to if you’re coming to Seattle, they’re more than worth visiting for a day or two. I make a point to get out to do hiking in Olympic National Park and North Cascades hikes each year, but I love getting out to Mount Rainier. I aim to do at least a few new Mt. Rainier hikes each year to slowly discover more of the mountain each time.

Whether you’re looking for an easy Washington hike or a more strenuous one, you’ll find something for everyone on this mountain. With that, here are some of the best hikes in Mt. Rainier that you’ll want to check out!

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15 Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park

Here are some of the top Mount Rainier hikes I recommend.

Mt. Rainier Paradise Trails

The Paradise section of Mount Rainier park truly lives up to its name. It’s the most visited area of the park and is accessible year-round. The quickest way to get here is via the Nisqually entrance in the southwest. 

In summer, you can explore one of the best Mt. Rainier hikes, visit scenic lookouts, and stop by the many waterfalls along the way. Paradise receives the most snowfall in the park during winter, making it an excellent place for snowshoeing, skiing, and sledding. 

1. Skyline Loop Trail

skyline trail

Mileage: 5.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate 

The Skyline Trail is undoubtedly one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier and my absolute favorite summer hike. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted. With 1,700 feet of elevation gain and 5.5 miles of hiking, this is a moderate to strenuous hike that will reward you with some of the most incredible vistas in the park. 

The trail starts just north of the upper parking lot and will have you winding your way past Myrtle and Sluiskin Falls until you ultimately reach the peak of Panorama Point. From here it’s mostly downhill, passing plenty of other iconic sites – including Glacier Vista. 

During the hike, you’ll get to experience the iconic beauty of the aptly named ‘Paradise’ section of this Washington National Park. If you’re here in summer between July and August, the views will spoil you with blooming wildflowers exploding across the valleys and meadows you pass through. 

This is a loop hike, so you can go either way on the trail. However, my personal recommendation is to begin the hike at sunset and go counterclockwise. While this does mean the first part of your hike is pretty steep, you’ll be greeted with a beautiful view of the sun coming up over the mountain.

Note: There is often snow in this part of the park, even in some areas during summer, so make sure to stay on the trail. 

2. Nisqually Vista

nisqually vista hike

Mileage: 1.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Not all of the best hikes in Mt. Rainier’s Paradise section are strenuous. The Nisqually Vista trail is one of the more accessible routes but still gives you incredible views – a great choice for light hikers or families. 

The trail starts just northwest of the lower parking lot and is paved all the way to the end. Whether you’re pushing a stroller or just don’t like hiking on trails, it’s a great choice.

However, you should note that while this is paved, there are stairs at the beginning, so it’s not wheelchair accessible. There are a few steep sections, so your legs will get a decent bit of exercise. 

The main attractions of this hike are the wildflowers (in season) and the hike’s namesake – the Nisqually Glacier. The trail loops back towards the parking, giving you new views every step of the way.

3. Narada Falls

narada falls

Mileage: 0.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 176 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

A popular stop on the route from the Longmire to Paradise sections of Mount Rainier, Narada Falls is the most accessible waterfall hike to reach. It’s also the biggest waterfall you can access by car.

The descent is relatively easy for the whole family, but make sure to tread carefully as it can be slippery when there is a lot of water flowing. That said, it’s still one of the best Mount Rainier hikes when you want beautiful scenery.

The start of the hike is only one mile away from Paradise, approximately 17 miles from the Nisqually entrance. The main section of the waterfall stands at 168 feet and is a great place to relax and admire nature without requiring too much effort.

I love using AllTrails to download maps and stay on the trail during all my hikes.

4. Camp Muir

Camp Muir Trail Sign

Mileage: 9 miles

Elevation Gain: 4,680 feet

Difficulty Level: Extreme

The hike to Camp Muir is possibly the most challenging one in Mount Rainier National Park. Experienced hikers, be prepared: this is a trail that will test you both physically and mentally. Camp Muir is the point that those summitting the mountain stay at before their challenging ascent.

This is the most technical Mount Rainier hike on this list, so you’ll need to read current trip reports to see what equipment you need to bring. At a minimum, you’ll need poles and most likely crampons, but you may need more based on how much snow there is.

