Best Hikes In Mt Rainier: 23 Easy, Moderate And Hard Trails

by Mark and Kristen Morgan
Best Hikes In Mt Rainier National Park Where Are Those Morgans Hiking Mount Rainier Guide

Western Washington State is a hiking paradise but the exceptionally photogenic National Park Mt Rainier might just be the cream of an incredibly popular crop. After living in Washington for 6 months and visiting Mt Rainier on 5 occasions from Spring through Fall, we have rounded up the very best hikes in Mt Rainier for all abilities across the entire park.

Mt Rainier National Park is a visually spectacular landscape, but when you throw in diverse and fun hiking trails with fire lookout towers and remarkable views, you have yourself a recipe for one of the must visit places to hike in the US.

However, with so many trails to hike in various regions within Mt Rainier, it can be a challenge to work out exactly which hikes are best for you to do, based on your time frame and hiking level.

With that said, we are going to show you the best hikes in Mt Rainier in an easy to understand and logical list format, so you can start planning the perfect Mount Rainier hiking itinerary today.

This is a long read but it is designed to give you all the information you could possibly need to create a hiking plan for Mt Rainier. We have included important information for visiting the park and an action packed 3 day Mt Rainier hiking itinerary example for reference.

Let’s get stuck into the most popular hiking trails in Mt Rainier National Park!

*Please note this post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one of them, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! We recommend only products we use and as always, all ideas or opinions expressed in this post are entirely ours. Thank you for the support and happy travels!*

Table of Contents show

What Can You Expect From The Best Hikes In Mt Rainier National Park?

You might have heard about Mt Rainier before or this might be the first time you get to know the park. So, what you can you expect in general from hiking around the base of a skyline dominating stratovolcano?

  • Well, for starters you can expect a diverse array of lake, forest, waterfall and meadow trails.
  • You will be able to choose between dozens of easy, moderate and hard hikes to suit your ability or hiking goals.
  • And you could easily spend a full week hiking here without completing this list.

What we personally love most about hiking in Mt Rainier is endless views of the mighty stratovolcano. Or maybe it’s how incredibly photogenic the park is. Or possibly it is collecting fire lookout towers … basically Mt Rainier is awesome!

However… Yes, there is a dreaded however.

The “open” season for hiking in Mt Rainier is very short, and when over 2 million people visit the park in a short period of time, you can guarantee the trails are going to be busy.

Map showing regions of mt rainier national park broken up into sunrise ohanapecosh paradise longmire and carbon river

Map Of The 5 Mt Rainier National Park Regions

The most efficient way to understand accessibility to the hikes in Mt Rainier is to first break the park up into 5 regions going clockwise from northeast to northwest:

  • Sunrise – Northeast Mt Rainier
  • Ohanapecosh – Southeast Mt Rainier
  • Paradise – South Mt Rainier
  • Longmire – Southwest Mt Rainier
  • Carbon River / Mowich Lake – Northeast Mt Rainier

The map above shows the locations of each region you can visit during your hiking itinerary in Mt Rainier.

As you can see, Mt Rainier in the center is completely impassable, which means you have to drive around the volcano to reach each region.

Map Showing The Best Hikes In Mt Rainier

The map above shows the locations of each hike mentioned in this list of 23 best trails in Mt Rainier. It will give you an idea about the spread of hiking trails in the park and you will notice some overlap between regions.

The map allows you to see how isolated the Carbon River / Mowich Lake trails are when compared to the other more popular regions.

Click or touch to activate the map. Zoom in / out, move around the map and familiarize yourself with the locations of each hike, plus the roads in and around Mt Rainier.

  • Red Icons – Sunrise Hikes
  • Yellow Icons – Ohanapecosh Hikes
  • Blue Icons – Paradise Hikes
  • Orange Icons – Longmire Hikes
  • Purple Icons – Mowich Lake Hikes

How We Are Ordering The Best Hiking Trails In Mt Rainier

We’re big fans of logical lists. It makes planning so much easier, right?!

So with that said, instead of listing 23 hikes in a random order, we are going to display our in depth list of the most popular hiking trails in Mt Rainier as follows:

  1. Area of the park – Beginning Northeast and working clockwise through Southeast, South, Southwest and Northwest.
  2. Trail difficulty – Within each area we will list hikes from easy through moderate and hard.

This is exactly how we plan our hiking itineraries at national parks and we hope you find it as helpful as we do!

Best Hikes In Sunrise, Northeast Mt Rainier

Let’s begin in Sunrise – the place, not time of day!

Sunrise is the second most popular part of Mt Rainier after Paradise and the highest part of the park you can drive to at 6,400 ft elevation.

  • It is only open for a very short period between late June / searly July and late Sept / early Oct.
  • It is hugely popular and has enormous lines to enter during peak times.

Sunrise is among the best places in the park to see wildflowers if you time it right for peak season, which is typically between the end of July and the end of August.

The Sunrise area can be further broken down into the Sunrise Visitor Center, White River Road and Chinook Pass. We are breaking up Sunrise hikes into each of those three sub-regions.

Hikes are listed in order from easy to hard within each section.

Sunrise Visitor Center

Let’s kick off our list of best Mt Raininer hikes at the sunrise visitor center, which has plenty of parking. All of the following trails begin right at the parking lot.

Sunrise nature trail sign with hiking distances in an open meadow

1. Sunrise Nature Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 370 ft
  • Perfect For: Easy way to see Sunrise without breaking a sweat, families, wildflowers
  • Recent Comments: All Trails

Sunrise Nature Trail is the perfect hike for families or beginner hikers to enjoy wildflowers in bloom and catch a glimpse of Mt Rainier from high elevation.

The trail begins at Sourdough Ridge trailhead and loops around in either direction to offer slightly more elevated views than those at the parking lot.

Despite this being a shorter and easier hike, you still get to experience the best of the wildflowers as the meadows are close to Sunrise visitor center.

Frozen Lake on Sourdough Ridge Trail at the crossroads of Burroughs and Mt Fremont

2. Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back / Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 550 ft
  • Perfect For: Short hike to the base of Mt Fremont and Burroughs
  • Recent Comments: All Trails

Frozen Lake is a step up from the nature trail, but without getting into serious elevation gain territory.

Following Sourdough Ridge Trail west, you will end at the junction for Mt Fremont Trail and Burroughs Mountain Trail. You can see the trails running up both longer hikes, and you get even closer to Mt Rainier.

The lake itself provides drinking water for the Sunrise village area. Signs warn against getting too close to the water source but if you have a camera, you can stitch a photo together like we have above.

Mt Fremont Fire Lookout Tower at the summit of an amazing hike overlooking mt Rainier volcano Kristen standing on wooden structure alone

3. Mt Fremont Lookout Trail – Best Mt Rainier Summit View

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 5.7 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft
  • Perfect For: Amazing fire tower summit view, sunrise, stars
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Mt Fremont Lookout Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Mt Rainier and we personally consider it to have arguably the best summit view in the park.

We have to say the trail itself isn’t anything to shout about, until you get right up to the ridge line when the flat path looks awesome snaking along on its approach to the fire lookout tower.

But the views are spectacular once you reach the fire tower, not just of Mt Rainier, but also in the opposite direction as you look over Grand Park.

Be sure to walk up onto the wooden fire tower, grab some photos and spend time on the rocks admiring some of the best 360 degree views in Washington.

Mt Fremont is a very popular sunrise hike (this time we mean the time of day!), but it is also amazing at sunset and stars for astrophotographers to capture south facing Milky Way images.

Read: Our complete trail guide to the awesome Mt Fremont Lookout Tower

Burroughs Mountain trail from afar on Mt Fremont trail both amazing hikes

4. Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Distance: 4.7 / 7 / 9.2 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back / Loop
  • Elevation Gain: Up to 2,500 ft
  • Perfect For: Extremely close up views of Mt Rainier
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail is the perfect hike for those seeking a challenging experience with huge reward.

There are 3 Burroughs you can hike, aptly named first, second and third. The best way to hike the Burroughs is either before or after Mt Fremont, because you’re already 1.5 miles into the hike by reaching Frozen Lake.

Burroughs look like they’re not too bad from the Mt Fremont Trail, but they are challenging, windy, exposed and hard going. This is not one to take lightly, especially if you plan to hike Mt Fremont before or after.

If you have time and energy, go for the third Burrough for insanely close up views of glaciers on Mt Rainier’s north face.

White River Road – Sunrise Entrance

After you enter White River entrance (which takes you to Sunrise Visitor Center) you will drive along White River Road. Both of the hikes listed here are longer and more challenging, plus parking can be an issue at Summerland Trail with limited spaces.

We tried twice to hike Summerland Trail but both times the small roadside lots were full. Glacier Basin Trailhead requires turning off Sunrise Park Road onto White River Road for around 1 mile toward White River campground and amphitheater.

The two hikes below are both on our list for next visit but we couldn’t leave them out of this roundup of the best trails in Mt Rainier National Park.

5. Glacier Basin Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 7+ miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft +
  • Perfect For: Escaping the crowds in Sunrise, great views, wildlife
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Glacier Basin follows a river leading directly towards Mt Rainier from White River campground. This is a very picturesque trail with fantastic views throughout.

