9 Best Things to Do at Mount Rainier National Park

Sunrise Area in Mount Rainier National Park
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Mount Rainier National Park is home to a 14,410-foot behemoth volcano that towers over the 369-square-mile park in every which way. There are so many tremendous things to do at Mount Rainier National Park that it may be tough to pick and choose which you’d like to do.

There are the enormous trees in Grove of the Patriarchs, gigantic and howling Silver Falls, scenic Skyline Trail, the namely Paradise Point, reflecting Tipsoo Lake and so many others.

Views are breathtaking. Day hikes are both challenging and rewarding. Drives through winding roads of the conifer forest slowly take your breath away. Trust me, it’s the views and not the altitude. For anyone who has ever dreamed of going to Mount Rainier National Park to partake in hiking and seek the beauty this place has to offer, I strongly recommend you act on those urges and go!

If you’re wondering what to do at Mt. Rainier, there’s always something for you! Whether you’re visiting for hiking, lakes, waterfalls or splendid scenery, the park always has something to offer each one of you. Here are the nine best things to do at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington!

1. Tipsoo Lake

Tipsoo Lake offers a vastly underrated view of Mount Rainier that many people decide to skip or simply don’t hear about until they visit the park. Ask any employee who works in the 369-square-mile state park, and they’ll tell you to check out Tipsoo. You must be coming from the east or be willing to take a 15-minute detour to see it.

There’s a reason this is first on the list and that’s because it’s the top thing to do in Mt. Rainier National Park that doesn’t require hiking. Do yourself a favor and catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier from this slightly secluded spot with views from beside or above the lake.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: None, just about 200 yards of walking to get to the other side of the lake.

Tipsoo Lake

2. Reflection Lake

Chances are great that you’ve seen a photo of Mount Rainier reflecting off calm waters, set among sweeping green pines that offer a perfectly symmetrical view. Those photos were likely taken at Reflection Lake. Chances are also great that if you visit this lake at the wrong time, you’ll find there are no parking spaces left and a bunch of clouds covering Mount Rainier’s peak.

Still, you must stop by Reflection Lake at least once during your trip to the park. After all, it’s conveniently located about 10 minutes south of Paradise. You’ll want to get there early in the morning because clouds come sweeping in every day around noon and block the pristine view. This will almost guarantee you a parking spot as well, as spaces are extremely limited.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: None

Reflection Lake

3. Fremont Fire Lookout

When it comes to the best things to do at Mt. Rainier National Park that involves hiking, Fremont Fire Lookout is near the top of the list. It offers one of the most breathtakingly diverse and sweeping views of the entire park. It’s one of four fire lookouts remaining in the park and, at just under 7,200 feet, it’s also one of the highest peaks in the park.

Due to the lack of undulations in the trail, the trek is pretty easy until you get to the steep cliff that runs directly to the bottom of the valley. But fear not, the park maintains a great pathway to the lookout. I’d explain the views further, but you may just want to take a look at this panorama I snapped, which is one of my favorite photos from the trip.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: 5.6-mile loop from the Sunrise Visitor Center; Only 2.6-mile loop from Frozen Lake.

Fremont Fire Lookout

4. Grove of the Patriarchs Trail

Grove of the Patriarchs Trail takes you through a winding pathway among 1,000-year-old Douglas fir and western red cedar trees towering above, and across the Ohanapecosh River on a swinging suspension bridge.

Some of these enormous trees have fallen, which gives an even more unique perspective as to how big the world is beyond our two small feet. The loop trail takes you among some of the biggest and oldest trees in the United States!

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: Extremely easy and flat 1.2-mile loop.

Grove of the Patriarchs Trail

5. Silver Falls Trail

Listen to the water crash on smooth rocks as you stand atop a bridge located in the center of the river, taking in subtle rainbows in the misty morning light. Then climb up to the top of the Silver Falls to get a firsthand view of the falling water, sand and erosion caused by thousands of years and millions of gallons of flowing water.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: 3-mile loop that’s fairly easy and flat much of the way.

Silver Falls Trail

6. Sunrise Trail

Whatever you do during your visit to Mount Rainier National Park, you must drive up to the Sunrise Visitor Center to catch a close-up glimpse of the mighty mountain. The views are spectacular! At 6,400 feet, the mountain seems to protrude from the ground and point directly at the pathway.

The winding drive up to Sunrise Visitor Center is hands down the most beautiful drive in the entire park. Steep drop-offs overlook multiple snow-capped peaks that left me in complete and utter awe. I was driving and it was a bit scary, but the sights on that road are truly tremendous!

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: None to the Sunrise Visitor Center; There are many trails to take once you get to the top; The Sunrise Nature Trail is about a 1.5-mile loop and it’s where I shot the following photo.

Sunrise Area in Mount Rainier National Park

7. Paradise

The Paradise visitor center greets you with wildflowers, a warm welcome and fancy “how do you do, mountainly stranger.” Ok, well, maybe it doesn’t say all of that, but it’s a splendid place to visit. They call it Paradise for a reason. With about 643 inches of snowfall each year, it’s a haven for winter sportsmen and one of the snowiest places on earth.

This area is home to the historic Paradise Inn and is famous for its wildflowers and gorgeous views overlooking the snowy mountain peak. Be sure to check out the road status because the road leading up to Paradise is typically closed more than 50% of the year.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: None to the Paradise Visitor Center; There are many trails to take once you get to the top

Paradise Area in Mount Rainier National Park

8. Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is the main trail when hiking toward Mount Rainier from the Paradise Visitor Center. It’s an exquisitely breathtaking hike that takes you through beautiful snow-covered, dirt-and-stone-carved and grassy trails. Keep an eye out for waterfalls flowing with glacier water and the panoramic paradise.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: 5.5-mile loop that can be taxing, cold and snowy. Make sure you don’t do what I did and please wear the proper hiking attire.

Skyline Trail

9. Panorama Point

A perfect payoff for finishing almost the first half of Skyline Trail, Panorama Point offers awe-inspiring views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and even Mount Hood in Oregon. I was flabbergasted by the breathtaking beauty this single point offers. So much so that we decided to break out the packed lunches and craft beers and enjoy the views for a solid 45 minutes.

  • Amount of Hiking Necessary: 5.5-mile loop that can be taxing, cold and snowy. Make sure you don’t do what I did and please wear the proper hiking attire.

Panorama Point

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