If you are planning a visit to northwest Washington and one of the three amazing National Parks that the state has to offer, it is likely that you are wondering what the best hikes are in Mount Rainier National Park. After all, many of us do not have the time to take on every hike in the park, nor the energy (or the money) to make an expedition to the summit.
If you count up all the trails in Mount Rainier, you’d be surprised to know that there are over one hundred different routes you can take on foot. Narrowing them down to just a few is a challenge, but we decided to take that task on so you don’t have to.
In this article, we have a mix of both easy hikes and more strenuous treks. We’ll even introduce you to the nearly 100-mile Wonderland Trail, which is on our bucket list.
If you’ve been to Mount Rainier and we happened to miss one of your favorite hikes, let us know in the comments section!
WHAT MOUNT RAINIER HIKE IS RIGHT FOR ME?
There are hikes for individuals with all capabilities inside of the park. To help get you started, we put together a few charts to identify the right hike for you.
Here are a few hikes that are on the easy side that you may be interested in. We don’t cover all of them in this article, but for more information make sure you check out the Mount Rainier National Park site.
If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, then check out one of these moderate or strenuous hikes.
Our Mount Rainier National Park Itinerary will help put you in the right direction of how to best spend your time in the park. We cover all the hikes you see here, plus provide info on what to pack, where to stay and what else to do while you are in the area.
SKYLINE TRAIL TO PANORAMA POINT
Skyline Trail to Panorama Point map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Hiking the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point was definitely the highlight of our time in Mount Rainier National Park. While challenging with plenty of elevation gain, this hike features sweeping views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. The hike gets above the tree line so the views are unobstructed.
The hike is about 5.5 miles (round-trip) with a total elevation gain of just over 1750 feet.
Originating from the Paradise area (which is one of the most popular spots in the park), the trail heads up the Skyline Trail. This part of the trail is shared with the same route as those going up to Camp Muir, so you’ll be able to see a few people heavily laden with gear for their summit attempt the next day.
What makes this hike one of the best in Mount Rainier are the wildflowers and waterfalls. The hike heads up past the wildflowers as it parallels the runoff from Nisqually Glacier.
About halfway through the hike is Panorama Point, which has amazing views of Mount Adams and even Mount Hood on the right day!
As the trail descends on the way back you’ll see both the Paradise River, the Sluiskin Falls and Mystic Falls. You may even run into snow if you are visiting in July or earlier.
The final big attraction on this incredible trail is Myrtle Falls, where you will get amazing photos with Mount Rainier in the back. This hike really is a must-do!
The Skyline Trail is reached by heading to the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center near the Paradise Inn in the Paradise area (southwest) corner of the park.
TOLMIE PEAK TRAIL
Tolmie Peak Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Those that make their way to the remote Carbon and Mowich area of Mount Rainier National Park are rewarded with the opportunity to hike to Tolmie Peak. Many consider this to be the best hike in Mount Rainier National Park, but honestly very few people get to this part of the park!
After starting on the banks of Mowich Lake for the first mile, the trail descends slightly. At mile 1.3 the trail starts the climb up to Tolmie Peak. The trail ends at the fire lookout, where the views are truly breathtaking.
The total length of the trail is 5.5 miles (round-trip) with an elevation gain of around 1500 feet.
You may want to bring a swimsuit to swim in one of the two lakes on the hike, but be prepared to be a bit cold!
The Tolmie Peak Trail is in the northeast corner of the park and is reached by driving 17 miles on the dirt Mowich Lake Road.
Mount Rainier from Tolmie Peak, photo taken by Jonathan Miske
COMET AND CHRISTINE FALLS
Comet and Christine Fall Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Near the Nisqually entrance is the hike to Comet and Christine Falls. This 3.2-mile (round-trip) hike is out-and-back and leads to two waterfalls to keep even the most skeptical hikers interested!
After leaving the Van Trump Park trailhead, the trail comes up right up to Christine Falls almost immediately (only about 100 yards from the trailhead). After you take in the view, you’ll head steadily uphill nearly the entire way as you climb over 1200 feet.
There are beautiful views of the river the entire way as you approach Comet Falls. This is a popular hike and is great for hikers who are up for the climb!
The trailhead for Comet and Christine Falls is located 10.5 miles east of the Nisqually entrance on highway 706. Keep your eye out for the Van Trump Park trailhead.
Comet Falls, photo taken by Jeff P
Hike option #1: Just head to Christine Falls and enjoy the view while you have a picnic.
Hike option #2: Continue 1.2 miles if you want to include Van Trump Park and Mildred Point, which has views of the Kautz Glacier.