However, the best part of this hike is a spur trail one mile in leading off to views over Emmons Glacier and a beautiful teal colored lake. The glacier is Mt Rainier’s largest ice sheet and is the largest glacier in the contiguous 48 states.

6. Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap

  • Trail Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Distance: 10.5 miles+ roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,900 ft
  • Perfect For: Adventurous hikers, hiking a section of Wonderland, views, wildlife
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Summerland Trail is a long and challenging day hike. You likely won’t get many other hikes in if you go as far as Panhandle Gap but it is one of the most popular trails in Mt Rainier.

The confusing part is looking at google maps. The trailhead is actually called “Fryingpan Creek Trailhead”, and the trail actually follows the Wonderland Trail for its entirety.

It is called Summerland because after 4.5 miles (one way) hiking, you will enter Summerland Meadows, which will be covered in a sea of wildflowers if timed well.

This is a common turnaround point, but if you still have energy and time, take on the additional distance and elevation to reach Panhandle Gap, which provides incredible views.

Chinook Pass – Near Sunrise On Highway 410

These two hikes in Chinook Pass border both Mt Rainier National Park and the Wenatchee National Forest.

Despite being a wonderfully scenic area with fantastic sunrise and sunset views over Mt Rainier, you will find it is pleasantly quiet here in comparison.

There are a handful of small parking lots stretching around the winding roads, so don’t give up if you can’t find a spot in the first parking area.

Tipsoo Lake Trail is a family friendly Mt Rainier hike with stunning meadows wildflowers and reflection in lake

7. Tipsoo Lake Loop Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 0.8 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 40 ft
  • Perfect For: All ages and abilities, stunning lake views
  • Recent Comments: All Trails

Tipsoo Lake Trail is the perfect way for hikers of all abilities to soak up stunning views of Mt Rainier reflecting in Tipsoo Lake, without having to gain any elevation.

This is a very relaxing, easy going walk around a flat circular loop path, circumnavigating Tipsoo Lake. You are likely to see photographers with tripods set up all around the lake, on the nearby hills and roadsides above at sunrise and sunset.

The best time to walk around this trail is at dawn and dusk on a calm day for pristine postcard perfect reflection shots. Access is very easy, via multiple parking areas right next to the trail.

naches peak loop is one of the best short hikes in mount rainier starburst with the sun overlooking a lake with dusty trail at dusk in Washington

8. Naches Peak Loop Trail – Fantastic short Mt Rainier hike

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 3.3 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 600 ft
  • Perfect For: Families, views, lakes, hiking a section of Pacific Crest Trail
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Naches Peak Loop Trail is a wonderful short hike in Mt Rainier National Park. Part of the loop is hiking along the legendary Pacific Crest Trail and the other part is non-stop epic Mt Rainier views.

We hiked this trail an hour or two before sunset, which was not the best time of day because a huge burning bright sun was blazing right next to Mt Rainier. As a result, it was hard to get the photos we wanted.

However, if you hike this trail clockwise to reach the half way point (when the PCT turns toward Mt Rainier on Naches Peak Loop Trail) right as the sun is setting, you will have some seriously amazing views.

Alternatively, hike it at sunrise when Mt Rainier will be illuminated orange and yellow on its Eastern face as you approach.

The best part of this trail is ending at Tipsoo Lake, at which you get the same awesome reflection shots as the Tipsoo Lake Trail above.

Read: Our complete hiking guide to Naches Peak Loop Trail and Tipsoo Lake

Bonus Sunrise Hike – Crystal Peak Trail

Crystal Peak is a hike we desperately wanted to do but after prioritizing other more mainstream hikes, we ran out of time in the park.

It looks like a beast but ends with special views over Mt Rainier and we know from other hikers we met that it is much quieter than almost all of the hikes mentioned in this list.

Best Hikes In Ohanapecosh, Southeast Mt Rainier

We personally found Ohanapecosh to be unbearably busy every time we drove through so we only made one stop here during the 5 times we visited Mt Rainier.

Ohanapecosh acts like a bridge between the two heavily trafficked areas of Paradise and Sunrise, and some of the best trails for families with younger kids are located here.

Most of the family friendly trails begin right around Stevens Canyon entrance station, so you’ll find cars dumped all over the roadsides on either side of the fee kiosk.

Shriner Peak Lookout Trail is located on WA-123 about two-thirds of the way down from Chinook Pass toward Stevens Canyon entrance.

Hikes are listed in order from easy to hard.