After a long hike, you will be rewarded with views of Mount Rainier unlike any other. This is also the highest point you can reach in the park (10,100 feet) without requiring an additional climbing permit. 

You’ll park at the upper parking lot in the Paradise section and begin the hike via the Skyline Loop trail. Towards the highest part of the Skyline Trail, you will turn left towards Pebble Creek. 

From here, you will enter Muir Snowfield, where things start getting interesting. The marked trail ends here, and you’ll be marching through the snow on the unmarked route until you reach Camp Muir.

This final stretch is 2.2 miles but involves almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain – talk about a climb. Once at the top, take some time to rest and snap some pictures of this unforgettable setting. 

Note: The weather conditions in the last section of the hike can change very quickly, so be prepared for anything. If you don’t feel safe, you should always follow your gut feeling and turn back around. Hikes can always be done again.

Looking for a similarly challenging hike? Check out how to do the Mt. St. Helens summit hike.

5. Bench and Snow Lakes

bench and snow lakes mt rainier hikes

Mileage: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate

While there are many hikes in the North Cascades I love during the summer, this is one of my favorites in this region. This Mount Rainier hiking trail is a great intermediate route that allows you to experience some beautiful subalpine lakes. While you can choose to turn around at Bench Lake, you’ll reach Snow Lake if you keep walking another 0.5 miles.

The hike starts at approximately 1.5 miles east of Reflection Lake (another popular stop). While you won’t experience serious elevation gain during the trip, there are some moderate ups and downs to keep your heart pumping.

Bench Lake is a great place to take a break and admire the unbelievable views of Mount Rainier looming overhead. While hiking, admire the rock face surrounding the route and the wildflowers blooming in summer. Many people choose to take a dip in the lake here, but this had the worst bugs by far of all my hikes, so bring bug spray with you.

Best Mount Rainier Hikes in Sunrise

Sunrise is the second most popular section of Mount Rainier with hikes like Mount Fremont and the Burroughs trail being the most notable. It’s also the highest point that can be reached via car, making it a great starting point if you want to reach high altitudes without too much climbing. 

The closest entrance is White River/Sunrise in the northeast. This section of the park, along with the nearest entrance, is only accessible from July until late September. 

Make sure you have your America the Beautiful Pass! For only one price, you can visit all the national parks over and over throughout the year. I renew mine every year.

6. Mount Fremont Lookout Trail

Mount Fremont Fire Lookout

Mileage: 5.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 900 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate

The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail is one for the books and one of the most popular hikes in Washington, providing you with unparalleled views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding areas. While it is quite a long hike, the elevation gain makes it slightly easier than some other long Mt Rainier hikes. 

You’ll start the hike at the Sunrise Visitors Center at an elevation of 6,300 feet. From here, you will follow the Sourdough Ridge trail (another popular hike) until you reach Frozen Lake. 

Here you’ll turn towards the viewpoint and end at one of the park’s last fire lookouts (7,200 feet above sea level). That’s right; there is a structure here solely designed to view wildfires that occasionally rip through sections of the park. 

When you’re ready to return, you will need to turn around and retrace your footsteps back to your car. While round trips are more my style, the views here are incredible that you won’t complain. If you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to spot a mountain goat or two. 

7. Burroughs Mountain Trail

Burroughs Hike

Mileage: 4.7 miles (1st Burrough) or 7 miles (2nd Burrough)

Elevation Gain: 900 feet (1st Burrough) or 1,200 feet (2nd Burrough)

Difficulty Level: Strenuous

The Burroughs Mountain trail will take you through the beautiful Sunrise section of Mount Rainier National Park. Most of the hike is via a loop trail, with the only exception being the final ascent of the Burrough Mountains.

This is one of the best Mount Rainier hikes because there are two options for hikers on this route: ascending only the 1st Burrough or continuing past it to the 2nd Burrough. If you’ve got the energy, it’s a rewarding hike with amazing views of the Emmons Glacier and the surrounding mountains. 

You’ll start at the Sunrise parking area. From here, you can head on the Sunrise Rim trail towards Shadow Lake (clockwise) or via the Sourdough Ridge trail towards Frozen Lake (anti-clockwise). 

