Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favourite national parks in the Pacific Northwest. The dramatic Mount Rainier stands poignantly against the skies of Washington, an active volcano and home to the most glaciers on a single mountain in the USA, feeding 5 major rivers. Mount Rainier is gorgeous, and as the famous explorer and naturalist John Muir put it:
Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.
How to Get to Mount Rainier National Park
Tucked into the heart of Washington State, Mount Rainier is a 4.5-hour drive from Vancouver, and just 1.5 hours southeast of Seattle.
I recommend entering at the southwestern entrance of Nisqually then driving along the southern road past the many highlights of the park. At the other end of the road, turn left at the Stevens Canyon Entrance to visit Tipsoo Lake and make your way to the other side of Mount Rainier and visit Sunrise.
Where to Camp in Mount Rainier National Park
Just inside the Nisqually Entrance along the main road past the Wilderness Information Center and Longmire Museum is Cougar Rock Campground. We were then in a downpour, so slept in our car, but there are large campsites surrounded by trees, with easy access to bear food-storage bins, bathrooms (not outhouses!) and garbage/recycling.
Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park
This list will begin at the westernmost entrance of Mount Rainier at Nisqually, and work its way across the southern side of the volcano towards the easternmost entrance at Stevens Canyon, before making its way north to Tipsoo Lake.
Longmire Museum and Wilderness Information Center
Pop in here to get your groundings about the park and find out some fascinating information about the history of Mount Rainier. You can collect interesting brochures here and ask the rangers any questions you may have.
Jutting off the side of the road and then under a picturesque bridge is the beautiful Christine Falls. Make your way down the wooden steps to take in the fairy-book view.
A downhill 1-mile hike brings you to the lookout point of Narada Falls, which from the top looks like not much. When you get there however, you'll be greeted by a thunderous gush of water cascading over a wall - breathtaking to say the least!
On a clear day (we were lucky - the weather cleared up just after 10am for bluebird skies!), Reflection Lakes gives just what the name implies: a stunning reflection of the iconic Mount Rainier in its hazy waters.
Stevens Ridge and Box Canyon
Arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the park scenic byway, the views from the roadside of Stevens Ridge are jaw-dropping. Spot Mount Rainier around the bend!
Grove of the Patriarchs Trail
This is one of most popular trails in the park, for good reason! It's a short and sweet hike that winds along the lush forest to a sparkling river and suspension bridge. Along the way, signposts inform visitors of the local nature and wildlife.
Of course the most fantastic view in the park and the reason why over a million visitors come annually is Mount Rainier. You can spot the grand volcano from the roads around the mountain, such as the eastern Mather Memorial Parkway between Stevens Canyon and Sunrise.
Tipsoo Lake is a sweet little lake next to Upper Tipsoo Lake. Both have trails that loop around them, providing wonderful, reflective views of Mount Baker. This place is supposed to be magical at sunset!
As you head back south towards the Ohanapecosh Visitor Centre and the exit of the park, stop at Silver Falls. It's not signposted, so make sure to pull over in the pullout where there is a small sign with a hiking symbol on it just before crossing the bridge over Laughingwater Creek. Then, hike a mile down the switchback path to reach the cool spray of Silver Falls.