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Mount Rainier/ Shutterstock Image

Mount Rainier/ Shutterstock Image

The 18 Amazing Mt Rainier National Park Hikes

Lizzie

mount rainier tour stops map
Nestled in the heart of the magnificent Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier National Park stands as an awe-inspiring testament to nature’s grandeur.

With its iconic snow-capped peak dominating the skyline and a diverse landscape that encompasses lush meadows, ancient forests, and cascading waterfalls, the park offers an unparalleled playground for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers alike. 

Hiking within Mount Rainier’s sprawling wilderness is an experience that transports visitors into a realm of unparalleled beauty, where rugged trails lead to breathtaking vistas.

Whether challenging yourself to long hikes at high elevations or leisurely strolls through subalpine meadows adorned with wildflowers, the park’s hiking trails promise an unforgettable journey into the heart of nature’s majesty.

1. The Twin Firs Loop Trail 

A wayside panel on a short rock stand sits next to a narrow dirt trail leading into a dense forest of large trees.NPS Photo

This is the first hike you’ll pass when you enter the park from the Nisqually entrance before you reach the Longmire area. It’s an easy .4-mile loop through an old-growth forest along a relatively flat and easy trail.

It winds through enormous evergreens, with beautiful plants, and lots of flowers. To reach the trail, drive just past the Kautz Creek area. The Twin Firs Trailhead will be on your left, so keep your eyes out for the sign. 

2. The Trail of the Shadows 

Sun peaks through the lichen covered branches of a large tree.NPS/Ivie Metzen

At just .75 miles, this loop trail is rated easy making it ideal for hikers of all skill levels. You’ll walk along a mostly-level path through an old-growth forest. The trailhead starts right across from the National Park Inn in the Longmire section of the park.

This hike only takes about a half hour to complete. Along the trail, you’ll pass:

  • historic buildings
  • hot springs
  • the site where the Longmire Springs Hotel once stood
  • and the Longmire Cabin, which is the oldest structure in the park

This hike is featured as a stop in the Shaka Guide tour.

3. The Skyline Trail to Panorama Point 

A hiker pauses along a trail to take a photo of a black bear in the distance near the trail.NPS/ B. Burnett Photo

Although a longer it’s a longer hike, The Skyline Trail to Panorama Point is a popular one! It’s a 5.4-mile, moderate loop that takes about four hours to complete.

The trailhead begins behind the Visitor Center at the top of the stairs in the Paradise section of the park.

As an alternative to doing the entire trail, you can take it as far as Panorama Point, and then turn around and head back the way you came. This will make for a slightly shorter there-and-back hike. 

Elevation

The elevation goes as high as 7,100 - although you’re starting at 5,400 feet elevation by the time you drive to Paradise, so the elevation gain is a maximum of 1,700 feet.

Another thing to know about this trail is that it goes beyond the Alta Vista Trail (read more below). So as an alternative to the long Skyline trail, I’d recommend just taking the Alta Vista trail and then turning around instead of continuing up Skyline to Panorama Point.

The Skyline trail becomes more challenging than Alta Vista, with rougher terrain. So hiking boots are a must.

4. The Alta Vista Trail 

white mountainShaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

This hike begins in the Paradise area of the park. It’s 1.8 miles round trip, will take about an hour and a half, and is rated moderate. This trail features wildflowers and panoramic views.

Marmots are often seen along this trail, which can be accessed from the main parking lot at Paradise or from the Jackson Visitor Center.

This trail can also be reached by taking the Skyline Trail from the visitor center or by following the Guide House Trail from the Paradise Inn and Guide House.

Restrooms and water are available at the visitor center. This hike is featured as a stop in the Shaka Guide tour.

5. The Nisqually Vista trail (and The Paradise flower trails) 

white mountainShaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

These two trails are linked so you can choose any combination of these that you like. From the Paradise upper parking lot and Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, climb the stone steps to a trail junction where the Paradise flower trails begin.

If you want to take the trail that leads to the recommended Nisqually Vista hike, choose the Avalanche Lily trail, which leads you to the Nisqually Vista trail. 

The two trails combined (the Avalanche Lily Trail and the Nisqually Vista Trail) are 2.2 miles round trip, rated easy, and will take you about an hour. This hike is featured as a stop on the Shaka Guide tour.

6. The Reflection Lakes Trail

lakeShaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

Located south of Paradise off of Stevens Canyon Road, this is a 2.75-mile loop, rated moderate, and will take you about two and a half hours. Park in the designated area on Stevens Canyon Road, then walk down to the lake to find the trailhead.

