15 Reasons to Add Mt. Rainier National Park to Your Bucket List

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Mt. Rainier National Park is a crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest, with its 14,411-foot mountain at the front and center. Gazing upon this incredible peak isn’t the only reason to visit this historic Park, though!

The Park offers amazing hikes to remote alpine lakes, fantastic camping opportunities, waterfalls that will leave you speechless, and historic lodges that will take you back in time. A visit to Mt. Rainier should be on any adventure traveler’s bucket list, and here’s why!

Amazing Camping

An orange tent and a young woman by the Summit Lake trail with Mount Rainier in the distance.
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Mt. Rainier National Park offers incredible backcountry camping opportunities and established campgrounds. The campgrounds are small enough to create an intimate mountain camping experience free from the distractions found at my other spots. You can also grab a backcountry camping permit and head out to a remote lake for an unforgettable national park experience.

Scrambling up Remote Peaks

View from Skyline Trail of Tatoosh Range and Mount Adams at background, Mount Rainier national park, Washington, USA
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The peaks surrounding Mt. Rainier offer unparalleled mountain views and are often far quieter than the trails on Mt. Rainier itself. Many of these trails end up being mere suggestions, as the final scrambles to the top of these remote peaks are too steep for a traditional track. With that comes the solitude that can be, at times, hard to find in this extremely popular Park.

Majestic Waterfalls

Myrtle Falls and Mt Rainier at sunrise. Myrtle Falls is located along Skyline Trail in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park and is reached by hiking the trail 0.5 miles.
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The more than two dozen glaciers that call Mt. Rainier home lead to continuous flows of water cascading down the mountainside. This means that waterfalls are everywhere on the mountain! You’ll pass by falls along the side of the road that would be a tourist attraction at most other parks, but here, they don’t even get a parking spot in favor of other, more majestic options. 

If you only have time to visit a few falls, add Narada Falls, Christine Falls, and Myrtle Falls to your list.

Unforgettable Wildlife

Mt Rainier marmot
Photo Credit: Derek Carlson

Mt. Rainier National Park is home to dozens of species of animals but the biggest tourist draws include black bears, deer, foxes, marmot, and the elusive and adorable pika. 

On the higher stretches of the mountain listen for the distinctive whistles of the marmot and keep your eye on the rocks for the cutest animal you may ever see, the pika. If you’re visiting during berry season keep an eye out for bear as they like these delicious trailside snacks just as much as we do.

Remote Fire Lookouts

Panorama Views At Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout In Mt Rainier National Park
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The American West used to be home to hundreds, if not thousands, of fire lookouts that were staffed by staff trained to spot wildfires before they could grow out of control. Mt. Rainier National Park is still home to one of a few of these remote lookouts and they offer up some of the best views within the Park. 

The trail up to Tolmie Peak Lookout isn’t an easy one at over 7 miles round trip but the views from the lookout are unparalleled. 

Stunning Hikes

Photo Credit: Derek Carlson

Mt. Rainier offers some of the most stunning hikes in the Pacific Northwest. The Skyline Trail is a bucket list hike for its stunning views of glaciers, wildlife, and the upper slopes of this majestic mountain. 

If you’re looking for something a little more mellow, try out the Bench and Snow Lakes trail for a jaw-dropping reflection of the mountain and abundant huckleberries to snack on during the hike.

Incredible Photography

Photo Credit: Derek Carlson

Mt. Rainier offers up some of the most photogenic spots of any national park in the country. From majestic shots of this incredible mountain to lush forest scenery to abundant wildlife, the Park offers a challenge to photographers of all disciplines.

Head to Reflection Lake at sunset to grab an iconic shot of the mountain bathed in evening light reflecting off the lake (hence the name!) The Park’s distance from the Puget Sound metro area also makes it a prime spot for night photography.

Foraging for Forest Snacks

Cinnamon Black Bear Gently Grabs Huckleberries Off Bush
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Mt. Rainier is home to an abundance of edible foods growing within the forests. From chanterelle mushrooms to mountain huckleberries its easy to fill a basket of these forest treats.

Be sure to check the park guidelines for limits on foraging within the Park.

Absolute Solitude

Autumn colors in Mt. Rainier National Park
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If solitude is on your wishlist, then it doesn’t take long to escape the crowds and find some peace and quiet on this massive peak. The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates the mountain and will take you to some of the more remote reaches of the Park, where you may find that it is just you and the wildlife out there.

Historic Lodges

Paradise Inn at sunrise viewing from Skyline Trail, Mt Rainier National Park.
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Paradise Inn was built in 1917 from timber found around the Paradise area on Mt. Rainier. This timber-frame lodge is still open to the public and offers a restaurant and lodging for guests looking for a unique hotel experience. Talented woodworkers handcrafted much of the furniture in the lobby during overwinter stays.

Summiting an Active Volcano

Early morning sunrise as climbers attempt to summit Mt Rainier in Washington
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Standing over 14,411 feet tall, Mt. Rainier challenges alpinists looking to summit this volcanic peak. For most, the ascent is a multi-way climb that requires navigating shifting glaciers, waking up in the middle of the night on summit day, and lugging gear up thousands of feet to high alpine camps.

Once on top though you’ll feel as if you’re on to top of the world with views that go on for miles.

Stunning Wildflower Displays

Summer Wildflowers, Mazama Ridge Mt. Rainier National Park
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The meadows above Paradise produce some of the most vibrant wildflower displays you’ll see anywhere in the world. Avalanche lilly, beargrass, lupin, and penstemon are just a few of the wildflower species found growing on the flanks of Mt. Rainier. The high elevation of these meadows means that in some years, the best flower displays won’t come out until the end of summer.

Star Gazing

Mt Rainier at night with stars at Reflection lake Mt Rainier National park Washington
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Mt. Rainier offers incredible stargazing opportunities and even offers Park Ranger-led events throughout the summer, with telescopes set up to view the constellations in the skies above the mountain. During meteorological events like comets or meteor showers, thousands of night sky watchers will descend upon the Park to look at the darkness of the Park’s night skies.

Snowy Adventures

A female hiker wearing a beanie and bright jacket hiking with her dog on snowy mountains with beautiful Mt Rainier ahead of her
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If you’re looking to cool off during the heart of summer or want to ski or snowshoe during a cold winter day then Mt. Rainier can cure those cravings. The high elevation trails on the mountain hold pockets of snow that will last year round for an impromptu July snowball fight. During the winter months you can snowshoe or ski from Paradise to make some backcountry turns or enjoy the Park in a winter wonderland setting.

Scenic Drives

Mt Ranier and park road in Mt Ranier National Park, Washington. Glaciers and snow are visible.
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Mt. Rainier offers some of the most beautiful drives you’ll find anywhere. The windy park roads reveal stunning sights around every curve, from raging rivers to cascading waterfalls to views of the stunning mountain. The road up to Paradise is a favorite as it offers incredible head-on views of the mountain.15 Reasons to Add Mt. Rainier National Park to Your Bucket List

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest