Visiting Seattle, Washington for a day or two. Your trip to Seattle will not be complete without seeing Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is an active strato volcano at summit elevation of 14411 ft above sea level in Pacific North West in state of Washington. It is one of the highest mountains and also one of the most famous volcanoes on earth that are in the Ring of Fire.
Mount Rainier is consider potentially the most dangerous volcano in the Cascade Range because of its great height, active hydro thermal system, extensive glacier cloak and frequent earthquakes. Mount Rainier National Park is a treasure chest of scenic valleys, snow laden mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, wild flowers meadows, hiking trails, camping grounds and wild life. Each corner of the park is beautiful, unique and mesmerizing.
For these reasons, some parts of the Mount Rainier National Park can become extremely crowded, particularly in the Summer. Mount Rainier has ski areas, sledding area that are famous during winter and early Spring season. So once the snow falls start in the area, you can find the Solitude of Mt Rainier. The view of Mount Rainier National Park in Winter is extremely beautiful.
When the Seattle Skies clear on a sunny day, one gets to see the majestic sight of the mountain from distance. All year around, on clear sunny day, the Mount Rainier is visible from Vancouver and Victoria BC (Canada) from 200 miles away.
Mount Rainier National park is located 60 miles south east to Seattle. The Park is 369 sq mile area which encloses mountain ranges, valleys, rivers, numbers of glaciers, waterfalls, wildlife, thousands of hiking trails, visitor centers, camping grounds and more.
Mount Rainier National Park is a Paradise for hikers, nature lovers, bird watchers and of course photographers. It is having all types of hikes starting from easy to strenuous. Even if you are not interested to hike, there are many places that can be explored by just getting to park your car and getting out.
Mount Rainier National Park can be entered from 3 different routes. You can choose as per your nearest location to enter the park. Mount Rainier National Park is open all year around. In winter Mount Rainier National park can be entered through Nisqually Entrance.
- Nisqually Entrance (Southwest Entrance – Open all year around)
- Steven Canyon Road Entrance ( East Entrance -Closed in Winter)
- White River Entrance (Northeast Entrance -Closed in Winter)
- Carbon River Entrance (Northwest Entrance – Open year around)
- Chinook Pass Entrance (Cayuse Pass- Closed in Winter)
There are 4 visitor centers at Mount Rainier National Park that are worth to visit to know and learn about the history of national park and the surrounding landscapes.
- Longmire Museum & Information Center
- Sunrise Visitor Center
- Henry M Jackson Visitor Center (Paradise Visitor Center)
- Ohanapecosh Visitor Center & Camping grounds
Visitor Centers of Mount Rainier National Park
Longmire Museum and Information Center
On entering through Nisqually Entrance and driving for few minutes the first place you get to see is Longmire Museum. Longmire Museum is in a historic park building. Museum offers visitor to discover about local history, information and has parking lot, rest rooms and picnic tables.
The National Park Inn, Longmire General store are adjacent to Longmire Museum.
Henry M Jackson Visitor Center
Drive from Longmire Entrance to Henry M Jackson Visitor Center is very scenic with beautiful and panoramic views of valleys, rivers, green lush forest and twisting turning roads heading up to Paradise. Watch out for wild life on your way.
Henry M Jackson Visitor Center is located at 5400 feet at Paradise Mount Rainier is the most gorgeous place to visit and is open all year around. Paradise is well know for average 121 days of snow fall and 670 inches a year. It is the popular destination for skiers, snow boarders, campers, hikers and visitors during all year around.
There is a huge parking lot and additional over flow parking lot at Visitor Center. The Visitor center is worth visiting to stop and know about the mountain, gift shop, eat hot slice of pizza , grab a drink or have your own snacks. Need not to say it is Photographer’s Paradise. So Bring your camera and extra batteries.