You can hike the loop in either direction. Keep in mind that along this trail loop, there are many junctions to other trails. On the map, this complex trail system is crammed together and can be confusing.

So read the signs along the trail and follow them. The trail will take you past both Reflection and Louise Lakes, as well as Fairy Pond, which is not shown on the map. 

7. The Bench & Snow Lakes Trailhead 

Shaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

This hike begins off of Stevens Canyon Road southeast of the Paradise area of the park. This trail is on the opposite side of the road from Reflection Lake – and just past it (look for the sign) – if you’re coming from the Nisqually Park entrance or from Paradise.

The trail is 2.6 miles round trip, takes about two hours if you go all the way to Snow Lake, and is rated easy to moderate. 

This is a family and kid-friendly hike full of wildflowers and surrounded by the mountains of the Tatoosh Range and views of Rainier. You can take the hike to either just the first lake or, for a more challenging portion of the hike, all the way to the second lake. This trail is well-built and maintained.

Bench Lake Trail

My recommendation is to hike the trail as far as Bench Lake (the first lake, past the pond) before turning around. The trail starts at 4,000 feet elevation, with a 700-foot elevation gain.

Snow Lake Trail

In order to reach Snow Lake, (and that view of Unicorn Peak, the highest summit in the Tatoosh range at 6,871 feet tall), follow the main trail past Bench Lake. You’ll have to rock-hop across a small creek, and then begin a steep climb up a small ridge.

You’ll then descend down the other side and up another hill. When you see a junction with a sign for Backcountry Camps to the left, walk that trail to a bridge spanning Snow Lake for a jaw-dropping view. This hike is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour.

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8. The Grove of the Patriarchs 

trailShaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

This out-and-back trail meanders through ancient trees in an old-growth forest. The elevation at this location starts at 2,200 feet but the trail itself is flat. This easy and popular 1.5-mile, round-trip hike, is both family and kid-friendly and takes about an hour. 

The trailhead is at a designated parking lot along Stevens Canyon Road, via walking a short section of the Eastside Trail, close to the east side of the park and the junction of Hwy. 123.

From the bed of pine needles carpeting your hike to the enormous trees and that beautiful river … this area is simply magical, with trees over a thousand years old. Walk across a footbridge onto an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River.

Island's History 

Many of the trees on the island were on earth when the Normans conquered England in the 11th century. These stupendous trees have literally stood the test of time, and this place feels sacred. This hike is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour. 

P.S. Even if the Grove of the Patriarchs is closed while the bridge is being worked on, you can still walk the Eastside Trail up to the bridge, through the forest along the river, and it is spectacular! You just have to turn around before the Grove, until it reopens. 

9. The Silver Falls Loop Trail 

A waterfall sends up a plume of spray as it falls into a rocky canyon.NPS Photo

Duration and Distance

This is an easy, 2.7-mile loop that takes about two hours to complete, weaving through giant trees inside an old-growth forest with moss-covered rocks along the river’s edge.

Elevation

This hike features historic hot springs, hanging moss, and an impressive waterfall that careens over a series of ledges before plummeting 40 feet into a deep blue pool, in a rainforest-type environment. At its highest, this trail is 2,200 feet (with an elevation gain of 350 feet).

Trail Route

trail route

  1. Park your vehicle at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center.
  2. Begin your hike by walking a short distance up the campground's "B Loop" road from the visitor center.
  3. After approximately 0.1 miles on the road, look for the trail on the left-hand side.
  4. Follow the trail, which was once an old road, for another 0.1 miles.
  5. Arrive at the hot springs and proceed on the boardwalk.
  6. At a junction shortly after the hot springs, continue straight to stay on the Silver Falls Loop Trail.
  7. During your hike, you'll cross a charming cascading creek and then a larger one called Laughingwater Creek.
  8. The trail will bend left, leading you to a magnificent view of Silver Falls, especially impressive during the early season with snowmelt.
  9. Cross the river on the high bridge.
  10. When you reach the junction for the Eastside Trail, keep hiking to the left to remain on the Silver Falls Loop.
  11. Start descending and return to the west end of the Ohanapecosh Campground bridge that spans the river, near the amphitheater.
  12. Just beyond the bridge is where you begin your hike.

Important Notes

Be cautious on parts of the trail near the waterfalls, as they can be slippery. Stay on the designated trail and behind railings for safety. This hike is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour.