Kristen standing looking up at tall trees on the grove of the patriarchs hiking trail in ohanapecosh mt rainier national park

9. Grove Of The Patriarchs Nature Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 1.3 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back / Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 50 ft
  • Perfect For: Families, kids, nature, trees, easy hikes
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Grove of the Patriarchs Nature Trail is perfect for the family. It is an easy and flat hike with plenty of towering trees to admire, a fun suspension bridge the kids will love and riverside spur trails.

When we hiked this trail it was packed and there was even a line just to cross the suspension bridge, so try to avoid midday on weekends here if possible.

The trail is very easy to follow and well maintained, plus it is surprisingly photogenic so don’t forget your camera.

Silver falls waterfall in mt rainier easy to moderate hike with beautiful scenery

10. Silver Falls Loop Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 700 ft
  • Perfect For: Waterfall, hot spring, nature, families
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

A slightly more challenging hike in this same area is Silver Falls Loop to a gorgeous waterfall. This is a fantastic hike for families with kids who are energetic or a little older as there is more elevation than Grove of the Patriarchs.

There are a number of spur trails running around this area, which makes it easy to connect with Grove of the Patriarchs directly from Silver Falls Trail. You can even tack on the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs into the same hike as Silver Falls.

We would suggest once you get parked to do as much hiking as you can here before vacating your parking spot. It will be gobbled up very quickly!

11. Shriner Peak Lookout Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Distance: 8.5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 3,500 ft
  • Perfect For: Adventurous hikers, fire lookout tower, quieter hiking
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

For the more adventurous hikers or those collecting fire lookout towers, you can’t miss Shriner Peak Lookout Trail.

This is an extremely quiet and challenging hike. It is borderline a hidden gem because you will more than likely have the trail to yourself. Or maybe that’s because it climbs 3,500 ft in just 4.25 miles?!

Shriner Peak Lookout is a monster trail, but it’s another fire tower to add to your collection.

Wildflower season on this trail is good, but the best time to hike this one is in fall when the colors change and light up the scenery in oranges, yellows and browns.

Narrow gorge box canyon stop off between paradise and ohanapecosh regions gorgeous dramatic ravine with water running through

Bonus Ohanapecosh Hike – Box Canyon and Nickel Creek Trail

We hiked this short and easy paved trail down to a bridge over a rugged narrow gorge and waterfall overlooking Mt Rainier. It is a wonderful photography opportunity for landscape lovers and definitely worth the short walk down.

This picturesque stop off is located half way up Stevens Canyon road between Ohanapecosh and Paradise.

Best Hikes In Paradise, South Mt Rainier

Paradise is the most popular and heavily visited part of Mt Rainier National Park. The iconic Paradise Inn serves as Mt Rainier’s flagship lodging option, right at the trailhead of the park’s most famous hike – Skyline Trail.

During the snow season, Paradise’s Skyline Trail is the most popular place to squeeze in a spot of downhill skiing. We visited the park in June and the Skyline Trail was 10 ft deep in snow, with skiers pouring down the mountainside.

In Summer, this is one of the best places to see wildflowers radiating up the southern face of Mt Rainier. Skyline Trail has various hiking route options and we will cover them below.

Due to its significant popularity and renown, you will find a huge parking lot at the Skyline Trail trailhead / Paradise Inn parking area.

Hikes are listed in order from easy to hard.

Kristen looking at mt rainier through a gap on nisqually vista hiking trail easy accessible trail for families and hikers of all abilities

12. Nisqually Vista Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 1.1 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 200 ft
  • Perfect For: Families, wildflowers, easy Paradise hiking
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Nisqually Vista is the ideal way to experience the famous wildflowers of the Paradise region without breaking a sweat.

The short loop trail is paved and accessible for all visitors, it has a fabulous viewpoint overlooking Mt Rainier and if timed well, an ocean of wildflowers in bloom.

We quickly hiked this one right around dusk as the sun was setting, which gave us some lovely shots of wildflowers illuminating under golden yellow sunlight.

Myrtle Falls waterfall is an easy and accessible hike with stunning viewpoint on the skyline trail best for young kids and those who want a quick hike in paradise mt rainier

13. Myrtle Falls via Skyline Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 0.8 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 170 ft
  • Perfect For: Easiest way to hike part of Skyline Trail, families, waterfall, wildflowers
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Skyline Trail has variety of options for visitors to experience the lower sections of this famous hike around Paradise Inn.

The easy hike to Myrtle Falls is about the best way for any visitor to get up close views of Mt Rainier and see radiating blues, pinks and whites from in bloom wildflowers.

At the end of the paved 0.4 mile path, you will find Myrtle Falls. Take the short but steep path down to the base of the waterfall for a staggeringly beautiful scene of Myrtle Falls and Mt Rainier directly behind.