Whichever one you opt for, you can always choose the other for the return journey if you want to get in some more sightseeing. Upon your ascent to the Burroughs plateau, you will enter unique tundra terrain. The vegetation that grows here is hardy and slow-growing, so please be wary and stay on the trail at all times. 

8. Naches Peak Loop Trail

naches peak loop hike

Mileage: 3.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

One of the most popular hikes in Mount Rainier National Park is Naches Peak Loop, which actually leaves the park for a while. The closest place to park is at Tipsoo Lake. When here, you can head clockwise along the route via the Chinook Pass.

After a short hike, you will reach the boundary of the park and merge onto the Pacific Crest Trail. Here you will continue for 1.6 miles on the eastern slopes of Naches Peak until you re-enter the park and join the Naches Loop Trail.

Mount Rainier provides a breathtaking backdrop during your hike – but you will need to turn around to see it. Other attractions include views of Dewey Lake halfway through the hike and a splendid show of huckleberries and other wildflowers during summer, as well as beautiful Washington fall colors in the fall.

Looking for more fall hikes? You’ll love these best Washington larch hikes.

Ohanapecosh Mount Rainier Trails

Ohanapecosh is one of the most unique sections of Mount Rainier. It is found at an altitude of 1,900 feet where you will trade the alpine slopes for a forest setting. 

Closed during winter, Ohanapecosh is home to the famous Grove of the Patriarchs walk. Here, you can experience some of the tallest and oldest trees in the park without needing to hike too far either. The closest entrance is Steven’s Canyon in the southeast. 

9. Grove of the Patriarchs

Grove Of The Patriachs Bridge

Mileage: 1.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Arguably one of the most accessible hikes in Mount Rainier, the Grove of the Patriarchs is an extremely popular trail. It’s a relatively short hike of approximately 45 minutes, but it is extremely rewarding.

You can park at the Stevens Canyon Entrance Station and then wind your way through this ancient forest. It’s an absolute must for families visiting the Ohanapecosh section of Mount Rainier.

You’ll be left in awe as you enter the grove, with cedar and Douglas fir trees that stand up to 300 feet high. Being in the presence of trees that have been there for up to 1,000 years is something truly remarkable. 

Another landmark experience is the suspension bridge that will lead you across the Ohanapecosh River. The rest of the trail is a combination of boardwalks and dirt trails, but both are very easy to navigate. 

Note: The hike is closed at the time of writing this article. The suspension bridge was damaged during a flood, thus making the grove inaccessible. 

grove of the patriarchs closed

10. Eastside Trail

eastside trail rainier hikes

Mileage: Up to 26.2 miles

Elevation Gain: Up to 3,532 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous

Wildflowers, waterfalls, and massive forest ecosystems are all available on the massive Eastside Trail. One of the longest hikes in Mount Rainier, many people choose to break up the hike into smaller sections to make it more manageable. You can also choose to make this a short weekend trip from Seattle to do the full hike.

The further you head into the trail, the more remote the environment becomes. You have many options for starting points, including Chinook Pass, Tipsoo Lake, Owyhigh Lakes trail, Grove of the Patriarchs, and Ohanapecosh campsite. 

If you want to make the most out of the experience, you can break up your hike by camping at Deer Creek. Alternatively, take two cars and park them on either side of the hike to cut out the return journey. 

Tip: Depending on how far you want to hike, pack a pair of hiking poles to take some stress off your legs. 

11. Silver Falls Loop

Silver Falls hikes

Mileage: 0.6 miles – 2.7 miles (depending on route)

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Silver Falls is a popular stop for anyone visiting Ohanapecosh. You can visit this iconic landmark in three ways – by starting from the local campground, from Steven’s Canyon Road, or Route 123. The lengths are 2.7 miles, 1 mile, and 0.6 miles, respectively.

Walk through the old-growth forests as you witness the icy-cold Ohanapecosh River below you. There is an abundance of deer and birdlife in the area and fly fishing opportunities. 

This is an excellent hike for families, but it’s important to be careful when arriving at the falls. The rocks are often wet and can be very slippery, and there are ample warnings – supervise children closely!

Tip: Be sure to check out the hot springs at the end of the trail.

12. Shriner Peak

Mileage: 8.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,434 feet

Difficulty Level: Strenuous

Shriner Peak offers a great opportunity to test your physical prowess as you climb just over 3,400 feet. The trailhead is 3.5 miles north of the Steven’s Canyon road junction, but there is parking available on the side of the road.

