The Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park You Cannot Miss

After hiking throughout Washington state every summer, I have to admit that Mount Rainier National Park has some of the best hikes in Washington.

Located only about 2 hours away from Seattle, Mount Rainier is one of the most popular national parks to visit in Washington State. During the summer time, Mt. Rainier is not only blessed with amazing weather, beautiful wildflowers, lush forest but all the great hikes are open.

I had researched a ton about Mt. Rainier after seeing all the amazing photos and I am glad to say that I was not disappointed when I visited! The hikes were even better than I had read and it was amazing to be able to see Mt. Rainier on all the hikes from all different angles. In this blog I will go over some of the best hikes in Mt. Rainier and share why you simply cannot miss these hikes.

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General Information on Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park was established in 1899, making it one of the oldest national parks in the US. Mt. Rainier is an active volcano and the highest peak in the Cascade Range and it has numerous glaciers, waterfalls, alpine lakes, subalpine meadows and 260 miles of hiking trails.

There are 5 major areas in Mount Rainier National Park, with the 2 most popular ones being Paradise and Sunrise, receiving the most number of visitors every year. The other areas include Longmire, Carbon River/ Lake Mowich and Ohanapecosh. Because of the vast size of the park, we spent more than a few days in order to explore all different areas of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Mt. Rainier National Park Map

What is the best time to hike Mount Rainier National Park

I think the best time to hike Mount Rainier National Park is from July to early October, when the roads are open and free of snow. During the winter time a lot of the roads are closed, cutting off access to trailheads. When we visited during peak summer month of July and August, we saw the wildflowers blooming in the park, making the hikes much more enjoyable.

For more information on the road conditions inside Mount Rainier NP, visit the official website or Twitter account.

For information on trail conditions (which I highly recommend you check before visiting), check this website.

I would also advise checking weather conditions before you head to the trail as most trails are above 5000 feet in elevation.

You Need Reservation for Mount Rainier This Summer

Like other popular national parks, Mount Rainier now requires a timed entry reservation in order for you to access Paradise and Sunrise.

  • May 24 to Sep 2 is when reservation is needed to enter Paradise from 7am to 3pm
  • July 4 to Sep 2 is when reservation is needed to enter Sunrise from 7am to 3pm

If you enter the park before 7am or after 3pm, you won’t need this reservation.

For more information on Mt. Rainier reservation, see the official nps website.

Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park For Hikers

Skyline Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 5.5 miles loop
  • Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 1700 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Location: Paradise

If you only have time to do one hike in Mount Rainier National Park, Skyline Trail is that trail. I literally think Skyline Trail is THE best trail in Mount Rainier National Park (and of course the best hike at Paradise at Mt. Rainier). This amazing trail has a little bit of everything: breathtaking view of Mount Rainier, subalpine meadow, wild flowers, waterfalls, and glaciers.

Located right next to the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise (with a huge parking lot + overflow parking lot), the Skyline Trail is the most popular trail at Mt. Rainier. Glacier Point and Panorama Point are the two most popular photo spots on the Skyline Trail after a long uphill hike, but you can enjoy a picnic lunch there before hiking down.

Skyline Trail is a loop, so you can do the trail either clockwise or counter clockwise. Clockwise means the trail is steeper but the steep part is shorter; counter clockwise means you will have a longer (by 1 mile) but more moderate uphill.

Skyline Trail Mt. Rainier

Either way you will have Mount Rainier in front of you as you hike uphill. We did clockwise to get the harder steeper part out of the way first, then we were able to enjoy a nice downhill hike among wildflowers.

Since Skyline Trail is such a popular trail, if you are planning to hike on the weekend in peak summer season, you should aim to arrive by 7am. We stayed at Paradise Inn right next to the trailhead and the parking lot was full by the time we started hiking at 7:30am on a Saturday in July.

Wild flowers on skyline trail in mt. rainier

Pinnacle Peak Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 1050 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
  • Location: Paradise

Pinnacle Peak Trail is a beautiful hike that starts on the south side of Reflection Lake. The trail is a popular (but not too crowded) moderate to steep uphill hike. The hike features a tarn and beautiful wildflowers (during peak summer season).