Note: You will pass Myrtle Falls as part of hiking the Skyline Loop Trail.

bench and snow lake trail is one of the best short hikes in mt rainier with undulating elevation gain and loss two lakes and wildflower meadows kristen crossing wooden bridge in gorgeous setting

14. Bench and Snow Lake Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 700 ft
  • Perfect For: Mt Rainier views, wildflowers, lakes, families, excellent short hike
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Let’s hop over to another trail nearby as we go in order of difficulty around the Paradise area. Bench and Snow Lake Trail is one of the best bang for buck hikes in Mt Rainier National Park.

Parking can be a challenge here as there is just a small half moon shaped roadside lot and it is a popular trail. It is located right at the top of Stevens Canyon as the road flattens before entering Paradise.

This is not your typical gain elevation to a summit and descend back to the car type of hike. It is undulating from the get-go, so you will be gaining and losing elevation the entire way out and back.

Two lakes are your reward:

  • Bench Lake on a calm and clear day has a Mt Rainier reflection photo to rival that of Reflection Lake itself.
  • Snow Lake is a place to swim and admire towering cliffs leading to Unicorn Peak high above.

Wildflowers are wonderful here but the best part is magnificent Mt Rainier views the entire way back from Snow Lake to the parking lot.

Read: Our complete hiking guide to Bench and Snow Lake Trail

15. Pinnacle Peak Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 2.8 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
  • Perfect For: Mt Rainier views, wildflowers, challenging short hike
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Heading West from Bench and Snow Lake toward Paradise you will find Pinnacle Peak Trail starting right out from the parking area around Reflection Lake.

Both Bench and Snow Lake Trail and Pinnacle Peak Trails head south, but this hike gains far more elevation to provide exceptional Mt Rainier views from the South.

For us, the best views of Mt Rainier aren’t from close up but from this kind of distance, from which you can truly appreciate its grandeur.

The short but steep trail summits with views over Mt Rainier to the North but also Mt Adams and Mt St Helens to the South on a clear day.

Kristen arms stretched at panorama point on skyline trail hike in mt rainier one of the best viewpoints in the park

16. Panorama Point via Skyline Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 4.1 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,250 ft
  • Perfect For: Views, wildflowers, hiking part of Skyline Trail
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

There are multiple ways you can experience Skyline Trail and one popular way is to simply go up the West side of the loop directly for Panorama Point.

You will gain 1,250 ft in 2 miles up a dusty, rocky and steep trail. Panorama Point offers excellent views over Paradise and the mountainous skyline to the South of Mt Rainier.

Personally, we think it is worth taking on the full loop if you feel like it is achievable because it provides far greater views and a much more varied trail on the other side of the loop.

However, this direct hike up to Panorama Point is more suited to those who are a little intimidated by the full loop or who are shorter on time.

Most popular and best hike in mt rainier national park skyline trail blue wildflower meadows with rainier lit up by sunrise light
  • Trail Difficulty: Hard
  • Trail Distance: 5.5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft
  • Perfect For: Special views, wildflowers, waterfalls
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

This is it, the star attraction of hiking in Mt Rainier National Park, and we must say it is an incredible hike.

Not only are South facing views over Mt Adams, Mt St Helens and even Mt Hood in Oregon from the summit of Skyline Trail extraordinary, but the trail itself is fun, varied and entertaining.

Yes, it is busy and overcrowded, but there are ways to avoid this.

We made hiking Skyline Trail a priority and set off right after sunrise. As a result, we didn’t see a single other hiker until we reached the summit as they had ascended from the other side of the loop.

By the time we arrived back at Paradise, quite literally hundreds of hikers were making their way up, including group tours.

Most people hike this trail clockwise for Mt Rainier views on the way up. However, we decided to go anti-clockwise, just to give ourselves the best chance of having the trail to ourselves.

This is a tough hike but it is the hike you should prioritize the most.

Read: Our complete hiking guide to Mt Rainier’s Skyline Loop Trail

Camp Muir is a very hard long hike high up Mt Rainier only for experienced hikers glaciers and waterfall with some of the mountain in shadow

Bonus Paradise Hike – Camp Muir via Skyline Trail

For a real challenge, you can take on the monster hike to Camp Muir, which is the closest point you can get to the summit of Mt Rainier on a day hike.

This is not to be taken lightly and is rated as very difficult. Only experienced hikers should take this on due to technical aspects and lingering snow / ice.

Best Hikes In Longmire, Southwest Mt Rainier

Longmire is located close to the most used Nisqually entrance. It is the first major region for those entering the park from Seattle / Portland on the way to Paradise.

Many of Mt Rainier’s most photogenic waterfalls are found in the Longmire region of the park.

