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23 Best Hikes In Mt Rainier National Park For 2023

23 Best Hikes In Mt Rainier National Park For 2023

Mount Rainier is home to some of the most photogenic hiking trails in the US. After living in Washington for 6 months and exploring every region of this amazing national park, we are going to walk you through the 23 best easy, moderate and hard day hikes in Mt Rainier.

What makes hiking in Mount Rainier so popular?

Hikers in Mt Rainier National Park can expect more than just a skyline dominating stratovolcano. The visually spectacular Mount Rainier landscape is filled lush green meadows, colorful wildflowers, picturesque waterfalls, fire lookout towers and icy blue lakes.

In this guide we will show you:

  • What you can expect from hiking in Mount Rainier National Park
  • Map of the 5 Mt Rainier hiking regions
  • Explanation for each of the 5 regions
  • 23 best easy, moderate and hard day hikes in Mt Rainier
  • Best time to hike in Mt Rainier
  • Example 3 day Mount Rainier hiking itinerary

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

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Table of Contents show

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

Hikers in Mt Rainier can expect a diverse range of well maintained trails, truly beautiful views, wildlife spotting opportunities, easy hikes for beginners and very challenging hikes for the more experienced.

Hiking around the foothills and slopes of the Mount Rainier volcano in the Pacific Northwest is about as good as it gets for lovers of nature and the great outdoors.

Mt Rainier is Kristen’s favorite national park in the US because it is just so incredibly attractive.

It doesn’t matter which region of Mount Rainier you are hiking in, the trail is going to be photo friendly and will inevitably lead to a striking vista.

Views of Mt Rainier are ever-present from hiking trails around the park and those vistas never get old.

Trail marker with distances surrounded by green vegetation and colorful flowers
Skyline Trail hiking distances

What Is The Major Downside To Hiking In Mount Rainer?

There are very few downsides to hiking in Mount Rainier, but there is one major factor we all have to contend with when visiting the national park:

The “open” season for hiking in Mt Rainier is very short.

Each year the window of opportunity for hiking in Mt Rainier lasts for around 2-3 months between July and September.

In 2022, certain hiking areas around Mt Rainier remained closed for longer than usual due to snow falling further into the summer months.

When over 2 million people visit one of the best USA national parks in a such short period of time, you can guarantee the trails are going to be busy.

Tip: If at all possible, we highly recommend you plan to visit Mount Rainier midweek to avoid the worst of the crowds on hiking trails.

Map Of The 5 Mt Rainier National Park Hiking Regions

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

Let’s take a look at the 5 major hiking regions in Mt Rainier National Park:

  • 1. Sunrise – Northeast Mt Rainier
  • 2. Ohanapecosh – Southeast Mt Rainier
  • 3. Paradise – South Mt Rainier
  • 4. Longmire – Southwest Mt Rainier
  • 5. Carbon River / Mowich Lake – Northwest Mt Rainier

The volcano makes driving or hiking directly through Mount Rainier to reach each hiking area impossible.

As a result, you have to drive around the volcano to access the hikes in each region of Mt Rainier. We will cover hiking itineraries later in the guide.

Mount Rainier Wonderland Trail

Mt Rainier’s Wonderland Trail is one of the very best hikes in the US but we are not including it in this guide.


Well, because Wonderland Trail is a 93 mile loop around Mount Rainier that takes anywhere between 6-12 days to complete.

We are only including the best day hikes in Mt Rainier in this guide because they are more accessible and realistic for the majority of visitors.

With that said, hiking the amazing Wonderland Trail is by far the best way to visit and enjoy this incredibly beautiful national park.

The trail essentially passes through almost all of the top Mt Rainier hikes listed in this guide!

Mt Fremont Fire Lookout wide angle photo with rocks in foreground and a spectacular view to the horizon
Mt Fremont Lookout in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier

Summary Of The 5 Mt Rainier Hiking Areas

Let’s take a summarized look at each of the 5 regions you will visit to hike the best trails in Mount Rainier.

We will start in the northeast at Sunrise and head clockwise around the park.

1. Sunrise (northeast)

After Paradise, Sunrise is the second most popular area for hiking in Mt Rainier National Park. It is also the highest part of the park you can drive to at 6,400 ft elevation.

Sunrise is among the best places in Mount Rainier 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.