BURROUGHS MOUNTAIN LOOP TRAIL
Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Sunrise is the highest point accessible in the park by vehicle, at 6400 feet elevation. From just the parking lot there are great views, but if you get out on the trail you are in for a treat! The Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail was our favorite hike in this area.
The loop is just about 6.0 miles long with a total elevation gain of just over 1300 feet. You can start by going from the Sunrise Picnic area onto the Sourdough Ridge Trail if you are hiking counterclockwise. If you want to head in the other direction, get on the Sunrise Rim Trail that is on the southwest side of the parking lot. We enjoyed hiking clockwise, but some say you get better views by hiking counterclockwise. Either way, you are sure to enjoy this hike!
The hike includes a stop by Shadow Lake and Frozen Lake. Both are small, but quite interesting, with small aquatic wildlife gathering in Shadow Lake in particular. There are incredible views of Mount Rainier and the Emmons Glacier. Hike in the morning to have the sun at your back and to get the best images of the mountain.
The trailhead for the Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail is accessed by heading to the Sunrise Area. Expect parking to be challenging if you don’t arrive by 9:00 AM.
Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail
Hike option: Add 2.4 miles (round-trip) by heading to the third Burrough, but be advised that this part of the trail is quite steep!
NACHES PEAK LOOP TRAIL
Naches Peak Loop Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Naches Peak Loop Trail is the favorite of many. This 3.4-mile trail has only 650 feet of total elevation gain.
This is a popular trail that starts on the famous Pacific Crest Trail before meeting up with the Naches Loop Trail. We recommend hiking in the clockwise direction (starting on the Pacific Crest Trail) to get the best views of Mount Rainier as you hike through the subalpine meadows.
At the end of the trail is Tipsoo Lake, which has a short 0.3-mile loop trail that heads around the shore (which we recommend you take as well).
The trailhead starts at Tipsoo Lake, 0.5 miles west of Chinook Pass on Route 410.
Naches Peak Trail, photo taken by Michael Camilleri
MOUNT FREMONT LOOKOUT TRAIL
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Another great hike from the Sunrise Area is the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail.
Departing the Sunrise Area Visitor Center to the north on the Sourdough Ridge Trail, the trail heads west until it gets just past Frozen Lake. This will be the busiest part of the hike, as it shares the same route as the Burroughs Mountain Loop and climbs about 300 feet.
When it splits off to the north near Frozen Lake (at the 1.5-mile point), the trail climbs another 400 feet up to the Mount Fremont Lookout tower. There are incredible views all along, including Mount Fremont to the east and Skyscraper Mountain (and of course, Mount Rainier) to the west.
Be sure to bring your bug spray, as this trail is known for being quite buggy!
The trailhead starts at the upper end of the Sunrise Picnic area at the Sunrise Visitor Center.
Fremont Lookout Tower, photo taken by brewbooks
The Wonderland Trail is an epic 93-mile loop that hits many of the main highlights of Mount Rainier National Park. There are plenty of campgrounds (23 to be exact) along the way for you to split up your trip, but you really have to plan ahead to see if this trail is for you and how far you want to travel each day.
You must have wilderness trail to take the hike. Be ready, as this hike is challenging but incredibly beautiful.
Be prepared with plenty of gear, first-aid equipment and food. And get ready to climb-you will climb over 25,000 feet over the entire distance.
For details and reservations, be sure to check out the Mount Rainier National Park website.
Wonderland Trail, photo taken by pixelgerm
GROVE OF THE PATRIARCHS TRAIL
Grove of the Patriarchs Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is perhaps the most popular hike in the park. As it is 1.2-miles (round-trip), shaded nearly the entire way and has less than 60 feet of elevation gain, the hike really is a good one for families and anyone seeking shelter from the heat.
The hike is an easy stroll along the river and features Cedar, Douglass Fir and Western Red Cedar trees. After the first part of the trail, you’ll reach a narrow suspension bridge which the kids really enjoyed crossing. On the other side is a small boardwalk loop that really gets you immersed in the forest.
On the way back, we stopped by the Ohanapecosh River to take a break and relax before crossing the suspension bridge and heading back to the parking lot.
The trailhead for the Grove of the Patriarchs is located in the Ohanapecosh area of the park. Be prepared for parking to be a challenge, as the parking lot is small.
Grove of the Patriarchs trail
FURTHER INFORMATION ON MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- If you get a chance, we recommend downloading our itinerary for Mount Rainier National Park. We cover what to pack, what to see in the area and tips on where to stay.
- Check out our extensive selection of National Park posters, including our poster for Mount Rainier National Park.
- If you love vintage posters, we can create one for you from a photo that you send us! Check out our custom, vintage style travel posters that we make just for you!