We prioritized other areas of Mt Rainier and when we did eventually plan for Longmire, the heavens opened in true Washington style. But for sure on our next visit we will spend more time hiking in Longmire.

Again, just because we didn’t hike these trails, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included in a list of best hikes in Mt Rainier to help you plan your itinerary!

Hikes are listed in order from easy to hard.

18. Longmire Trail Of The Shadows

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 0.7 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 30 ft
  • Perfect For: All ages and abilities, educational, families with younger kids
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Trail of the shadows is a very easy and flat educational walk fit for the entire family. Parts of the trail are accessibility friendly, with just a few steeper grades which may require support.

This is the perfect place to wander with younger kids, passing by springs and a homestead cabin. Avoid this one if you are looking for adventurous hikes in Mt Rainier.

19. Narada Falls Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 860 ft
  • Perfect For: Waterfalls, shorter trail, easy access
  • Recent Comments: All Trails

Narada Falls is arguably in the Paradise region of Mt Rainier but it is on the way back down to Longmire, so we’re including it in this waterfall heavy section instead.

You can either hike 2.4 miles roundtrip with 860 ft elevation loss and then gain, or you can see Narada Falls from a large parking lot right next to the waterfall.

From next to the waterfall, you can take a very short walk down to a viewpoint, where you will find photographers snapping shots.

But if you do choose to hike this trail, be aware that it is steep on the way back up and can be slippery when wet.

For those who want to see Narada Falls with the least amount of effort involved, simply look over from the top of the waterfall from the parking lot.

20. Comet And Christine Falls Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft
  • Perfect For: Waterfalls, wonderful short hike, solid short to mid distance trail
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

This waterfall trail requires some hiking, and it is more than worth the effort. Comet Falls is another of those hikes we were bitterly disappointed we didn’t end up doing and will be near the top of our list for next time.

You get two waterfalls in one hike here. There are sections where you need to balance across logs, and there are boulders to navigate as well as switchbacks.

However, it is all worth it for powerful Comet Falls at the end of the trail.

This is a very popular hike and has a small parking lot, so be early or late in the afternoon to stand a better chance of parking.

21. Rampart Ridge Loop Trail

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 4.6 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 1,350 ft
  • Perfect For: Mt Rainier views, forest trail, hiking part of Wonderland trail
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

The Ramparts on Rampart Ridge are the remains of a lava flow from a time when Mt Rainier erupted.

The trail begins on the western side of Trail of the Shadows, and ends up joining part of the Wonderland Trail for the return journey to Longmire.

You will be treated to Mt Rainer views, old growth forest, plenty of wildlife and some of those hikers favorites – switchbacks.

In truth, we would only do this one if we had loads of time available for Longmire but it is a popular trail and should be included on this list of visitors favorite hikes in Mt Rainier.

Bonus Longmire Hike – High Rock Lookout Trail

High Rock is arguably the most dramatic of the 7 remaining fire lookout towers in Mt Rainier National Park. It looks awesome and we will absolutely be putting this at the top of our list for the next time we visit.

After driving to the trailhead (set your GPS for “High Rock Trail Head” on google) it is just a 3 mile roundtrip with 1,200 ft elevation to reach the summit for exceptionally stunning views and of course another fire tower to check off.

Best Hikes In Carbon River / Mowich Lake, Northwest Mt Rainier

Carbon River / Mowich Lake is the least visited region of Mt Rainier despite being closest to Seattle and the other heavily populated urban areas in Western Washington.

Why?

Well, it’s because the two major hikes in this area are at the end of a pretty dreadful 17 mile one way road peppered with pot holes.

However, both of these hikes are fantastic and make it a worthwhile hardship on your car.

Aside from these two popular hikes up at Mowich Lake, there are a handful of longer trails starting in the Carbon River area but they are lightly trafficked.

Head to Carbon River for more hikes if you’re looking to escape the crowds of Paradise and Sunrise.

Hikes are listed in order from easy to hard.

Mark at Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout Tower after a fantastic hike through forest and with stunning lake views

22. Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail – Stunning Summit View Over Lake And Mt Rainier

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft
  • Perfect For: Fire lookout, fantastic Mt Rainier views, lakes, solid mid-distance hiking
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Tolmie Peak is one of our favorite hikes in Mt Rainier. It is a lovely trail, and opens up some of the most photogenic views in the entire park.

Like with Spray Park below, the trails are quieter up here at Mowich Lake. The awful road up will put many visitors off, and it is a pain to get to in terms of linking to the rest of the park.

But that means solitude and more chance of seeing wildlife.

Tolmie Peak fire lookout tower is more challenging than Mt Fremont lookout tower but the trail itself is far more picturesque.

