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12 Top-Rated Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, WA

Written by Brad Lane
May 4, 2020

Mount Rainier National Park became the fifth national park in the United States in 1899. This acclaimed public space still stands today as one of the most scenic and spectacular national parks in Washington State, if not the entire country. Much of that claim to fame comes from its impressive namesake peak, the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier.

On every side of Rainier (and even on top), adventure awaits for those who want to explore this rugged and enchanting environment.

The best way to experience this national treasure is by trekking on one of the many different hiking trails found within the national park boundaries. The prime hiking season to explore Mount Rainier is between late July and into September.From easy day hikes to the all-encompassing Wonderland Trail, all hiking trails at Mount Rainier National Park provide views of one of the most magnificent mountains in the country.

To get started, see our list of the best hiking trails in Mount Rainier National Park.

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1. Skyline Trail Editor's Choice

Skyline Trail
Skyline Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

One of the most quintessential hiking trails in Washington State, the Skyline Trail circumnavigates the iconic Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park.

The hike begins at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and the adjacent historic Paradise Inn. The Skyline Trail is suitable for all levels of hikers, and the trail becomes very popular in the summer peak season between July and August. During this peak season, a bouquet of wildflowers blossom throughout the mountain meadows.

There is plenty of scenery to share on the 5.5-mile Skyline Trail, and whether you trek clockwise or counter along this well-marked loop, be prepared to stop a few times and admire the world that surrounds you. A close-up view of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier follow this hike the entire way. The hike is punctuated by luscious meadows, cascading creeks, and a chance to see marmots and other wildlife frolicking in the splendor.

Near the midpoint of the Skyline Trail, Panorama Point treats hikers to big views of the neighboring Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood on clear days.

The entire 5.5-mile clockwise loop climbs over two miles in elevation gain and should be considered strenuous. Hikers should check trail conditions before attempting the hike.

2. Spray Park

Spray Falls, below Spray Park
Spray Falls, below Spray Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the northwest side of Mount Rainier, the hike to Spray Park starts from the Mowich Lake walk-in campground. Access to the trailhead requires driving down an unpaved Forest Service Road, and the terrain will test your fitness level. Both factors make Spray Park potentially less busy than some of the other trails in the popular Mount Rainier National Park. The beautiful alpine meadows of Spray Park and the misty 350-foot Spray Falls do see some crowds though.

There are two options to explore the Spray Park Trail, with the first being a six-mile, out-and-back trek to Spray Falls. Departing from the Mowich Lake Campground, this trail passes through a dense forest and climbs a total of 1,300 feet. Hikers pass by a far-reaching viewpoint from Eagle Cliff along the way. The spectacular Spray Falls is a great turnaround point and place to eat a packed lunch.

For more of a challenge, backpackers can approach Spray Park and Spray Falls from the other direction with a 17-mile backpacking loop. The loop starts at Mowich Lake and heads straight up towards Ipsut Pass along the Wonderland Trail. Highlights of this clockwise route include the Carbon River, the Carbon Glacier, and Seattle Park all before trekking through Spray Park.

3. Naches Peak Loop

Naches Peak Loop
Naches Peak Loop

The Naches Peak Loop trail is a family-friendly, moderate loop on the northeast side of Mount Rainier National Park. This popular looped trail starts at Chinook Pass and spends half its time on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The 3.5-mile roundtrip circumnavigates Naches Peak and provides stunning views of wildflower meadows and a beautiful backdrop of Mount Rainier.

Hikers begin by parking their car at the scenic Tipsoo Lake. The 3.5-mile Naches Peak Loop can be tackled by going in either direction, with both ways providing big views of Dewey Lake at the trail's middle point. Clockwise is the most common approach. The hike starts at a high elevation and gains approximately 500 feet either way.

Hit this trail in late July or August for wildflowers, as well as an abundance of other people sharing the trail.

4. Glacier Basin

Glacier Basin
Glacier Basin

The Glacier Basin Trail is a favorite route for climbers looking to ascend the mighty Mount Rainier. The trail is also popular with day hikers who come to see the splendid scenery on the park's northeast side.

This area of Mount Rainier has a mining history before its status as a national park, and evidence of that era can be found underfoot as you follow along an old mining road that leads into Glacier Basin. The hike begins at the upper end of the White River Campground, one of the best campgrounds at Mount. Rainier National Park.

Along the converted trail to Glacier Basin, hikers are exposed to big views of Mount Rainier and an optional side trip to a viewpoint of Emmons Glacier. With minimal elevation gain to begin with, hikers are also treated to lush meadows and forests carved out by the cascading White River.

The trail becomes noticeably steeper as it approaches Glacier Basin Campground approximately 3.5 miles into the trail. This backcountry camping area is a great turnaround point for an adventurous day.

5. Tolmie Peak

Tolmie Peak Lookout
Tolmie Peak Lookout | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Tolmie Peak trail begins at Mowich Lake on the northwest side of Mount Rainier. The 6.5-mile out-and-back hike to Tolmie Peak follows the around-the-mountain Wonderland Trail for the first two miles. It then diverges off Ipsut Pass and follows its own path to the shores of the stunning Eunice Lake. It's a steep half-mile climb up to Tolmie Peak and the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout from Eunice Lake, but the effort is well rewarded.

A stunning view of Mount Rainier awaits visitors to the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. If the wind isn't too severe, Tolmie Peak is a spectacular place to enjoy a packed lunch. The Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout is a designated historic structure and is not available for public use.