The hike goes up to the saddle with amazing view of Mt. Rainier and the surrounding peaks but you can also rock scramble/climb up to the peak (500+ feet more). However if you don’t feel comfortable climbing rocks or scramble, you should not attempt to go to the peak.

You should bring bug spray on this trail but once you are on top there shouldn’t be too many bugs. Poles are also recommended for this hike as it gets quite rocky the second half of the hike. The Pinnacle Peak trail also tend to have snow on it even in July, so if you want to do this trail it may be better to wait till second half of July to make it a bit easier.

Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 1400 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Carbon River/ Mowich Lake

Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail is a moderately strenuous trail at Sunrise in Mt. Rainier and it was the first hike we did at Mt. Rainier and actually one of my favorites. The trail traverses through 2 lakes and leads to an amazing view of Mount rainier and Eunice Lake.

We started the hike near Mowich Lake and then we continued uphill through the forest to Eunice Lake (about 2.4 miles). The last 0.9 mile from Eunice Lake to the fire lookout is an exposed and moderately steep uphill.

Mowich Lake at Tolmie Peak hike in Mount Rainier

As we climbed up to the fire lookout we started to get incredible view of Mt. Rainier on the right hand side, making the uphill hike more enjoyable (I typically hate uphills). We also also passed by some wildflowers near Eunice lake during peak blooming season and it was really nice.

When we went in late July, there were A LOT of mosquitoes on this hike (if you stop for one second 50 of them would land on you). Make sure to bring bug spray and perhaps purchase this mosquito head net (we saw a lot of people use them).

Tolmie Peak Lookout Hike at Mt. Rainier

We did find fewer mosquitoes when we climbed all the way up to the actual fire lookout but even the area right under the lookout had a lot of mosquitoes so you probably wouldn’t see too many people staying up there for long. The friends I hiked with actually each got 30-50 bug bites during the hike, so make sure to wear thick leggings and perhaps a rain jacket so bugs can’t bite through that.

You can read more about this hike on my Tolmie Peak trail guide.

Fremont Fire Lookout Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 1000 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Sunrise

The Fremont Fire Lookout Trail is another super trail in Sunrise part of Mt. Rainier NP (and that’s why we went!) The trail starts near the Sunrise Day Lodge parking lot. We first hikeed on the Sourdough Ridge Trail towards Frozen Lake (a pretty cool glacier lake that’s mostly frozen throughout the year).

After frozen lake the trail splits into the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout Trail and the Burroughs Mountain Trail (another super popular trail with amazing view of Mt. Rainier).

Fremont fire lookout hike

The trail from Frozen Lake is about 1.3 mile along a narrow rocky ridge until we reached the historical fire lookout, one of the only 4 remaining fire lookouts in Mt. Rainier. From the fire lookout we got an incredible view of Mt. Rainier as well as other peaks in the Cascade range.

Sunrise and sunset times are particularly popular for this hike and I would highly recommend aiming for those time for this hike (but you may have to battle the crowds during sunset). Most of the hike is exposed so make sure to bring sunscreen and a hat. We didn’t encounter too many bugs on this hike thankfully.

Mt. Fremont lookout mt. raininer view

Comet Falls Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 3.8 mile round trip 
  • Hiking Time: 3 hours
  • Trail Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Longmire

Comet Falls is a 320 feet tall waterfall in the Longmire Area. It is one of the highest waterfalls in Mt. Rainier NP so it’s a pretty popular hike. The first time I heard about Comet Falls was actually through Tiktok. The waterfall looked so big so I was determined to figure out which hike it was.

The Comet Falls hike continuously goes uphill and the last 0.8 miles are a lot of steep switchbacks. The trail often switches back between forest and openings and it can be pretty rocky. But on the Comet Falls hike you will catch sights of mini waterfalls, pools, creek, etc.

At around the 1.7 mile mark you are supposed to cross a bridge but that the bridge is out so you have to cross on a couple of logs.

The official Comet Falls trail map at the start of the trail advises that you turn around but most people end up crossing on the logs with the help of hiking poles (some do turn around because they are scared to walk on these logs).

When you finally reach Comet Falls, be prepared for the sprays! I suggest wearing a rain jacket if you don’t want to get really wet.

