Epic Mount Rainier in Washington state is arguably one of the most popular US national parks. Perhaps the best way to experience it up close and personal is to go hiking through it. With that thought in mind, here are 15 truly epic hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.
15 Truly Epic Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
Epic Hikes In Paradise
Spiritual beliefs aside, Paradise is found on Mount Rainier’s southern slopes. It is reported to be one of the park’s “most heavily visited areas.” There are a number of different trails here, such as the superb Skyline Trail.
1. Nisqually Vista Hike
This is an easy, paved loop trail hike with a distance of just over one mile. You will experience an ascent of 200 feet and should need no more than 45 minutes to complete this little trek. The trailhead is in the Lower Paradise parking lot.
It is a short hike with a couple of steep-stepping moments. If you can push a baby stroller, you can handle this. From here you will enjoy memorable views of the Nisqually Glacier and Mount Rainier without making much of an effort.
2. The Myrtle Falls Hike
This is an easy, one-mile hike. The ascent is 100 feet, and it should take only half an hour to complete. The trailhead for this hike is in the Upper Paradise parking lot by the popular Paradise Inn.
The path to Myrtle Falls is entirely paved and family-friendly. You start on the first section of the popular Skyline Trail. At Edith Gorge, you should take the steep, short downhill spur trail to see Myrtle Falls.
Once you return to the Skyline Trail, take a right, walk for 100 feet and you’ll get an outstanding view of Mount Rainier too. If you want to hike the whole Skyline Trail, keep going. Otherwise, there’s not much left to see here.
3. The Skyline Trail To Panorama Point
This hike is 6.2 miles and is rated strenuous. Your total descent here is 1,900 feet. You will need between three to five hours to complete this hike.
The Trailhead is in the Upper Paradise parking lot. Despite the level of difficulty, those in the know rate this trek as “one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier.” Your journey begins in Paradise.
From there you hike past the previously mentioned Myrtle Falls, through verdant pine forests, and then head up the rugged slopes of majestic Mount Rainier. On a clear day, you will not only have great views of the park but also be able to as far away as Oregon’s Mount Hood. Finally, it’s a steep hike down to the Paradise Visitor Center.
4. Hike To Camp Muir
This is a very strenuous hike. It is eight miles in total and has an ascent of 4,800feet. You will need between eight and 10 hours to finish.
The Trailhead is in the Upper Paradise parking lot. Without a climbing permit, Camp Muir is as close as you will get to Mount Rainier’s summit. Take the handy Skyline Trail to the Pebble Creek Trail. From here, you must hike upward through snow. When you reach Camp Muir, you’ll be at a surprising elevation of 10,188 feet.
5. The Bench And Snow Lake Trails
The total distance of this moderately difficult trail is just under three miles. The ascent is just 750 feet. Give yourself between one and a half to two and a half hours.
The Trailhead is situated on Stevens Canyon Road, just five miles from the Paradise visitor center. This one hike will provide you with access to a pair of subalpine lakes. Take the spur trail you will see before mile one, and you can visit Bench Lake. The trail takes you through a verdant forest and a tunnel carved through the dense brush. Once you return to the main trail, you continue for half a mile upward until you reach Snow Lake.
Epic Hikes In The Sunrise Area
Sunrise, located north of Mount Rainier, is like Paradise. It offers noteworthy views of rugged Mount Rainier and several different hikes too.
6. Sourdough Ridge Trail To Frozen Lake
This is a moderately difficult hike with a 500-foot ascent and a total distance of three miles. You should be able to complete it in between one and a half to two hours. You will find the trailhead in the Sunrise parking lot.
The Sourdough Ridge Trail provides hikers with amazing views of the entire park. From the parking lot, you take the lovely Sunrise Nature Trail. The Sourdough Ridge Trail will soon be on the left.
This hiking trail takes you to popular Frozen Lake. Mount Rainier is almost always entirely in front of you. You can stop at the ridge and enjoy the view or keep going until you reach the lake.
7. The Burroughs Mountain Loop
This is a strenuous hike with a distance of between six and nine miles and an ascent of as much as 2,500 feet. You will need between three and six hours. The trailhead is in the Sunrise parking lot.
Your journey begins with a one-and-a-half-mile hike on the well-known Sourdough Ridge Trail to the famous Frozen Lake. When you reach the junction, keep hiking towards Burrough Mountains. Cross the snowfield, then hike up the mountains. Hiking to the second Burrough Mountain will make your total distance six miles. Hiking to the third one increases it to nine miles.
8. The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail
This six-mile, moderately difficult hike has a total ascent of 1,200 feet and includes taking the popular Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake. From the trailhead in the Sunrise parking lot, it should take you between two and a half to five hours to complete. Once you pass Frozen Lake, the crowds should dwindle.