Sunrise Visitor Center
Sunrise Visitor Center is Mount Rainier visitor center that is located at highest point at an elevation of 6400 feet which could be reach by vehicle. Due to its location at highest point in the park, it is buried deep in snow for most of the year. Generally it gets opened to visitors from mid July. Sunrise as the name suggests is also one of the first places in the park to capture morning’s early light
With Close view of massive Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier and surrounding meadows of wild flowers, Sunrise is tough competitor of Paradise when it comes to scenic beauty. It is the most visited place in the park due to its panoramic and splendid views of the Mount Rainier.
It is the biggest center in the park that offers facilities for interpretive guided programs, junior programs , exhibit, book sales. There is no lodging facilities at Sunrise but Mount Rainier Guest Services runs a snack bar that serves hot meals and snacks at Sunrise day Lodge.
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center & Camping Grounds
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center & Camping Grounds are located next to crystal clear waters of Ohanapecosh river flowing through old growth forest. Ohanapecosh camping sites are famous among hikers and tourist looking for unique camping experience in midst of dense forest next to the peaceful river.
Must Visit Places at Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is so wide spread and huge that It is impossible to visit all places in limited time duration. It is famous among visitors for whole day long drive trips with pulling over scenic vistas to capture some magnificent views.
I have gathered the list of popular scenic pull over places that can be visited with families with small children, old age parents , grand parents or people with accessibility needs while driving through and stopping over for a day or few days trip to Mount Rainier National Park.
Road Side Attractions that can be Drive Through
- Nisqually River Wooden Suspension Bridge
- Trails of Shadows
- Christine Falls (Bridge)
- Glacier Bridge
- Ricksecker Point
- Narada Falls
- Paradise Valley
- Stevens Canyon Road
- Box Canyon Overlook Bridge
- Reflection Lakes
- Tipsoo Lake
- White River Campgrounds
- Sunrise (Sunrise Visitor Center)
- Paradise Valley (Henry M Jackson Visitor Center)
- Ohanapecosh Visitor Center & Campgrounds
- Myrtle Falls (at Paradise Valley)
- Grove of Patriarchs Trail
Nisqually River Wooden Suspension Bridge
Nisqually River wooden suspension bridge is located at Longmire village in Mount Rainier National Park. It can be reached by 5 mins walking from Longmire Musuem or you can drive till end of road and park at Longmire Village.
Nisqually River Suspension Bridge is the oldest lasting road bridge in Mount Rainier National Park and is one of the few road-bearing suspension bridges in the National Park system. The Timber bridge reflects the park’s “rustic style” through its use of native material in an attempt to harmonize with the rugged park landscape.
Christine Falls Bridge
Christine Falls Bridge is over 4.2 miles from Longmire. It is famous pull out view point and most picturesque as the viewpoint is below the falls with amazing national Park rustic stone bridge in front of it. You can view the Christine falls from the road or can take two minutes’ walk down to the view point.
On traveling from Longmire towards Paradise at distance of 5 miles there is the Glacier Bridge. On looking up the valley the view of Nisqually Glacier can be seen. Vehicles can be parked at parking lot before or after the bridge. Do not stop on the bridge and walk on the side walks only.
Ricksecker Point is located at 6 miles from Longmire. Ricksecker Point road is one way road that gives scenic view of Mount Rainier, Nisqually Valley and Tatoosh range. While driving just 1 mile ahead of Glacier Bridge, you get to view this amazing view of Glacier Bridge and background valley from Ricksecker Point.
Narada Falls is located on the way from Longmire to Paradise. The Falls can be viewed from the parking lot and one gets a aerial view. The Magical waterfall is best viewed from lower viewing point by walking down just 0.1 mile from Parking lot.
Stevens Canyon Road
Stevens Canyon Road is 19 mile scenic road inside Mount Rainier National Park that connects Paradise and south east entrance (Stevens Canyon Entrance) of the national park where it intersects Cayuse Pass and State Route 123. Steven Canyon Road gets seasonally closed during winters after heavy snowfall.
The famous places to pull over while entering through Stevens Canyon entrance and driving towards West are Box Canyon Picnic area, Reflection Lake and Paradise (Henry M Jackson Visitor Center). Stevens Canyon Road Tunnel height limit is 12’6″ which is not suitable for recreational vehicle with tall clearance height.