All three of the Sunrise areas have amazing Mt Rainier hikes included in our list below.

2. Ohanapecosh (southeast)

We personally found Ohanapecosh to be unbearably busy every time we drove through the park, 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. It is also where you will find some of the best trails for families with younger kids at Mt Rainier.

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

3. Paradise (south)

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 for 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 Mt Rainier in June and the Skyline Trail was 10 ft deep in snow, with skiers pouring down the mountainside.

In Summer, Paradise is one of the best places to see wildflowers radiating up the southern face of Mt Rainier.

4. Longmire (southwest)

Longmire is located close to the most used Nisqually entrance. It is the first major region for those entering the park from Seattle and 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. We will spend more time hiking in Longmire next time we are in Mt Rainier.

5. Carbon River (northwest)

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


Well, 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 Tolmie Peak and Spray Park are fantastic hikes and they 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 are looking to escape the crowds of Paradise and Sunrise.

Hiker walking on path flanked by lush green vegetation and mountains in the distance
Kristen hiking through lush green vegetation on the Bench and Snow Lake Trail

Mt Rainier Hiking Trail Map

Would you like to see an interactive map showing the locations of each hike mentioned in this list of 23 best trails in Mt Rainier National Park?

Great! Follow this link to our Mount Rainier Hiking Map.

Once open, click or touch your screen 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 National Park.

Map Key:

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

Looking at the map will help you to build up an idea about the ‘spread’ of hiking trails throughout Mount Rainier National Park.

You can see how isolated the Carbon River / Mowich Lake trails are when compared to the other more popular regions of Mt Rainier.

Mount Rainier summit from the top of Skyline Trail with deep blue sky
Vast glaciers on the south face of Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier Hiking Fees, Passes and Entrances

Visitors must enter Mt Rainier National Park through a ranger station and pay entrance fees in order to access most hikes in the park.

Let’s take a look at fees for single use, passes you can use and each entrance into the park.

Mount Rainier Entrance Fees

How much does it cost to get into Mt Rainier?

Well, if you are just visiting Mt Rainier for a few days, here are the fees you will pay for a 7 consecutive day pass:

  • $30 – single vehicle fee (up to 15 passengers included in one vehicle)
  • $25 – single motorcycle fee (driver and one passenger)
  • $15 – per person fee (includes walk up or bicycle)

Do you need reservations for Mt Rainier?

As of early 2023, you do not need to book reservations for hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. However, we recommend keeping an eye on updates by the NPS in case of changes.

Mount Rainier Passes

Are there any passes available for Mt Rainier?

Here are the two pass types available for visiting Mt Rainier National Park:

  • $55 – Annual Mt Rainier pass (best for those living in Washington)
  • $80 – Annual US national parks pass (best for those who plan to visit multiple parks)

Personally, 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 about America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass for more information and to see if it is worth buying one for yourself.

Does discover pass get you into Mount Rainier?

No, the Discover Pass is for Washington State Parks only and will not be accepted at Mount Rainier National Park.

For more information about Mt Rainier passes and fees, head over to the NPS website.

Mount Rainier Entrances

There are 4 main entrances into Mount Rainier National Park:

  • 1. White River / Sunrise (northeast)
  • 2. Stevens Canyon / Ohanapecosh (southeast)
  • 3. Nisqually / Longmire (southwest)
  • 4. Carbon River / Mowich Lake (northwest)

Which Mount Rainier entrance is best?

Nisqually entrance is the most heavily trafficked route into and out of Mt Rainier National Park. It has the easiest access to major cities in Washington and Oregon, plus it is closest to the popular area of Paradise inside the park.

White River for access to Sunrise has always been the busiest entrance we have seen during our several visits to Mount Rainier.

Tip: If you want to hike any trails in the Sunrise area, we strongly recommend you arrive early before the day trip crowds turn up.

Roads running through national park in washington at dusk
Road running through the Chinook Pass area of Mount Rainier

Can You Drive Through Mt Rainier National Park?

Yes, you can drive through Mt Rainier National Park to access each of the popular hiking regions.

However, it is more of a drive “around” than a drive “through” the park.

Mt Rainier is an amazing place to hike, but like many US national parks it can be a pain to drive around due to congestion and slow narrow roads.