The hike to the old Mount Fremont Fire Lookout is a gradual uphill trek. Here you will take in exceptional views of Mount Rainier and be able to see across the park too. Interestingly, there’s also an open-air pit toilet that offers hikers another unique experience.
9, The Summerland Trail To Panhandle Gap
This hike is a strenuous one. Its total distance is 2 miles, and the total descent is 3,150 feet. You will need between five to seven hours here.
You’ll find the trailhead on Sunrise Park Road, not far from the Mather Memorial Parkway and 11+ miles from the helpful Sunrise Visitor Center. While this hike is challenging, it is far from boring as it includes deep, old-growth forests, colorful wildflowers, the chance to see some local wildlife, and great views of not only Mount Rainier, but also views of massive Mount Adams as well. Following a gradual uphill trek through the forests and wildflowers, and a steep hike up some switchbacks, you enter Summerland. Here marmots scurry close to the trail.
Heading back at this point makes your roundtrip hike only nine miles. Should you choose to continue, you hike through a subalpine region and eventually will find snow underfoot. Hike past a frozen lake and see Mount Rainier’s peak looming to your right. One final climb and you are rewarded with a panoramic view.
10. The Naches Peak Loop
Sources differ on the difficulty of this hike. It is just over three and a half miles in distance with an ascent of 680 feet. Some experts say it is easy and some say it is moderately difficult. Plan on spending between one and a half to two and a half hours here.
You have parking options. However, veteran visitors suggest using one of a pair of parking areas on Highway 410 next to Tipsoo Lake, where the trail crosses the road. Arrive early and park in one of the spots at the southern trailhead.
From this parking area, it is recommended that you hike the loop counter-clockwise. Hiking in this direction you will first be hiking through the forest on a section of the popular Pacific Crest Trail. You will have great views of Mount Rainier behind you, hike past a little lake, cross the highway via a distinct wooden pedestrian bridge, and then head down to Tipsoo Lake.
Epic Hikes In Ohanapecosh And More
11. The Grove Of The Patriarchs Hike
This is an easy hike that some say is a “must do” for anyone who has never been to this park. The hike is only one and a half miles in length with no significant ascent. You should be able to hike it in an hour.
Arrive early and park in the lot on Stevens Canyon Road next to the entrance. This brief hike will take you past some of the park’s oldest and largest Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and western red cedars. You’ll also cross a suspension bridge, and along a group of boardwalks and dirt trails too.
(As this goes to press though, the trail is closed due to significant damage to the bridge from recent flooding. It may not be open in the summer of 2022 or 2023.)
12. The Silver Falls Loop
This is a trail that’s perfect for anyone and everyone. It is less than three and a half miles in length, with an elevation gain of only 670 feet, and, depending on your family or group, should only take between one and a half to three hours. There are multiple trailheads available.
Those in the know though say you really should park your vehicle at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center. This short trail takes you through an exceptional old-growth forest. Of course, the real highlight is seeing Silver Falls. You will be afforded an assortment of excellent views of the striking waterfall and many moss-covered rocks via various bridges and overlooks. Some travel writers refer to this as “one of the best hikes” in the park, especially if you visit on a rainy or cloudy day.
13. Spray Park Hike
The Spray Park Hike is strenuous. The total distance is eight miles and the total ascent is 1,800 feet. Plan on it taking between four and six hours.
It is praised as being one of the best hikes to take if you are an aficionado of wildflowers. The trailhead is at the very end of Mountain Meadows Road. Your journey begins in the verdant forest.
You can take the spur trail to Spray Falls. It is challenging but once you reach the top, you are walking through fields of pretty wildflowers. Mind you, you also will be able to enjoy some incredible views of Echo Rock, Observation Rock, and (of course) majestic Mount Rainier as well.
14. Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout Hike
Some say this hike is moderately difficult and some say it’s strenuous. Either way, you will hike for close to six miles on a trail that has an ascent of 1,600 feet. If you want dramatic views of rugged Mount Rainier and not a lot of crowds, this hike fits the bill.
Set aside between two and a half to four hours to finish it. The hike begins on Mountain Meadows Road. While it might be somewhat challenging to some it is also considered to be a fun hike and is often referred to as a “favorite.” On the way to the popular peak lookout, you will wander through thick forests and a number of alpine lakes as well. Tolmie Peak Lookout reportedly offers you “a spectacular view” of the park’s namesake too.
15. The Wonderland Trail
This 93-mile hiking trail is not only strenuous, but it also has an ascent of more than 23,000 feet. You will not only need stamina for this backpacking adventure, but you will also need time. It could take between nine and 13 days to complete the hike and circumnavigate Mount Rainier.
This journey will lead you through stunning canyons, and temperate forests. You’ll cross streams and even rivers and see Mount Rainier from every angle. A permit is required, and they are generally in demand so plan ahead. The hiking season here usually starts at the end of June or early July. It ends in October.