Box Canyon Overlook Bridge
Box Canyon Overlook is located along Stevens Canyon Road and it provides access to trails and a nice view of the canyon.
Reflection Lakes is the famous photographed location for reflection of Mount Rainier in to the lake water. To get the best shot, start early in the day to capture reflection when the wind is low and less crowd.
Drive to Tipsoo Lake near Chinook Pass on Mather Memorial Parkway on eastern boundary entrance of Mount Rainier National Park is all time popular among photographers and tourists. Tipsoo lake is famous attraction at Mount Rainier that is most photographed landscapes in Washington all year around.
White River Campgrounds
White River Campground in northeast section of Mount Rainier National Park presents tourists of all interests with ideal back country gateway. The source of White River is the Emmons Glacier and it originates from the ice caves at the bottom of the glacier. The water of White River looks milky or white as it carries the rock flour/sediments from the Emmons Glacier.
White River is perfect destination for hikers, climbers, Car sight-seers , Car campers with all restroom and washing facilities at camping sites and picnic area. The river is a large creek which flows on rocky floor with strong current.
Short Hikes that can be done with family and kids
Trail of Shadows
Trail of Shadows is a short and easy walking loop trail of 0.75 mile hardly takes 30 minutes to 45 minutes just perfect for families with small kids. It can be accessed from National Park Inn at Longmire and can be done in either direction. Trail starts with long red cedar trees, mineral springs with gas bubbling in water and skunk cabbage marsh field.
Myrtle Falls is located with scenic view of Mount Rainier in background. The falls can be reached from Paradise Visitor Center or Paradise Parking lot by walking 0.4 mile either on Golden gate trails or Skyline trail. Watch out for snow on trails if you are visiting in early summer. Good Hiking shoes or shoes with good grip, hiking poles are recommended if trail is covered with snow.
Grove of Patriarchs
Grove of Patriarchs trails is 1.5 miles round trip, easiest and heavily trafficked. The trail can be reached from Steven Canyons Entrance on Highway 123. The parking lot gets full within early hours of summer. The attractive feature of this trail is the suspension bridge on Ohanapecosh river and old, long trees along the trail. After crossing the suspension bridge, there is a loop trail with ancient thousand years old Red Cedar, Douglas Firs tree. The feeling is like you entered in some giant trees kingdom.
Famous Hiking Trails of Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier has thousands of hiking trails that caters to various landscapes from snow laden glacier, wild flowers meadows, rivers, waterfalls, old growth dense forest, historic Fire lookouts, valleys and more.
Silver Falls Trail
If you love the waterfalls and like the soaking feeling in mist then do read on my post on “Waterfalls of Mount Rainier National Park” that are easily accessible and can be done with hiking along with children and family.
If you don’t want to hike, then You can just drive through and stop at Visitor Centers or at pull out for Viewpoints. There are number of longer day hikes that can be done with family. For the families that love Snowshoeing, Do read on my post on Snowshoe Trails at Mount Rainier National Park.
Entrance fees Mount Rainier National Park WA
Mount Rainier National park is beautiful with majestic views of Glaciers, Canyons, Meadows, waterfalls, Campgrounds, Visitor centers. Entrance fee per vehicle is $30 which is valid for 7 days. If you have the Inter agency annual pass “America the Beautiful” or “North West Forest” the entry is free. (must present valid ID card)
There are few days in a year where entry to the National Parks in USA is free. Do check for those free days on National Park Site to plan your visit.
Check for Information regarding Road status, Weather, Operating hours , Live Webcams and other services on Mount Rainier National Park site.
If you have been to Mount Rainier National Park, do comment below on Mount Rainier National Park attractions that you can think of and would love to visit with your friends and families. There are many famous instagram places to visit in and around Seattle, Do read on “Must Visit Attractions in Seattle, Washington”.
Stay Healthy, Happy Traveling and Hiking…
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