You can continue to Van Trump Park from Comet Falls trail at the Mildred Point Junction. The trail to Van Trump Park is quite steep if you want to do it, but you will have an amazing view of Mt. rainier 

Comet falls Trail Mt. raininer - Best Hikes at Mt. Rainier national Park

Snow Lake/Bench Lake Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 2.5 mile round trip
  • Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
  • Trail Elevation gain: 700ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Paradise

The Bench and Snow Lake Trail is a nice hike located near Reflection Lake in Paradise that will take you to 2 beautiful subalpine lakes. The best time to hike this trail is after mid July when the lakes are fully melted and there’s not a lot of mud on the trail.

Starting at a small parking lot, the Bench and Snow Trail has a number of up and downs across a number of ridges. You reach Bench lake after 0.75 miles then it takes another half mile to Snow Lake.

There is a moderate amount of climb from the start to Bench Lake, and from Bench Lake to Snow Lake you first go downhill then gain the elevation back.

Bench Lake Mt. Raininer

There are a lot of wild flowers on the trail in peak summer season and blueberries and huckleberries in late summer and fall.

Be warned that there are a lot of mosquitoes on this hike and at the lakes so make sure to bring bug spray and wear long sleeve/ long pants.

Best Easy Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park For Families and Non-Hikers

Myrtle Falls Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Hiking Time: 30 minutes
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy, Family Friendly
  • Trail Location: Paradise

Myrtle Falls is part of the Skyline Trail but it can be done separately for those that do not want to hike the Skyline Trail. It is one of the best short hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park.

It is an easy family friendly trail on a paved road (stroller friendly) that leads to a bridge with the view of a waterfall and Mount Rainier in the background.

If you want the best photo with no crowd, I highly suggest going super early in the morning or around sunset. While we were hiking down from Skyline Trail around noon the falls was super crowded. We didn’t feel comfortable being around so many people so we went back at sunset and there was nobody.

Myrtle Falls Mt. rainier

Nisqually Vista Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 1.1 miles loop
  • Hiking Time: <1 hour
  • Trail Elevation Gain: <200 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy, Family Friendly
  • Location: Paradise

Nisqually Vista Trail is another very easy and short family friendly trail in Paradise that is very close the Skyline Trail.

The Nisqually Vista hike starts in the overflow parking lot in Paradise (you can also walk 0.3 mile over from the Jackson Visitor Center). The trail is mostly flat with some short uphill. On the trail we saw wildflowers, Mount Rainier and a few nice view points. We thought this “hike” was pretty relaxing since there is no crazy ups and downs.

Nisqually Vista Trail Wild flowers

Grove of the Patriarchs

<Updated May 2024> Grove of the Patriarchs is still closed due to damage to the bridge from flooding. This trail is not expected to open until 2028 when the bridge is replaced.

  • Hiking Distance: 1.1 miles
  • Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 500 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Ohanapecosh

The Grove of the Patriarchs trail is probably one of the best and easiest hikes for families in Mount Rainier National Park. The hike is very short and flat, and you will be hiking through a large old-growth forest to a short suspension bridge.

bridge of grove of the patriarchs

We started the hike not knowing what to expect as we walked through the forest. Soon we crossed the suspension bridge and arrived at a small island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River. We then walked on a boardwalk loop amongst Douglas-fir, red cedar trees and other tall and old trees.

Boardwalk at Grove of the patriarchs

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead and it does get very popular during the day. We saw a lot of families with small children during the hike. The kids especially love the suspension bridge and the river. We didn’t see that many bugs on this trail even in the late afternoon.

Grove of the Patriarchs Mt. Rainier

Naches Peak Loop Trail

  • Hiking Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 500 ft
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Sunrise

The Naches Peak Loop Trail is an easy trail at Mount Rainier that we did while visiting Tipsoo Lake (which is known for its wildflowers in the summer).

Naches Peak Hike view of Mt. rainier

The loop starts in the Tipsoo Lake parking lot and took us through subalpine meadows, wildflower fields and a couple of lakes. We saw incredible views of the peaks in the Cascade range as well as Mt. Rainier.

Since Naches Peak trail is a loop, I strongly recommend doing this loop clockwise and visit Tipsoo lake last. The reason for this is that about half way of the hike, you will have a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier right in front of you (if you do the loop counter clockwise Mt. Rainier will be behind you).