10. The Naches Peak Loop Trail 

Several people hike a trail through a meadow around a small pond. In the distance rises the glaciated peak of a mountain.NPS

Naches Peak Trail Overview

This hike offers killer views of Rainier from Naches Peak – one of the towering mountains along the Chinook Pass.

From this hike, you’ll view layers of mountains in the Cascade Range (with Mount Rainier towering above them all) plus panoramic views of Yakima Peak and of Tipsoo Lake from 600 feet above.

This hike is partially Mount Rainier National Park Land and partly the Pacific Crest Trail in the William O. Douglas Wilderness. 

Trail Characteristics and Location

It’s a 3.2-mile round-trip, easy-to-moderate loop, which would take you about three hours if you were to do the entire thing. My recommendation is to do at least half of the trail and then turn back. 

The trailhead begins across the road from the second, small parking lot near Tipsoo Lake that you’ll come to when turning onto Highway 410 East from Highway 123 North out of Ohanapecosh or from Stevens Canyon Road.

Once you park, cross the road and look for the trailhead sign. In this way, you’re taking half the trail counterclockwise, and when you turn around to head back you have Mount Rainier in clear site. 

This trail is considered one of the best hikes for fall foliage in the entire state of Washington. (Lots of folks also hike around Tipsoo Lake itself, since it’s so pretty.)

Wildflower Extravaganza

This trail also features carpets of wildflowers. You’ll be at an elevation of 5,400 feet when you begin this hike, and the trail rises in elevation by 700 feet above that.  This portion of the hike is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour.

Alternate Starting Point

If you choose to do the entire trail, in a clockwise direction, which begins about a half-mile northeast of the Tipsoo Lake parking lots, you’ll actually be starting the hike on the Pacific Crest Trail section and will come to the Naches Peak Trail section later on in your hike.

If you’re starting from the Pacific Crest Trail, after you park in the lots there, you’ll cross the highway on a pedestrian bridge to reach the trailhead. Just make sure that in either case (clockwise or counterclockwise) you stay on the Naches Peak Loop and not veer off onto Dewey Lake and that trail. Watch for elk!

11. The Tipsoo Lake Trail 

lakeShaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

Located in the area of the Chinook Pass, is this short lakeside loop. Park at either the Tipsoo Lake Picnic Area or a little bit further up the road toward Chinook Pass. The trailhead is located at the Tipsoo Lake Picnic Area.

This trail is a half-mile loop with no elevation game and takes about 20 minutes to complete. It’s family and kid-friendly and quite picturesque.  This hike is a featured stop on the Shaka Guide tour.

12. The Glacier Basin Trail and Emmons Moraine Trail 

trailShaka Guide/ Lizzie Gerecitano

This hike begins from the last parking lot of the White River Campgrounds – Loop D (the furthest parking lot you can drive to from the entrance to the campgrounds).

But you may have to park in the day-hiker area and walk the short distance to Loop D. In order to reach the Emmons Moraine Trail, take the Glacier Basin trail. In fact, I’d recommend just hiking the Glacier Basin trail until it reaches the trailhead to Emmons Moraine, then turning around. 

You’ll still have an excellent and glorious hike above the White River through a pine-carpeted, old-growth forest full of tiny waterfalls and creeks along the way.

Trail Characteristics

The section of the Glacier Basin Trail leading to Emmons Moraine, as well as the entire Emmons Moraine Trail, is rated easy. About a mile in along the Glacier Basin Trail, you’ll bear left to then take the Emmons Moraine trail. (If you were to continue along Glacier Basin, it becomes more challenging.) 

The Emmons Moraine trail is a three-mile round trip and will take a few hours if you want to do the whole thing, with an elevation gain of 523 feet.

Bring binoculars to view the glacier ice and the small, seafoam green lakes scattered around the moraine. The Glacier Basin hike is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour.

13. The Mount Fremont Lookout Trail 

Brilliant orange fills the sky as the sun sets behind a rustic, old, wooden fire tower.B. Burnett/ NPS

This is a popular there-and-back, 5.4-mile, round-trip moderate hike from the Sunrise section of the park that will take you about three hours to complete. At your highest along the trail, you’re at 7,200 feet, with a gain in elevation of 900 feet along the trail.

This hike is a favorite because it leads to one of the four remaining fire lookouts in Mount Rainier National Park, at 7,181 feet elevation. And you’re allowed to climb the lookout tower and walk the catwalk for jaw-dropping views of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges.