Road surfaces are great for the most part around Mount Rainier, which means your 2WD vehicle can easily access almost all regions.

The one exception is the road to Mowich Lake for hiking Spray Park and Tolmie Peak trails, which is very rough and pothole heavy.

How Long Does It Take To Drive Around Mt Rainier?

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

The drive from Nisqually entrance to Sunrise without stopping is 2 hours.

That time doesn’t even include Carbon River which can only be accessed by going the entire way around the volcano and back in again.

Roads are slow, winding and full of traffic so it takes a long time to get anywhere.

Parking lot at Paradise in Mt Rainier National Park with water on the ground and puffy clouds in the sky
Paradise area parking for Skyline Trail

Parking In Mt Rainier

Parking at the most popular Mount Rainier hiking areas such as Paradise and Sunrise is surprisingly straight forward thanks to a reasonable amount of parking spaces.

However, you will likely run into issues getting parked at less popular hiking trailheads with just a few spaces that fill quickly each day.

The best way to combat disappointment when trying to park at trailheads is to visit midweek, or prioritize your most important hike and park at that specific hike early in the morning.

Most hikes have one single parking area and then nothing even remotely close. So if you can’t find a spot, you either have to wait or give up on that hike.

Are There Any Gas Stations In Mt Rainier?

Yes, you will find 4 gas stations around Mt Rainier National Park located in the following places:

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

There are signs to warn you of long distances until the 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.

23 Best Hikes In Mt Rainier National Park

Let’s get into the list of best hiking trails at Mount Rainier!

How are we ordering the list of hikes?

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 the most popular hiking trails in Mt Rainier as follows:

  • Area of the park – Beginning northeast and working clockwise through southeast, south, southwest and northwest.
  • 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!

Sunrise nature trail sign with hiking distances in an open meadow
Trail signs near Sunrise Visitor Center

1. Sunrise Nature Trail

  • Location: Sunrise Visitor Center
  • 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 short and easy Mt Rainier 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
Frozen Lake with snow in July

2. Frozen Lake via Sourdough Ridge Trail

  • Location: Sunrise Visitor Center
  • 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 in difficulty from the nature trail, but without getting into serious elevation gain territory.

This is a great trail for slower hikers at Mount Rainier who want a bit of action but nothing too strenuous.

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
Kristen at the top of Mt Fremont Lookout Tower

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

  • Location: Sunrise Visitor Center
  • 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 consider it to have arguably the best summit view in the park.

We have to say the Mt Fremont Trail itself isn’t anything to shout about until you get right up to the highest ridge line.

Once you are up, the rest of the trail looks awesome as it curves in a winding approach to Mt Fremont fire lookout tower.

Spectacular views of Mt Rainier and Grand Park await hikers at Mt Fremont lookout tower.

Be sure to climb the ladder, grab some photos and spend time on nearby rocks admiring some of the best 360 degree views in all of Washington State.

Mt Fremont is a very popular sunrise hike in Mount Rainier, but it is also amazing at sunset and night for astrophotographers to capture south facing Milky Way images.

Want to hike Mt Fremont? Here’s our complete guide to hiking Mt Fremont Lookout Trail showing you know exactly what you can expect.

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

4. Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail

  • Location: Sunrise Visitor Center
  • 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 Mount Rainier 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.

From Mt Fremont, the Burroughs look easy enough, but they’re not!

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 mighty north face.

Wildflowers in bloom with sun shining through dense trees
Wildflowers in Mt Rainier National Park

5. Glacier Basin Trail

  • Location: Sunrise White River Road
  • 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 Mount Rainier hiking 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.

Emmons glacier is Mt Rainier’s largest ice sheet and is the largest glacier in the contiguous 48 states.

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

6. Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap

  • Location: Sunrise White River Road
  • 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 Mount Rainier day hike.

You won’t have time for many other hikes if you go as far as Panhandle Gap on the Summerland Trail but it is one of the most popular hikes in Mt Rainier National Park.

Google maps has the trailhead as “Fryingpan Creek Trailhead”, and the full Summerland Trail actually follows the Wonderland Trail for its entirety.

This hike 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.

The meadow 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 has incredible views.

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

7. Tipsoo Lake Loop Trail

  • Location: Sunrise Chinook Pass
  • 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 as it circumnavigates Tipsoo Lake.