Lake at Naches peak hike

Early morning or late afternoon are both good times for this hike as the hike is mostly exposed. When we went around 2pm it was incredibly sunny and hot, but still pretty nevertheless.

Best Hikes Near (Outside of) Mount Rainier National Park with Epic Views

There are a couple of really nice hikes right outside of Mt. Rainier National Park with super epic views of Mount Rainier. We didn’t have time to do these hikes but in case you have time, check out the Summit Lake Trail and High Rock Lookout.

The Summit Lake Trail is a very popular 6 mile round trip hike with 1300 ft elevation gain. You will have a beautiful view of Summit Lake as well as Mt. Rainier. However this is a super popular hike so if you are planning to go there on a weekend you should consider arriving VERY EARLY. Bring bug spray with you. You will need a Northwest Forest Pass for this hike.

The High Rock Lookout is a 3.2 mile round trip hike with 1350ft elevation gain. It’s another fire lookout with an incredible view of Mt. Rainier. It’s a short hike but pretty strenuous due to the uphill. Bring bug spray as there are a lot of bugs there in the summer.

What do I need to bring to hike Mount Rainier National Park?

Most of the hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park are not super strenuous, but you should always be prepared for sun exposure, bad weather and rocky trail conditions. Here is what I would recommend to bring on any hike in Mt. Rainier:

  • Water and snack: I would suggest at least 1 – 2 liters of water depending on the hike. I generally use a hiking backpack with a hydration pouch making it a lot easier to drink.
  • Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses: Many of the hiking trails in Mt. Rainier NP are exposed and it can be very sunny and hot. I personally love this sunscreen.
  • Hiking Shoes: You don’t NEED hiking shoes on most trail in Mt. Rainier but I always suggest hiking shoes for comfort, support and traction
  • Hiking Poles I personally used hiking poles on 2-3 trails in Mt. Rainier. There are some steeper uphill parts on some of the hikes I mentioned above so poles are definitely helpful
  • Mosquito head net: Never in my life have I seen these, but we saw so many people with this head net on some of the hiking trails in Mt. Rainier in the summer. The mosquitoes are CRAZY on the Tolmie Peak hike and Bench & Snow Lake Trail in the summer. I would definitely recommend this on these hikes. If you want to be more protected, perhaps get the Mosquito suit to provide your body and arms.
  • Camera, with wide angle lens for some of the landscape shots. I personally use a Sony Alpha a7iii with a Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 lens but even an iPhone can take amazing photos in Mt. Rainier NP since the landscape is amazing

What other information do I need to know before hiking Mount Rainier National Park?

Park Pass

To visit Mount Rainier National Park, make sure you have either the Mount Rainier National Park pass (annual or single vehicle one) or America the Beautiful Pass which covers national parks and national forests.

If you are just visiting Mount Rainier and no other national parks, then single vehicle pass (lasts 7 days) may work the best for you. We bought ours online and printed it out but you can buy them at REI or at the entrance booths in Mount Rainier.

For more information on the park passes, visit the official website here.

Do I need to bring bear sprays to Mt. Rainier? Are there bears at Mt. Rainier?

I had debated whether to bring a bear spray or not before visiting Mount Rainier. There are many wild life species like bears at Mt. Rainier National Park.

However after reading several forums we decided not to since we were going peak summer and the trails were going to be quite busy.

While we were at Mt. Rainier, we did not have any bear encounters, but we also hiked on the most popular and crowded trails at Mt. Rainier. If you plan to hike less popular trails or if you simply just want to be cautious, then I would recommend bring bear spray to Mt. Rainier.

We bought the bear spray at REI in Seattle (and ended up returning it unopened). We did see other animals like deer a few times during our hikes.

For more information on wild animal safety in Mount Rainier, check here.

Are there bathrooms on the trails at Mt. Rainier?

I am always worried about access to bathrooms on my hiking trips but it was actually kinda hard to find this information when I was planning the trip.

I am happy to say that most major trailheads in Mt. Rainier National Park has a bathroom with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. On the Skyline trail there was another bathroom at Panorama point (no hand sanitizer).