Both have stunning summit views, but Tolmie Peak has a lake in the foreground with Mt Rainier directly behind, which for us creates a winning formula!

If you’re into photography, our top tip for this hike is to avoid midday at all costs, you will be looking directly into the sun from mid morning until late afternoon.

Read: Our complete hiking guide to Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail

Black bear walking around eating berries in spray park hard switchbacks hike with amazing meadows summit

23. Spray Park Trail – Best Hidden Gem Hike In Mt Rainier

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 6-8 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and Back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft
  • Perfect For: Adventurous hikers, thrill seekers
  • Recent Comments: All Trails / WTA

Spray Park Trail is what we would consider our favorite hidden hike in Mt Rainier National Park.

Most visitors who take on the drive up Mowich Lake road will only hike Tolmie Peak Lookout, but skip Spray Park. That is a mistake and you should plan for a full day up here to hike both trails.

Spray Park trail starts out in forest and the first major turnaround point is at Spray Falls waterfall itself. We were blown away by how awesome the waterfall was when we arrived at its base.

Only take on the next part if you have the energy left, but after a long and grueling switchback section you will all of a sudden enter a series of meadow after meadow. And these meadows are just stunning.

Wildflowers in Summer or Autumnal colors in Fall, these meadows are beautiful. We saw a black bear eating berries just 20 or 30 ft away from us, Mt Rainier views are amazing and you can walk as far up through the meadows as you like.

Simply turn back when you have had your fill of meadow and Rainier view. There are options to go as far as Observation Rock, or even include a huge loop called ‘Around Mother Mountain’ but this does add on a lot more distance and elevation.

The first few meadows are scenic enough and are a shorter way to see the best of Spray Park.

Read: Our complete guide to hiking hidden gem Spray Park Trail

Bonus Carbon River / Mowich Lake Hike – Green Lake Trail

If you have more time to spend around Carbon River, the most popular trail is Green Lake.

The first part is on flat gravel road but eventually you will reach a waterfall and beautiful lake. Allow 4 – 6 hours for this 9.5 mile roundtrip trail.

Best Time To Hike In Mt Rainier National Park

Hiking in Mt Raininer is an unforgettable experience but it is frustrating that the window is so short.

If you live in Washington or northern Oregon, you can probably take a chance on visiting right as the trails open or close to try getting a quieter day.

However, if you are planning to visit Mt Rainier from further afield, we would not recommend taking a chance on shoulder season here.

Visit toward the end of July or in August to guarantee trails will be open. Just try to avoid weekends and especially holidays if possible.

Bugs

Something you might not consider but turns out to play a big factor in how much you enjoy the best hikes in Mt Rainier is bugs.

If you’re thinking “it’s fine i’ll just cover up in bug spray” … think again!

These bugs are about as bad as we’ve ever experienced. They are persistent, swarm in big numbers and relentlessly hover around stagnant water.

We found bugs to be the worst in the last week of July, but that will change each year by a week or two either side.

Wear long but light shirts and pants with long socks to prevent being eaten alive. Stay clear of hair products and scented perfumes, and do not forget your bug spray, which does go some way to damage limitations on bite numbers!

White wildflowers with sunlight in mount rainier national park best hikes in july and august have peak wildflowers in bloom

Peak Wildflower Season In Mt Rainier

It is important to know that peak wildflower season is dependent on various factors and can’t be exactly predicted.

However, if you plan your visit for the first or second week of August, you will stand the best chance of hitting peak wildflowers.

We have to admit we were transfixed by how beautiful the meadows of Mt Rainier turned during wildflower season and highly recommend you plan your hikes for this special time of year.

Each region will peak at different times and you will find peak wildflowers bloom first at the higher elevation before working downhill.

If at first you don’t see the wildflowers, try visiting another region and taking on a hike with significant elevation gain. That way you’re covering the spectrum of variation in peak colors.

Quick Mt Rainier Hiking Tips

  • Certain roads close for Winter around the beginning of November, please check live road conditions before visiting.
  • Plan your hikes for early morning or late afternoon to avoid crowds.
  • Avoid 12pm-3pm on excessively hot days in Summer.
  • Group hikes together to maximize efficiency.
  • If you don’t get parked at a smaller parking lot, don’t give up and try again after another hike.
  • There aren’t many places to eat so be sure to pack a lot of food, snacks, water and electrolyte drinks.
  • Check recent comments on All Trails and WTA for reference on current conditions, including snow, ice and bugs.

Track Your Hikes In Mt Rainier With Gaia

We always use our offline Gaia hike tracking maps to see exactly where we are on any trail. This helps both with safety and sanity when on longer trails, backcountry trails or trails with poor signage.