You are likely to see photographers with tripods set up all around the lake, on the nearby hills and roadsides above Tipsoo Lake 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
Lake on the stunning Naches Peak Loop Trail

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

  • Location: Sunrise Chinook Pass
  • 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 one of our favorite short hikes 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 Naches Peak Loop clockwise 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 right as the sun is setting, you will have some seriously amazing views. We could have waited but we wanted to be down at Tipsoo Lake for sunset.

Alternatively, hike Naches Peak Looop at sunrise when the eastern slopes of Mt Rainier will be illuminated in soft orange and yellow light.

The best part of this awesome Mount Rainier hiking trail is ending with reflections of the volcano in Tipsoo Lake.

Want to hike Naches Peak? Here’s our complete guide to hiking Naches Peak Loop Trail to Tipsoo Lake in Mt Rainier.

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

9. Grove Of The Patriarchs Nature Trail

  • Location: Ohanapecosh
  • 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 a fantastic family hike in Mt Rainier.

The easy and flat hike has plenty of towering trees to admire, a fun suspension bridge the kids will love and riverside spur trails.

Grove of the Patriarchs was packed when we hiked it and there was a lone line just to cross the suspension bridge, so try to avoid midday on weekends here if possible.

This nature 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
Powerful Silver Falls waterfall in Ohanapecosh

10. Silver Falls Loop Trail

  • Location: Ohanapecosh
  • 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 Mt Rainier hike in this same area is Silver Falls Loop, which leads to a gorgeous waterfall.

Silver Falls Loop is another excellent hike for families visiting Mount Rainier who have energetic kids. There is more elevation on Silver Falls vs the much flatter Grove of the Patriarchs trail.

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 Ohanapecosh Hot Springs into the same hike as Silver Falls.

We suggest hiking every Ohanapecosh trail on your wishlist once you get parked here. As soon as you vacate your parking spot it will be gobbled up instantly.

Hiker on a dusty trail with drop offs and mountain views
Kristen hiking a ridge line in Mt Rainier

11. Shriner Peak Lookout Trail

  • Location: Ohanapecosh
  • 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 Mt Rainier fire lookout towers, you can’t miss hiking the Shriner Peak Lookout Trail.

Shriner Peak Lookout is an extremely quiet and challenging hike. It is borderline a hidden gem because you will more than likely have the trail to yourself.

Be warned, Shriner Peak Trail climbs 3,500 ft in just 4.25 miles one way to the top! This is a monster trail, but it’s another fire tower to add to your Mount Rainier collection.

Wildflowers along Shriner Peak Trail are lovely, but the best time to hike this trail is in fall when the colors change and light up the landscape in an ocean of oranges, yellows and browns.

Kristen looking at mt rainier through a gap on nisqually vista hiking trail easy accessible trail for families and hikers of all abilities
Kristen enjoying the view of Mt Rainier from Nisqually Vista

12. Nisqually Vista Trail

  • Location: Paradise
  • 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 for beginner hikers to experience the famous wildflowers of the Paradise region in Mt Rainier without breaking a sweat.

The short Nisqually Vista loop trail is paved and accessible for all visitors, it has a fabulous viewpoint overlooking Mt Rainier and if timed well, a sea of colorful wildflowers will be in bloom.

We quickly hiked Nisqually Vista 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
Mt Rainier with Myrtle Falls in the foreground

13. Myrtle Falls via Skyline Trail

  • Location: Paradise
  • 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

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

Skyline Trail has variety of options for visitors to experience the lower sections of this famous hike around Paradise Inn, but the short out and back to Myrtle Falls is the most popular.

At the end of a paved 0.4 mile path, you will arrive at the top of Myrtle Falls. Take a 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 which we cover later.

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
Kristen crossing a log on the scenic Bench and Snow Lake Trail

14. Bench and Snow Lake Trail

  • Location: Paradise
  • 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 in the area as we go in order of difficulty around the Paradise area. Bench and Snow Lake Trail is one of the best bang for your buck hikes in Mt Rainier National Park.

Parking can be a challenge at the Bench and Snow Lake Trailhead as there is just a small half moon shaped roadside lot and it is a very popular trail.

The Bench and Snow Lake Trailhead is located right at the top of Stevens Canyon as the road flattens before entering Paradise from Ohanapecosh.