The hike does start in a forest but quickly enters a burned-out section and remains shadeless until the peak. So, it’s best to come prepared with sunscreen, water, and a sun visor

The trail is characterized by incredible views and very little foot traffic. Don’t be surprised if you don’t bump into many people while enjoying this trail – great for those who like a bit of solitude.

Longmire Mt. Rainier Hiking Trails

Longmire can be considered the birthplace of Mount Rainier National Park. It was the first area inhabited by modern Americans in 1883. The park only came into existence 16 years later in 1899, with the first visitor’s center and entrance being built. 

Today, Longmire is admired for its old-growth forests, ancient springs, and year-round access. It’s the closest section of the park to the most well-known entrance at Nisqually. 

13. Trail of the Shadows

Nisqually Ridge

Mileage: 0.7 miles

Elevation Gain: N/A

Difficulty Level: Easy

While Trail of the Shadows can be classified as a hike, it is one of the easiest ones found in the park (similar to some found on an Olympic National Park itinerary). This walk barely has any elevation change, making it the perfect choice for families with small children or for a relaxing walk.

One of the best parts of the hike is the learning experience available. There are information boards and plant identification opportunities throughout. Step back in time as you pass by the old cabin marking the first buildings in Mount Rainier National Park.

You’ll walk through a natural landscape with both meadow and forest settings. Here you will also find the original hot springs that prompted development in this area. 

14. Rampart Ridge

Mileage: 4.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,339 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate

If the Trail of the Shadows wasn’t enough to get your blood pumping, you could always consider continuing into the Rampart Ridge trail. While it is a relatively short hike, there is some decent elevation to climb.

The surrounding views will, however, make the climb well worth it. You will pass through some of the legendary old-growth forests found in this section of the park as well as get some amazing views. 

This loop trail is best hiked clockwise if you want to enjoy views of Mount Rainier while hiking. Be sure to take note of the rugged ridge that was created by lava flows from the nearby volcano.

Note: This trail can be a bit slippery during wet weather. 

Carbon River & Mowich Hikes in Mt. Rainier

Mowich Lake

Tucked away in the northwest of the park, the Carbon River section is the smallest and least visited area of Mount Rainier – but don’t let that scare you away. The surreal temperate forest provides an incredible setting that is home to hiking trails, mountain biking, and the largest lake in the park.

It is the only section of Mount Rainier that does not receive snowfall, making it the perfect place to go for a walk during the winter months (read about how to visit during winter in Mount Rainier).

15. Tolmie Peak

tolmie peak lookout

Mileage: 6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,010 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate

When in the Carbon River section of the park, Tolmie Peak is one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park if you’re looking to stretch your legs. You’ll find the start of the hike at Mowich Lake on the left-hand side if you arrive via the SR 165 gravel road.

The hike starts in the forest with gradual elevation and even a downhill section. When you reach the fork to Ipsut Pass, you will continue on left up to Eunice Lake. The final stretch is quite a climb, but it is only 1 mile before you reach your destination.

Tolmie Peak Lookout provides excellent views of this section of the park and is the easiest peak to summit in the area. Here you will also find another historical Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout, one of four still standing in the park.

Mount Rainier Hiking Tips

Before going on a hike, you should always check the trail’s status to find crucial information. In the winter, you’ll want to make sure the route is still accessible or find out if you need snowshoes (most likely, you will need them for any trails around Rainier).

The summer might have other hikers leave reviews that someone recently spotted bears in the area, so you’re aware of this. My favorite places to check trails ahead of time are WTA and AllTrails (read my AllTrails app review for more info).

Best Time to Visit Mt. Rainier Hiking Trails

hiking mount rainier

We’ve all been there before. Choosing the perfect hike, only to arrive there unprepared for the conditions Mother Nature throws at us. To make sure you get the most out of your Mount Rainier hike, I’ve put together this list comparing the different seasons.