6. Summerland

Mount Rainier from Summerland
Mount Rainier from Summerland

One of the most popular trails on summer weekends in Mount Rainier, the Summerland area of the park warrants its big number of visitors. The trailhead is accessible from the White River Entrance, and the parking area routinely fills to capacity. The trail attracts such a crowd thanks to the big views it offers of Mount Rainier, Fryingpan Glacier, and Little Tahoma Peak.

It's approximately an 8.5-mile round trip to reach Summerland and back. Hikers often venture farther as they explore the different trails branching throughout the sub-alpine meadows of the area.

Ambitious hikers can continue farther to Panhandle Gap, and those with permits can set up a tent in Summerland to spend the night. The meadows of Summerland really blossom with color in the summer.

7. Mount Fremont Lookout

Mount Fremont Lookout
Mount Fremont Lookout

Departing from the Sunrise Visitors Center on the northeast side of Mount Rainier, the Mount Fremont Lookout trail takes hikers to the top of one of the last remaining fire lookouts in the park. On clear days, rewarding views of Mount Rainier are offered along this 5.6-mile hike the entire way.

With the Sunrise Visitors Center already at an elevation of 6,300 feet, the round-trip hike to the fire lookout involves less than 1,000 feet of climbing.

From the Sunrise Visitors Center, the route begins by heading west on Sourdough Ridge for 1.5 miles. It then connects with the Mount Fremont Lookout trail for the last 1.3 miles to the lookout. Hikers are exposed to big views the entire way, and if you catch them at the right time, an abundance of mountain goats that call this rugged environment home.

8. Rampart Ridge

Rampart Ridge
Rampart Ridge | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This short loop hike has a trailhead near the Longmire Historic District and the National Park Inn. Mount Rainier makes a dramatic appearance on the horizon at about two miles when the trail tops out at Rampart Ridge.

It's a steady climb to reach the view, with nearly 1,400 feet of elevation gain overall, but the surrounding old-growth forest is a good distraction from the uphill climb.

Heading clockwise on the Rampart Ridge Trail keeps Rainier in forward focus. At the trailhead, the Trail of the Shadows is an easy interpretive trail to stretch the legs. Two prominent viewpoints of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually River Valley occur along the Rampart Ridge trail about halfway through.

The trail connects to the Wonderland Trail to bring hikers back to Longmire.

9. Narada Falls

Narada Falls
Narada Falls

Narada Falls offers a popular photo opportunity at Mount Rainier National Park. Not only because the two tiers of this impressive waterfall cascade for more than 180 feet, but also because the Mount Rainier Highway crosses over the falls, making for an easy approach. While the 0.2-mile hike down to the best viewing platform is universally accessible, the trail has steep moments and is usually wet.

The Narada Falls trail is another popular trailhead in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier. Hikers looking to explore more can continue past the 0.2-mile mark and head towards a dazzling collection of Reflection Lakes. Several looped options open up from here, many of which lead to fantastic vantage points of the Tatoosh Mountain Range.

10. Burroughs Mountain

Burroughs Mountain
Burroughs Mountain

High above the Glacier Basin Trail and the White River, The Burroughs Mountain trail provides a different exposure to the stunning northeast side of Mount Rainier National Park. Accessed from the Sunrise parking area, the Burroughs Mountain trail navigates the barren and beautiful terrain leading to the First and Second Burroughs Mountains. Big and dramatic views of Cascade Mountains line the entire way.

The view of Mount Rainier from the Burroughs Mountain Trail is remarkable, including the immense Emmons Glacier that sparkles in the sun.

One way to use the Burroughs Mountains Trail includes a 4.5-mile clockwise loop that gives hikers a good taste of the area. The loop can be extended by visiting the base of Second Burroughs Mountain. A full day of hiking and breathtaking beauty can be accomplished with an 11.5-mile loop that connects with the Glacier Basin Trail.

11. Grove of the Patriarchs

Suspension bridge to the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail
Suspension bridge to the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail

Just west of the Stevens Canyon Entrance on the southeast side of the park, the Grove of the Patriarchs is a must-visit for families in Rainier. Ancient Douglas fir and western red cedar trees line this 1.3-mile interpretive path, and a boardwalk navigates much of the way. The trail also includes an exciting suspension bridge that crosses the Ohanapecosh River.

With very little elevation gain and generally wide paths, the Grove of the Patriarchs is one of the easiest hiking trails in Mount Rainier. This makes it especially popular for families with small children or strollers. The magnificence of the rest of the park is also presented at Grove of the Patriarchs, though. Anyone who visits feels the immediate impression of these ancient trees.

12. Wonderland Trail

Wonderland Trail
Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is an all-encompassing 93-mile loop that circumnavigates the entire base of Mount Rainier. This bucket-list hike features big elevation changes plus unbelievable landscapes of luscious meadows, dense forests, and wild water systems. The Wonderland Trail connects and shares footsteps with many of the trails mentioned above.

Hikers must obtain a much sought-after permit to trek along the Wonderland Trail and spend the night in the backcountry. The strenuous endeavor of thru-hiking the Wonderland Trail requires an understanding of backpacking skills. It takes most hikers an average of 10 days. The route is filled with steep hiking, and the total trail gains over 23,000 feet of elevation along the way.

Backpackers carry much of their food with them and can mail ahead future supplies to different caches along the trail.

Permits for the trail are in high demand, and backpackers can start applying for the year's allocation in mid-March. The prime hiking season for the Wonderland Trail is from late July to mid-September.

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