This is not your typical ‘gain elevation to a summit and descend back to the car’ type of hike. Bench and Snow Lake Trail 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 nearby Reflection Lake.
  • 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.

Want to hike Bench + Snow Lake? Here’s our complete guide to hiking Bench and Snow Lake Trail in Mount Rainier.

Snow capped mountain behind a lake and trees
Mt Rainier from Reflection Lake in Paradise

15. Pinnacle Peak Trail

  • Location: Paradise
  • 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 back 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 Trail head out south and back north. But Pinnacle Peak gains far more elevation and provides exceptional Mt Rainier views.

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

The short but steep Pinnacle Peak 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
Kristen soaking up the amazing views from Panorama Point

16. Panorama Point via Skyline Trail

  • Location: Paradise
  • 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

One of the most popular ways to experience Skyline Trail is to simply go up the west side of the loop directly for Panorama Point as an out and back hike.

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 Skyline Trail Loop if you are up to it because the full loop provides far greater views and more trail variation.

However, this direct hike up to Panorama Point may be 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
Gorgeous blue wildflowers on the slopes of Skyline Trail Loop
  • Location: Paradise
  • 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

Skyline Trail Loop is 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 challenging and exciting.

Yes, Skyline Trail Loop is busy and at times ridiculously overcrowded, but there are ways to avoid this.

We made hiking Skyline Trail our Mount Rainier hiking priority and set off hiking anti-clockwise moments after sunrise.

As a result, we didn’t see a single other hiker until we reached the summit. The other hikers had climbed Skyline Trail clockwise from the opposite side to us.

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

Most people hike Skyline Trail Loop clockwise for Mt Rainier views on the way up. However, we decided to go anti-clockwise to give ourselves the best chance at having the trail to ourselves.

Skyline Trail Loop is a tough hike but it is the Mt Rainier hike you should prioritize the highest.

Want to hike Skyline Trail? Read our complete guide to hiking Skyline Trail in Mt Rainier National Park to see a full breakdown of the amazing hike.

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
Close up to the summit of Mount Rainier

18. Longmire Trail Of The Shadows

  • Location: Longmire
  • 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 perfect 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.

Beautiful yellow wildflower in Mt Rainier national park Washington
Yellow wildflower in Mt Rainier National Park

19. Narada Falls Trail

  • Location: Longmire
  • 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 could be considered a Paradise hike but it is well on the way back down to Longmire. Therefore we are including this waterfall trail in the waterfall heavy section of Longmire instead.

Narada Falls can be seen from a large parking lot next to the waterfall. However, we recommend taking on the fun 2.4 miles roundtrip hike with 860 ft elevation loss and then gain for better views.

Be aware the steep Narada Falls Trail can be very slippery when wet.

Hiking trail leading through green vegetation with log blocking the path

20. Comet And Christine Falls Trail

  • Location: Longmire
  • 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

Hiking Comet and Christine Falls Trail in Mt Rainier is unmissable for waterfall lovers.

You get two waterfalls in one awesome 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 double waterfall trail is a very popular hike and has a small parking lot, so arrive early or late in the afternoon to stand a better chance of parking.

View over Longmire region of Mt Rainier national park from a hike
River running through the Longmire region of Mt Rainier

21. Rampart Ridge Loop Trail

  • Location: Longmire
  • 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.

Rampart Ridge Loop Trail begins on the western side of Trail of the Shadows, and ends up joining part of 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.

Rampart Ridge is a solid hike in Longmire but we only recommend it if you have plenty of time on your Mt Rainier hiking itinerary.

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

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

  • Location: Carbon River
  • 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 overall hikes in Mt Rainier National Park.

The trail is picturesque from start to finish and reveals some of the most most attractive views you will find anywhere in Mount Rainier.

Tolmie Peak fire lookout trail is more challenging but also more photogenic than Mt Fremont lookout trail. Mt Rainier is further from Tolmie Peak when compared to Mt Fremont, but Tolmie Peak has a stunning lake in the middle-ground.

The awful road up to Mowich Lake and the fact it is hard to link up with the rest of Mt Rainier from the Carbon River area puts a lot of hikers off hiking Tolmie Peak.

But that means solitude and more chance of seeing wildlife.