In general it’s always good to bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you just in case the facilities don’t provide these.

Parking in Mt. Rainier

Almost all of the hikes I mentioned above at Mount Rainier NP have some sort of parking lot: some can fit hundreds of cars while others may only fit 20 or less.

If you want to hike at the most popular trails (like Skyline Trail or Mount Fremont Fire Lookout), I highly suggest you arrive really early or really late especially on the weekend (like before 7am or after 3pm) to secure a parking spot.

Otherwise you may have to either park in the overflow parking lot or on the road and walk an extra mile to the trailhead.

Is it crowded at Mt. Rainier?

I cannot say for other seasons but during peak summer months you should expect crowds, especially at Mt. Rainier view points (or at lakes or waterfalls that don’t require hiking). Even during Covid (or maybe especially during Covid), people are bringing their family to visit the national parks, so it is especially crowded and it is almost impossible to practice social distancing.

Skyline Trail and Myrtle Falls are probably the most crowded places at Mount Rainier in late July. Other trails like the Grove of the Patriarchs and Fremont Fire Lookout trail also had a good number of people also. Reflection Lake parking lot was completely full during the day (but pretty empty during sunrise and sunset).

All the lodges and stores also were very crowded. If you are visiting during peak summer month, be prepared for the crowd and potentially no parking if you arrive later than 8am.

Dining and Accommodation options in Mt. Rainier National Park

There are a couple of lodges that sell food inside Mount Rainier National Park and there are a few restaurants and grocery stores outside of Mt. Rainier National Park. Some of the lodges inside Mt. Rainier also provide accommodation.

Do I need reservations For Mt. Rainier National Park?

Fortunately you do not need a reservation to visit Mt. Rainier National Park (unlike Yosemite), but you do need to have a park pass to visit.

Hotels Inside Mt. Rainier National Park:

  • Paradise Inn: Paradise Inn is a historical lodge inside Mt. Rainier National Park in Paradise. There is a cafe that’s open from 6am that sells sandwiches, pastries, coffee, ice cream, etc (they have a microwave). There is also a dining room that’s open for sit down dinner and take-out (during Covid) for hotel guests. Paradise Inn is right next to the Skyline Trailhead, so it is EXTREMELY popular and convenient. We had booked our suite at Paradise Inn 3 months before the trip and it was almost sold out. So if you want to stay here, book early and expect high prices!
  • National Park Inn: National Park Inn is the other historical lodge in Mt. Rainier National Park in Longmire. There is NO cafe at National Park Inn but there is a dining room that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Again, if you want to stay here, book months in advance as there are only 2 lodges inside Mt. Rainier National Park so they are gone really fast.
  • Sunrise Day Lodge: Sunrise Day Lodge is a gift shop that sell some pre-made food (mostly drinks, snacks and not really hot food as of August 2021). It’s convenient for when you hike Mt. Fremont Fire Lookout Trail and other trails in Sunrise but don’t expect to get too much cafe food from this location.

Hotel Outside of Mt. Rainier National Park

  • Crystal Mountain Resort: Crystal Mountain Resort is technically outside of Mt. Rainier National Park but it’s quite close to Sunrise. There are a lot of dining options at Crystal Mountain Resort that’s better than any food options inside the park. We stayed at Crystal Chalet, which had a kitchen, so we were able to cook our own food.
Crystal Mountain Restaurant view of Mt. Rainier

  • Ashford/ Packwood: Both town of Ashford and Packwood offer accommodation and restaurants and they are not too far from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. For restaurants you can check out Wildberry Restaurant (American & Himalayan food) and Copper Creek Restaurant (American) in Ashford. We also liked White Pass Taqueria (Tacos) in Packwood.

    During peak summer months, these restaurants can be quite full so expect a wait during dinner time. Packwood also has a super market if you want to stock up on food for your hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park.
  • Camping: Camping is a very popular option for those who want to visit Mt. Rainier but don’t want to pay a lot for accommodation. For more details on camping, check here.

Other Mount Rainier Travel Guides

To help you plan the perfect Mount Rainier trip, I have a number of helpful blogs on the various hikes in Mount Rainier. Be sure to use them to plan your Mount Rainier holiday now!

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The best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
The most amazing hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park
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