Entrance Sign to Mount Rainier National Park Washington

Where is Mount Rainier National Park

Located in west-central Washington State and encompassing 200 miles of the great outdoors along the Cascade Mountain Range, Mount Rainier National Park is settled in a region near multiple major US cities; Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima and Portland.  Due to the dynamic nature of areas in and  around Mount Rainier US National Park, it is always important to check the road status as you plan a trip.  Twitter is the best place to receive up-to-date closures due to weather and volcanic activity.

How Big is Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park encompasses 236,381 acres of forested and mountain splendor with 97% preserved as wilderness. The focal point of the Cascade Mountain Range is Mount Rainier, itself, which sits at 14,411 prominent feet above sea level.  With over 1.5 million visitors each year, Mount Rainier National Park is the nation's fifth national park and one of the most popular on the western coast.  With 26 major glaciers at its feet and two volcanic craters on top, Mount Rainier makes this national park a unique and awe-inspiring location to visit.

Mount Rainier National Park Weather

If it is known for its glaciers, you must expect that the weather at Mount Rainier can be quite chilly year-round.  Lower elevations provide warmth in spring and summer months, but Mount Rainier is a big mountain and weather conditions can change quickly. Be sure to check the weather reports for the area of Mount Rainier you plan to visit before you pack your daypack and set off on your adventure.   From the spectacular heights of Mount Rainier to the hidden depths of old growth forest, Mount Rainier National Park has much to discover during every season for visitors who come prepared for anything.

View of Mount Rainier With Pink Sunset in The Cascade Range Washington

When did Mount Rainier Become a National Park

Evidence of human activity near what is now Mount Rainier National Park was discovered to be during the prehistoric times between 4,000-5,800 BP.  Later it became home to Native American tribes until the US entered into treaties in 1854.  On March, 2, 1899, President William McKinley authorized the creation of Mount Rainier National Park as the first national park created from a national forest.  Later, in 1997, the park was designated as a National Historic Landmark due to its rustic architecture style found in the Paradise Inn that remains a popular lodging option for park visitors.

Things to do in Mount Rainier National Park

With almost an entire park designated for untouched wilderness, a visitor could wander for days just taking in the mountain, wildflower and snow-covered views.  Little has changed inside of Mount Rainier National Park since prehistoric days so perhaps you will find a new treasure to enjoy around every turn.  Our National Park Visitors Guide has outlined some of the fun adventures below.

Explore National Historic Landmarks

There are 44 properties, structures and districts listed on the National Register in the park.  Four of these are National Historic Landmarks.  Grab a map and explore areas such as Paradise, the most popular, Longmire or Sunrise for a taste of history and beauty.


Enjoy cycling on park roads.  From September to early October, vehicles are less and fall colors excite the senses.  Though allowed, it is more challenging to cycle during summer months when crowds are large because bikes are not permitted on trails.


Mount Rainier, with its glaciated peak, is a great challenge for enthusiastic mountaineers and many each year hope to claim the fame of successfully climbing an active volcano.  Always come prepared and check route and road conditions before visiting.

Discover Wildflowers

Peak bloom depends on the weather patterns of the year, but Mount Rainier’s renowned wildflower meadows often bloom from mid-July to the first of August.  A visit to the park to view wildflowers is equal to an east coast fall foliage journey that you need to experience once in a lifetime.


The park is dedicated to fish and aquatic ecosystem conservation.  That being said, fishing is allowed within the Mount Rainier National Park.  Check online for updated information released by the park concerning fishing regulations to best prepare for a day of fishing with family and friends.

Wilderness Hiking/Camping

With 260 miles of maintained trails to choose from, a day of hiking or even an overnight stay in the backcountry is possible for visitors with every level of trail experience.  Be safe.  Don’t feed the wildlife.  Stay on the trails.  Remember that a permit is required for overnight camping. 

Ranger-led Programs

Presentations, guided walks and campfire programs are a long-standing tradition for all ages.  These are free to all visitors and schedules are posted each season throughout the park.

Winter Recreation

The winter season of December-mid March brings many unique outdoor activities to the park such as sledding, 2-hour, guided snowshoe walks, skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.  Sufficient snowpack is required to protect the environment, but as soon as it gets deep, come ready to play!  Always check online for more details and for backcountry wilderness permit information.

View of Natural Cascades in the Alpine Wilderness of Mount Rainier National Park Washington

When to go to Mount Rainier National Park

Open 365 days a year depending on weather conditions, a visit to Mount Rainier National Park is always a good idea.  Entry fees are nominal and serve to keep the park serviced to the highest level possible.  Certain roads and trails are often closed throughout the park due to weather or high capacity.  Twitter is a great place to check for the most recent closures.  So, whether you enjoy warm walks in the sunshine while viewing the wildflowers or exploring the 40+ national historic landmarks within the park gates or winter adventuring along snow covered paths is more your style, this gorgeous National Park has something for everyone. 

Must-Have Things to Bring to Mount Rainier

Before packing your car and daypack, check the weather conditions for the day and make sure you come prepared for all of the potential weather changes that might occur while at the park.  List of Parks highlights some of the items you should consider bringing.

Snow Equipment

For an enjoyable snowshoe walk or any snowy adventure, you will need supplies such as sleds, snowshoes, skis, hat, gloves, boots, sunscreen and sunglasses.  If taking a guided adventure, snowshoes can be rented at the Longmire General Store.

Outdoor Gear

Always bring the correct outdoor gear to assure your time at the park an enjoyable one for the entire family.  It is no fun to arrive and realize you forgot something that would make your day its best.  Hiking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottles and bug spray are all important things to carry in for a day at the park. 


You may need binoculars just to view the top of Mount Rainier on a clear day.  Wildlife moving through the forest and wildflowers all around are all things you will want to see up close and hiking to the top of Mount Rainier is a moment you will definitely want to capture for a lifetime of memories. 

Food and Water

Whether a protein bar for your hike or an entire picnic spread, bring with you all you will need for the day depending upon your adventure plans.  There are restaurants and snack bars throughout the park for your convenience, but keep a little extra handy, just in case.

Camping or Overnight Gear

Bring everything you need for your camping or lodging stay at the park.  Supplies can be found at general stores within the park and there are lodging options for the visitor who prefers a soft bed to a wilderness campsite.

View of Waterfalls in Mount Rainer National Park Washington

Where to Stay Near Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier Guest Services run two inns within the park as well as three car campgrounds and numerous wilderness sites available from late spring to late fall.  The National Park Inn and Paradise Inn are historic landmarks and available for reservations year-round. Local accommodations are also available just outside of the park through Airbnb and VRBO or local hotel stays. 

Food Nearby Mount Rainier

Inside the park guests will discover two restaurants, a cafe, two snack bars and a general store.  Restaurants are located at Longmire at the National Park Inn year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner and at Paradise at the Paradise Inn which includes a restaurant and a small cafe.  Paradise Camp Deli is also a cafeteria located in the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise for meals and quick, to-go food items.  Finally, there is a snack bar open July through September at the Sunrise Day Lodge.

Airports Near Mount Rainier National Park

Three major airports are located within relatively short driving distance of the park. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) in Seattle Washington is 85 miles away from the Nisqually entrance.  The Portland International Airport (PDX) in Portland, Oregon, is located 131 miles from the Nisqually entrance. Yakima Air Terminal is in Yakima, Washington, is 134 miles from the Nisqually entrance, as well.
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