Want to hike Tolmie Peak? Read our complete guide to hiking Tolmie Peak Trail in Mt Rainier National Park to see the fire lookout tower and more.

Black bear walking around eating berries in spray park hard switchbacks hike with amazing meadows summit
Black Bear eating berries on Spray Park Trail in Mt Rainier

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

  • Location: Carbon River
  • 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 our top ‘hidden gem’ hike in Mt Rainier National Park.

Most visitors who take on the drive up Mowich Lake want to see Tolmie Peak fire tower and 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 enormous the waterfall was when we arrived at its base.

After a long and grueling switchback ascent you will all of a sudden enter a series of never ending meadows. And the Spray Park meadows are beautiful in both summer and fall.

We saw a black bear eating berries just 30 ft from us in one of the meadows.

The Spray Park Trail can be hiked as far as Observation Rock, or you could even include a huge loop called ‘Around Mother Mountain‘ but this does add on a lot more distance and elevation.

The first few Spray Park meadows are scenic enough and the out and back version is a shorter way to see the best of this lightly trafficked trail.

Want to hike Spray Park? Read our complete guide to hiking Spray Park in Mt Rainier to see more of this hidden gem trail.

Hiker at the top of Mt Fremont Lookout Tower enjoying spectacular distant views to the horizon
Kristen enjoying the amazing hiking in Mount Rainier

Bonus Hikes In Mt Rainier

The fun isn’t over yet!

Let’s take a quick look at 5 bonus hiking trails in Mt Rainier that are perfect for visitors with more time or who have already hiked many of the popular trails listed above:

1. Crystal Peak Trail – Sunrise

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 with a monster climb but ends with special views over Mt Rainier.

We know from other hikers we met that Crystal Peak Trail is much quieter than almost all of the hikes mentioned in this list.

2. Green Lake Trail – Carbon River

If you have more time to spend around the Carbon River area of Mount Rainier, the most popular trail to hike is Green Lake.

The first part of Green Lake Trail is on flat gravel road but eventually you will reach a waterfall and beautiful lake.

Allow 4 – 6 hours for this long 9.5 mile roundtrip trail.

3. Box Canyon + Nickel Creek Trail – Ohanapecosh

We hiked this short and easy paved trail down to a bridge over a rugged narrow gorge and waterfall overlooking Mt Rainier.

The end of Box Canyon 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.

4. Camp Muir via Skyline Trail – Paradise

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

Camp Muir Trail is not to be taken lightly and is rated as very difficult. Only experienced hikers should consider this one on due to technical aspects and lingering snow / ice.

5. High Rock Lookout Trail – Longmire

High Rock is arguably the most dramatic of the 7 remaining fire lookout towers in Mt Rainier National Park.

The awesome looking High Rock Lookout is at the top of our Mt Rainier hiking wishlist.

After driving to the trailhead (set GPS for “High Rock Trail Head” on Google) it is just a 3 mile roundtrip with 1,200 ft elevation to reach the summit and exceptionally stunning views.

High Rock is also another fire lookout to check off!

Mount Rainier National Park in June with Tipsoo Lake covered in snow
Tipsoo Lake at Chinook Pass Mt Rainier covered in snow in June

What Is The Best Time To Hike In Mt Rainier National Park?

The end of July, whole month of August and first week of September are the best times of year to hike in Mount Rainier National Park.

Outside of this timeframe you are risking trail closures and disappointment.

We lived in Washington from April until October and we drove up to Skyline Trail in June thinking it would be open, only to find 10 feet of snow on the trail.

Hiking in Mt Rainier is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. But it is frustrating that the hiking window is so short each year.

You can probably take a chance on visiting right at the beginning or end of the typical hiking season to try getting a quieter day if you live in Washington or northern Oregon.

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

What Are The Bugs Like In Mt Rainier?

In our experience, the bugs in Mt Rainier National Park are bad and at times unbearable.

Bugs are something you might not consider but may turn out to play a big factor in how much you enjoy the best hikes in Mt Rainier.

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

These bugs are persistent, they swarm in big numbers and they relentlessly hover around stagnant water.

We found bugs in Mount Rainier to be 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 limiting total bite numbers!

