Visiting Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Majestic Mount Rainier

Majestic Mount Rainier

One of Washington State’s most popular destinations is Mount Rainier National Park. Located just fifty miles southeast of Seattle, this natural wonder of the Pacific Northwest makes for a great day-trip from the Seattle area.

Designated a National Park in 1899, Mount Rainier has much to offer for the outdoor enthusiast. Mount Rainier is the highest peak in Washington State and the 5th highest mountain in the lower 48 states. With its beautiful natural scenery and wildlife to its amazing mountain views and hiking trails, Mount Rainier National Park draws over two million visitors every year.

Mount Rainier from Tacoma

Mount Rainier from Tacoma

At 14,410 feet Mount Rainier is visible from almost anywhere in western Washington. If you've been to Washington State then no doubt Mount Rainier’s immense presence and proximity to Seattle has made you wonder, what would happen if it erupted? Mount Rainier is an active volcano and it is currently on the Decade Volcano List, a dubious distinction that identifies the sixteen volcanoes with the greatest possibility of causing significant loss of life in the event of an eruption.

Mount Rainier’s last minor eruption was over 150 years ago in the mid-1800S. Although there are no present indications of volcanic activity it has been approximately one thousand years since its last major eruption. On average, there are small eruptions of Mount Rainier every hundred years or so and many volcano experts feel that the mountain is overdue for a period of volcanic activity. What makes Mount Rainier so dangerous is the tremendous amount of glacial ice on the mountain that would presumably melt in the event of an eruption. Mount Rainier currently has 26 Glaciers, the most of any peak in the lower 48 states.

Taking a break!

Taking a break!

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

Paradise Jackson Visitor Center

The park currently has five areas that can accommodate visitors although a few of them are pretty basic. The new Paradise Jackson Visitor Center is the park's most visited location and is the site of the historic Paradise Inn. Visitors wishing to stay overnight in the park can stay at the historic lodge here that was built in 1916.

The visitor center has much to offer visitors including exhibits, ranger programs, a film on the park, and all the general information that you will need to make your visit enjoyable. The main attraction of the park, however, is the mountain itself and the extensive network of trails that take you through beautiful alpine fields and offer amazing views of the mountain.

The Paradise Visitor Center has a vast array of trails of varying degrees of difficulty ranging from an easy mile or so to a more challenging multi-mile trek. Visitors need to remember that Paradise is located at an elevation of 5,400 feet where the air is thinner so make sure your conditioning is good before heading out on any of the longer hikes.

The historic Paradise Inn

The historic Paradise Inn

Sunrise Visitor Center

The second most visited area of Mount Rainier is the Sunrise Visitor Center. Located in the northeast section of the park Sunrise is the highest point in the park accessible by car at an elevation of 6,400 feet. The visitor center here also offers exhibits, ranger guided programs and a picnic area so pack that picnic basket. As in other areas of the park there are numerous hiking trails of varying distances and difficulty but they all offer amazing scenery, great views of the mountain and the possibility of seeing wildlife.

Longmire Museum and Visitor Center

Longmire is the site of the parks original headquarters and is now a museum that details the history of the park's early days. Named for James Longmire, an early settler in the area, this historic section of the park contains four buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Located in the southwest corner of the park, Longmire is also the site of the Longmire Wilderness Information Center where visitors can get camping and hiking information as well as wilderness permits. This center is open from May to October and does close in the winter. During the winter months, visitors can get information and permits from the Longmire Museum which does remain open year-round.

Glacial runoff

Glacial runoff

Plenty of hiking trails

Plenty of hiking trails

What to Do

Just driving through the park and stopping at the various vistas and waterfalls makes for an enjoyable day. Along the way be sure to stop at any of the visitor centers to learn more about the park and the history of the area. The roads and trails in the park make for a great bike ride so don’t be afraid to take your bike along.

The most popular activity among visitors to Mount Rainier National Park is to hike the trails in the park and Mount Rainier has over fifty trails to explore. The most famous of these is the Wonderland Trail which is a 93-mile trail that circumnavigates completely around the mountain. This multi-day hike does require a permit and should only be attempted by seasoned backpackers. For those just visiting for a day or two, there are numerous short and easy trails that will afford you the opportunity to see the beautiful alpine fields and get amazing views of the mountain.

Christine Falls and Bridge, Mount Rainier, NP

Christine Falls and Bridge, Mount Rainier, NP

When to Go

The best time to visit Mount Rainier is during the months of July, August, and early September. While Washington State is famous for its rain their summers are generally dry with comfortable temperatures and little to no humidity.

You should try to schedule your visit on a day that is forecast to be clear so that you can enjoy the magnificent views of the mountain. We have made four visits to Mount Rainier over the last 15 years and each visit has revealed something new and interesting about the park. We have always gone during either July or August and the weather has always been terrific. If you’re looking to visit one of America’s most beautiful National Parks consider a trip to Mount Rainier.

Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake

Wildlife in the Park

While there are no guarantees that you will see wildlife while visiting Mount Rainier National Park it certainly is possible. The park is home to over 160 species of birds and 63 different species of mammals.

Some of the more commonly seen birds in the park include Eagles, Ptarmigan, Thrushes, Kinglets, Gray Jays, Stellar Jays, and Finches. Some of the large mammals who make their home in the park include Black Bears and Cougars. Although the chances of seeing the elusive cougar are extremely rare they are here. Cougars tend to avoid people and live solitary lives. Black Bear sightings are much more common and they are much less shy about interacting with people. Always on the lookout for an easy meal, their great sense of smell will draw them to open or discarded food so please leave food in your car or in a sealed container and never leave trash in the park as this tends to draw bears.

Other wildlife more commonly seen in the park include Coyote, Red Fox, Marmot, Columbian black-tailed deer, and Mule deer. Sighting any wildlife while in the park certainly is a highlight and makes for an unforgettable experience.

Black Bear

Black Bear

Be on the lookout for wildlife!  Black Tailed deer.

Be on the lookout for wildlife! Black Tailed deer.


The fee to enter Mount Rainier National Park is $30 for a private vehicle or $15 per visitor if coming on foot, bicycle or motorcycle. Your entry fee allows you to enter the park for a seven day period so this is a pretty good deal. A Mount Rainier annual pass is also available for a fee of $55. Entrance fees and passes can be purchased at any of the entrance stations to Mount Rainier.

Enjoy your visit to Mount Rainier National Park, one of this country's most beautiful landscapes and a true gem of the United States National Park system.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 14, 2013:

Hi Peggy. Thanks so much. I will add a link to your hub here. I have noticed on occasion that the share button does not appear when I want to share another hub also? Not sure why? Anyway, thanks so much. We love Washington State. My brother lives out there so we have a good reason to visit every so often.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 13, 2013:

Hi Bill,

Great hub! I just linked it to the one I just published titled The Majesty of the 3 National Parks in the State of Washington. It will be a great addition to my hub. Thanks! Voted UUBI and wanted to share but those options were not available for some reason.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 18, 2012:

Thanks Mr. Happy. Appreciate the comments. There is a chance we may be out in Washington State again in June so we'll see what happens. It really is an outdoor playground for the adventurous soul.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on May 18, 2012:

The "reflection lake" photograph is simply superb! Another fabulous article on outdoors activities.

I love mountains! Thank You so much for the detailed information posted here. I will also keep this in mind, as I often go on road-trips and capming/hiking is second nature to this wolf.

All the very best! Enjoy the travels. : )

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 15, 2012:

Thanks Cathleena. Hopefully you get there some day soon. It is beautiful. We never tire of visiting Washington. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Cathleena Beams from Tennessee on May 15, 2012:

Enjoyed browsing this hub and seeing all the breathtaking sights you've showcased for us here. Washington is a beautiful state. I haven't been yet, but my husband has gone there three times in the last couple years to visit a biological brother who found him through the internet. His last trip he went to Chesapeake Bay fishing. I had the pleasure of downloading those majestic photos. Great article and guide!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 07, 2012:

Hi Julie. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the link.

Julie Johnson on May 07, 2012:

Hello Bill!

I love the article and photos. Did you know folks can also visit www.visitrainier.com to pre-plan their trip there too? Lots of ideas on things to do, places to hike, places to stay, web cams, weather and road conditions, etc.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 06, 2012:

Thanks alliemacb. Glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully you can visit someday soon. Thanks for stopping by and the vote.

alliemacb from Scotland on May 06, 2012:

Such a beautiful hub. Love the photos and hope I can visit the area some day. Voted up and beautiful

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Hi Gail. Thank You for the vote and comments. When you're in Seattle and you see how close Mount Rainier is you can't help but wonder what will happen if one day there is an eruption, especially given how severe the Mt St. Helens eruption was. But, until that day, it is one of America's most beautiful National Parks. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on May 05, 2012:

Great hub with lots of useful facts and tips about visiting Mount Rainier National Park.

I loved the photos, especially the ones of the glacial run off and Christine Falls.

It's scary to think how many people could lose their homes or lives if Mount Rainier does erupt one day.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Thanks Lenzy. As always I appreciate you stopping by and your comments.


Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on May 05, 2012:

What a great job, with some beautiful photos and interesting facts. You do a wonderful job on your travel hubs. Lenzy

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 05, 2012:

You did the mountain well with this hub... I mentioned the climb in my Rainier hub; I may write about the climb at some point. Take care and great job on this hub!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Bill, I was hoping to get a visit from you on this one. How awesome that you have climbed Mount Rainier. You should write a Hub about that? You have such a beautiful state. I'm not sure most people who have not visited Washington know how truly beautiful this part of the country is. My brother lives in the Seattle area so we visit every few years. I never get tired of making a trip to Rainier. It really is one of my favorite places. Thanks again for the visit and comments.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 05, 2012:

Well, I happen to live here and I've climbed the mountain and you have done it a great service in this hub! Well done my friend!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Thank you Kristin. We never tire of going to Mount Rainier. It really is a natural wonderland. I hope you make it out there someday We are fortunate to have family in the Seattle area so we travel there often. Thanks again for reading and the nice comments, very much appreciated.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on May 05, 2012:

Bill - I have never been to Washington state, but if ever I make my way out there I know where I am going to visit. I've of course seen photos of Mt. Ranier before but I had no idea the national park had this much to offer. What a beautiful treasure. The photos of Christine Falls and the glacial runoff make me wish I was there right now.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Thank You RTalloni. It is a beautiful place. Hopefully someday you have the opportunity to visit. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

RTalloni on May 05, 2012:

Interesting to learn these facts about Mt Rainer and the photos are stunning. One day….

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Thanks unknown spy. Seems like every time we go to Washington State we go back to Mount Rainier. It's just a beautiful place. We always see something new or learn something new about the park so we just keep going back.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on May 05, 2012:

all i can say is WOOOOOWWWWW!!!!!! SUPER BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 05, 2012:

Thanks Elny51. It certainly is. If you ever make it to Washington State plan a visit to Mount Rainier NP, it will be a great experience. Thanks for stopping by.

Einy51 from Gampaha,Srilanka on May 05, 2012:

Wow.. A beautiful place to spend vacation.

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