One of the oldest national parks in the United States, Mt. Rainier National Park was established in 1899 to preserve the wilderness surrounding Mount Rainier, an active volcano standing 14,410 feet (4,392 meters) above sea level. Encompassing 369 square miles (956 square kilometers) of old-growth forests and other protected land, it’s a must-do for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park draws locals from Seattle and visitors from around the globe who come to hike among wildflowers meadows, take in the glacial scenery of the Pacific Northwest, and spot wildlife such as elk, black bears, and mountain goats.
The park is often visited on a day trip from Seattle; it’s about two hours by road each way. Private, group, and small-group tours typically include trips to the park visitor center, scenic lookouts for viewing attractions such as Christine Falls, and additional locations for photo ops of Mount Rainier and other sights. Camping and lodging can be found inside and outside the park for those who want stay overnight. The entrance fee is charged per vehicle, unless you walk or bike in, in which case the charge is per person.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Day trips from Seattle typically last about 10 hours, so prepare for a long day.
- The Longmire, Sunrise, and Paradise areas of the park offer visitor information, special permits, gift shops, dining, and other services.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes; even if you’re not planning to hike, you’ll likely take short walks to reach viewpoints.
- Pets are allowed in limited areas but must be on a leash.
- Helmets are required when biking.
- There is no gas available in the park, but gas stations can be found in nearby towns.
How to Get There
The park is located in southwest Washington, less than 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Seattle. Of the four entrances (Carbon River, Nisqually, Stevens Canyon, and White River), Nisqually is the most popular with the easiest access to facilities and trailheads.
When to Get There
The park is open year-round, but some areas close in October or November for winter and spring, including Sunrise, White River, Ohanapecosh, Stevens Canyon Road, and State Routes 410 and 123. July and August are the busiest months, when wildflowers bloom, waterfalls flow, and the hiking trails are the most accessible.
If you only have the time or desire to visit one area of the park, make it Longmire, accessed from the Nisqually entrance. A national historic district, it’s home to the Longmire Museum, the Wilderness Information Center, and the National Park Inn. Scenic attractions accessible from Longmire include Christine Falls, Glacier Bridge, Narada Falls Trail, and Ricksecker Point Road, which offers views of Mount Rainier.