Hiker on a snowy trail with huge volcano behind
Kristen on the bottom section of Skyline Trail covered in snow

Mt Rainier Hiking Tips

Let’s take a quick look at some of our top tips for hiking in Mount Rainier National Park:

  • Certain roads around Mt Rainier 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 can’t find a spot at a trailhead with less parking, you can always try again after another hike.
  • There aren’t many places to eat around Mt Rainier so be sure to pack a lot of food, snacks, water and electrolyte drinks.

Track Your Hikes In Mt Rainier With Offline Maps

We always track our hikes with one of the best hiking apps on the market.

Gaia GPS is our personal favorite app to create offline maps so we can see exactly where we are on any trail any time, even without cell service.

Having access to offline maps will help with safety on longer trails, backcountry trails or trails with poor signage.

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

Best Easy Hikes In Mt Rainier For The Kids

There are loads of easy Mt Rainier hikes perfect for the whole family with younger or older kids.

We recommend the following trails:

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

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 and instead top out the difficulty chart the minute you arrive by hiking the following:

  1. Mt Fremont for sunrise
  2. Burroughs Mountain Loop straight after
  3. Spray Park and Tolmie Peak back to back
  4. Summerland Trail to Panhandle Gap
  5. Crystal Peak Trail
  6. Skyline Loop Trail (maybe even hit Camp Muir while you’re up there)
  7. Shriner Peak Lookout Trail
Striking views from a hiking trail joined to the Pacific Crest Trail in Mt Rainier national park washington
Stunning views from Naches Peak Loop Trail in Mount Rainier

3 Day Mount Rainier Hiking Example Itinerary

Are you wondering how to piece all of these Mount Rainier hikes together into an achievable itinerary?

Let’s take a look at an example of how you can spend 3 action packed days hitting the best trails in Mt Rainier National Park.

Carbon River – Day 1

  • Early start and drive to Mowich Lake.
  • Hike Tolmie Peak to summit before mid morning.
  • Eat a packed lunch 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.

Longmire, Paradise and Ohanapecosh – Day 2

  • Very early start to hike Comet Falls Trail.
  • 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.

Sunrise – 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 Lookout.
  • Leave the park via Northeast (Enumclaw).

The third day will finish somewhere around 12:00pm – 2:00pm and give you plenty of time to get home after hiking for a long 3 days.

Use this example as a reference to create the perfect Mount Rainier hiking itinerary for your goals!

Mount Rainier Lodging

Paradise Inn lodging in Mount Rainier National Park Washington
Paradise Inn lodging in Paradise, Mt Rainier

Lodging is one of the major problems hikers face when visiting Mt Rainier.

There are just 2 official inns located within Mount Rainier National Park boundaries:

We have just checked prices for rooms in January 2023 and it looks as though the cheapest rooms available are $191.00.

However, we know those rooms book up fast so we strongly recommend you book as far in advance as you can. Once those rooms are taken, prices go up into the $300 and $400 ranges.

If you are not able to book a room at either inn, you will have to find availability at lodging in the tiny villages and towns around Mt Rainier.

Where To Stay Near Mount Rainier

We have rounded up the best places to stay near Mt Rainier to help you find a place to crash in between days hiking in the park.

Here are the top rated hotels near Mt Rainier:

Enumclaw (northwest)

Buckley (northwest)

Ashford (southwest)

Packwood (southeast)

Greenwater (northeast)

Need a campsite in Mt Rainier? Take advantage of our exclusive 30 day free trial of The Dyrt PRO to get reservations at sold out campgrounds with $0 booking fees and gain access to free dispersed camping locations around Mt Rainier. You can try PRO for free, no strings attached!

Best Hikes In Mt Rainier FAQ’s

Let’s finish with some of the most asked questions about hiking in Mount Rainier National Park.

Is Mt Rainier Worth Seeing?

Yes! Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most visually stunning landscapes in the US. Avid hikers from around the world visit Washington every year to hike picturesque trails surrounded by colorful wildflowers and magnificent views over volcanoes.

Are There Grizzly Bears In Mt Rainier National Park?

No, you will not run into any Grizzly Bears when hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. However, there are Black Bears and you stand a good chance of running into one if you hike quieter trails such as Spray Park near Mowich Lake.

Want more Washington content? Head to our Washington Travel Guides to explore National Parks, popular road trips and best things to do around Seattle.

We hope this list of the best hikes in Mt Rainier National Park helps with planning your visit to Washington!

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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