Plus it gives us the stats we need for tracking and monitoring hike time, hiking pace, elevation gain / loss and much more.

Use our exclusive Where Are Those Morgans 20% discount link to sign up for Gaia’s awesome hike tracking app today.

Best Hikes In Mt Rainier For Experienced And Adventurous Hikers

Are you a seasoned hiker looking for the most challenging hikes in Mt Rainier?

Avoid the easy trails, top out the difficulty chart the minute you arrive by hiking the following:

  1. Mt Fremont for sunrise (the time of day)
  2. Burrough Mountain Loop straight after
  3. Skyline Loop Trail (maybe even hit Camp Muir while you’re up there)
  4. Spray Park and Tolmie Peak back to back
  5. Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap
  6. Crystal Mountain Trail
  7. Shriner Peak Lookout Trail

Best Hikes In Mt Rainier With Kids

If you’re visiting the park with the whole family and younger kids are in tow, you still have a ton of hikes you can do together.

We would recommend the following:

  1. Grove of the Patriarchs
  2. Silver Falls Loop
  3. Myrtle Falls via Skyline Trail
  4. Nisqually Vista
  5. Trail of the Shadows

3 Day Mt Rainier Hiking Example Itinerary

Here’s an example of an action packed 3 days hitting the best trails in Mt Rainier National Park.

We think it is just about achievable for experienced hikers and it is logical in terms of location / geography, but there is a lot of hiking and driving involved so it will be tiring.

You can use this as a guideline and change it to make it easier or more difficult based on your hiking preferences / ability.

If possible, try to visit for 3 weekdays in a row, such as Monday through Wednesday to avoid the weekend crowds.

Day 1

  • Early start and drive to Mowich Lake.
  • Hike Tolmie Peak to summit before mid morning.
  • Eat a packed lunch back in the parking lot (no food can be purchased here).
  • Hike Spray Park.
  • Drive down and around to Ashford near Nisqually entrance.
  • Sleep in Ashford or Longmire.

Day 2

  • Hike Comet Falls Trail (optional if fit and want to hike more trails).
  • Stop at Nisqually Falls parking lot and walk down to the viewpoint quickly.
  • Drive to Paradise and hike Skyline Trail before it gets too busy.
  • Walk around Nisqually Vista.
  • Hike Bench and Snow Lakes.
  • Drive down Stevens Canyon road.
  • Hike either Silver Falls Loop or Grove of the Patriarchs.
  • Sleep in Ohanapecosh or Packwood.

Day 3

  • Drive to Chinook Pass and hike Naches Peak Loop Trail to Tipsoo Lake at sunrise.
  • Drive up to Sunrise visitor center.
  • Hike Burroughs Mountain Loop.
  • Then directly join the trail to Mt Fremont a few hours before sunset.
  • Leave the park via Northeast (Enumclaw).

Mt Rainier Passes, Fees and Entrances

You will have to enter Mt Rainier National Park through ranger stations and pay entrance fees in order to reach most of the best hikes in the park.

Entrance costs any of the following:

  • $30 for a 7 day vehicle pass – Best for a one time visit
  • $55 for an annual Mt Rainier pass – Best for those living in Washington
  • $80 for an annual US national parks pass – Best for those who visit national parks often

We buy a new annual US national parks pass each year and consider it a no brainer because we regularly visit national parks. At $80, we save at least a few hundred dollars each year.

Read our guide to the America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass for more information and to see if it is worth buying one for yourself.

Roads running through national park in washington at dusk

Driving Around Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier is an amazing place to hike, but like many national parks it can be a pain in the neck to drive around.

Road surfaces are great for the most part, with the exception of Mowich Lake road to Spray Park and Tolmie Peak trails.

Parking is surprisingly achievable considering how popular the park is, in part thanks to a good amount of parking spaces for the major areas. The only problems you might face are at the smaller hikes with roadside lots.

If you want to visit each region of Mt Raininer to hike as many of the best hikes as possible, you need to allow more time than you think for driving.

Gas stations are located in the following places:

  • Ashford – Southwest entrance
  • Packwood – Southeast entrance
  • Enumclaw – Northwest entrance
  • Greenwater – Northeast entrance

There are signs to warn you of distances until next gas station, please take notice and make sure you fill up when you have chance. A lot of the roads are steep and you will use more gas than usual.

More From Mt Rainier

More Amazing Hikes In Washington


We hope this list of the best hikes in Mt Rainier National Park helps you plan your visit!

Have you hiked in Mt Rainier? Which were your favorite trails?

Please let us know if you need any help planning your trip to Mt Rainier in the comments below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

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