  • Summer is the most ideal time to experience the best hikes at Mt Rainier. Between July and September, all the sections of the park are accessible, allowing you to get the most out of your time here. The wildflowers are also in bloom, transforming the meadows into a sea of color. 
  • Winter (November to April) is where the park starts transforming into a winter enthusiast’s paradise. Whether you want to go snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, or just marvel at the surreal white landscape, there is plenty to do if you can brave the conditions. Seven hundred or more inches of snow can fall during this season, but don’t let that deter you – winter hikes can be beautiful as long as you’re prepared. Note – Chains are required to be carried in all vehicles regardless of weather from November 1st to May 1st.
  • Fall is a great time to avoid the crowds before the snow starts arriving. During September and October, the temperatures are dropping and rain is to be expected. Some roads and trails start closing during this time as they become inaccessible due to the conditions.
  • Spring brings about an increase in temperature and the slow reopening of the trails and sections closed during winter. While the temperatures are still moderate, it’s a beautiful transition period with an explosion of wildlife. 

Tip: Remember to check the Mount Rainier weather forecast before heading out – regardless of the season. It’s better to be over-prepared than caught off guard. You can also check the official Twitter account to see up-to-date road closures.

Before going on a hike, you should always check the trail’s status to find crucial information. In the winter, you’ll want to make sure the route is still accessible or find out if you need snowshoes (most likely, you will need them for any trails around Rainier).

The summer might have other hikers leave reviews that someone recently spotted bears in the area, so you’re aware of this. My favorite places to check trails ahead of time are WTA and AllTrails.

What to Pack for Mount Rainier Hiking

While you can stop at the Longmire General Store to stock up on a few last-minute items you may have forgotten, it’s best to prepare ahead of time. The store tends to open up later, so you may already be on the trail by then.

Here are a few items I always recommend carrying:

  • Store a mini first-aid kit in your hiking backpack for any emergencies.
  • Pack polarized sunglasses no matter what the weather is (especially if you go when there’s snow, as the glare from the sun off the snow is intense).
  • Apply sunscreen multiple times per day regardless of the weather (Rainier is very high up compared to most hikes you’re used to).
  • Always pack water in your CamelBak or carry a water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • The bugs are bad during the summer, so always bring bug spray with you. I use a bug spray repellent lotion on my skin, a bug spray on my clothes, and a mosquito head net when they’re horrible. I used to think this was overkill before I realized I was the only one not getting bit on my hikes.

If you’ll be at Mount Rainier in the winter, make sure to check out my winter hiking gear guide first.

Accommodation Near Hikes in Mt. Rainier

There are so many things to do at Mount Rainier National Park, so you’ll likely want to find a place to stay after going on some of the best hikes at Mount Rainier. Whether you want to rough it by camping or find a place to unwind after a long day on the trails, there are plenty of options to choose from. 

Staying Inside the Park

Cougar Rock Campground

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, what better way to experience it than by staying inside Mount Rainier National Park? The following options are available:

  • Backcountry camping is available for anyone holding a wilderness permit. You can camp all year round, even during the winter months. The only limitation is that there needs to be sufficient snow depth (typically starting in January). 
  • Car-accessible campgrounds are also available, namely Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, White River, and Mowich Lake. Most of these are only accessible starting from late spring and ending in early fall; however, it’s best to check the exact dates of the specific campsite where you want to stay. Some take reservations (which you need to make at the beginning of the year) and some are first-come, first-serve.
  • Park lodges are the most luxurious option inside the park. The National Park Inn and Paradise Inn are found in Longmire and Paradise, respectively, and you can book via Mount Rainier Guest Services

Places to Stay Outside Mount Rainier National Park

While it’s convenient to stay inside the park, exploring the surrounding area is also a great way to get the most out of your holiday. I have a whole article on the best cabin rentals near Mt. Rainier if you want to stay at one of those.

These are some of the best options near the Mount Rainier hiking trails.

  • Riverfront Cabin is a great spot for those looking for a private getaway. You’ll have the entire cabin to yourself with incredible views of the surrounding mountains and the Cowlitz River running alongside the property. (Rates start at $270 per night; book your room on VRBO or read reviews on TripAdvisor)
  • Maison de Montagne provides a rustic mountain getaway experience. Located in Packwood, you are close to the SE entrance of the park as well as White Pass – perfect for winter ski enthusiasts. (Rates start at $135 per night; book your room on VRBO or read reviews on TripAdvisor)

There you have it – 15 of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park! Which are you most excited to explore?

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