Beyond the ridges is Puget Sound. There’s also an overhanging ice cliff you’ll see along this trail called the Willis Wall.

The trailheads leading to the Mount Fremont trail begin behind the Visitor Center at the top of the stairs. Take the Sourdough Ridge Trail to Frozen Lake Junction – and then pick up the Fremont Trailhead. 

download rainier national park

14. The Sourdough Ridge Trail (and Dege Peak) 

A trail cuts along a ridge through a golden meadow towards a mountain ridge, paralleling a road lower down on the slope that ends at a cluster of buildings.NPS Photo

This is an easier, four-mile, four-hour trail in the Sunrise section of the park. But it’s not a loop, so it would literally take you all day to do the whole thing (four hours each way.)

Recommended Stopping Point

I’d recommend taking the trail at least as far up as the first overlook bench for stupendous views! The elevation gain along the entire trail is 1,000 feet. You can pick up the trailhead from the top of the stairs behind the Visitor Center.

At 2.2 miles along the trail, you’ll reach the junction with a short and easy spur to Dege Peak, a .3-mile side trail (highly recommended if you’re going that far along the trail anyway), a switchback leading to a summit to view the second highest peak in Washington – Mount Adams.

Scenic Highlights

From here, you’ll also be looking at the Cowlitz Chimneys and Clover Lake below and a view of a mile-long, near-level, emerald-green lawn called Grand Park, on a ridge above Huckleberry Creek. Idyllic! This hike (to the first park bench overlook) is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour.

15. The Sunrise Nature Trail 

Image from Flickr by 

Located in the Sunrise area of the park, this is one of the easier trails. It begins at the upper end of the Sunrise Picnic Area. It's a wonderful, easy loop through the meadows of Yakima Park. The trail is a 1.5-mile loop with an elevation gain of 300 feet and takes about 45 minutes.

16. The Silver Forest Trail 

Patchy wildflower meadows along a trail in front of a view of a glaciated mountain.NPS photo by Emily Brouwer

A real beauty and a winner in my book - I highly recommend this one! It’s an easy, 2.4-mile round-trip hike that would take about two hours and only has a 100-foot elevation gain.

Trailhead Location

The trailhead begins from the south side of the Sunrise parking lot. (Whereas most of the other trails leave from the top of the steps behind the Visitor Center.)

This trail is extremely scenic and forks near the beginning, so make sure you stay on the Silver Forest Trail. Along the trail, you can see all the way down – thousands of feet – to a remote turquoise lake and (even further down) to the White River. 

The Story of the Silver Forest

The reason it’s called the “Silver Forest” trail is because there are so many old, dead trees along the hike – some still standing, some fallen like skeletons – remnants of a long-ago fire plus many, many years of severe weather.

Plus, you get to see all the wildflowers. This is one of the less-traveled trails at Sunrise. The spectacular views of Mount Rainier from this trail are as good as any in the park.

Bonus: you start and end right where your car is parked!  This hike is featured as an option in the Shaka Guide tour.

17. The Spray Park Trail 

A narrow dirt trail leads through meadows filled with colorful wildflowers.NPS Photo

This trail is located in the Mowich Lake section of the park - a more remote section that’s not featured on the Shaka Guide Tour.

Trail Difficulty and Length

But if you have all-wheel drive and extra time on your hands to head all the way there, this trail, rated moderate, is a miles round trip starting at an elevation of 3,600 feet with an elevation gain of 2,200 feet. 

Getting There

To get there, you have to drive 16 miles along a pot-holed, rough gravel road. From the town of Buckley, you’d turn onto  Rt. 165 and drive through Carbonado.

Just past the Carbon River Gorge bridge, you’d turn onto Mowich Lake Road for the rollercoaster-like ride that’ll kill cars too low to the ground.

Trailhead Location

The trailhead begins from the Mowich Lake Campground at the end of the road and parking lot (near the outlet and southeast side of Mowich Lake).

The Spray Park Trail descends a quarter of a mile to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Go left on the Spray Park Trail. After about half an hour you’ll reach the lowest point of the hike and start to climb.

At about one-and-a-half miles into the hike you’ll reach Eagle Cliff, then onward to Eagle Roost backcountry camp.

Chasing Waterfalls

From there, you’ll have to really search for a not-well-marked side trail to Spray Falls, a quarter of a mile away – a wide waterfall 80 feet high and 50 feet wide.

Once you get back to the main trail, you’ll be on switchbacks to climb the next 600 feet to beautiful meadows. You can keep climbing, or turn around at this point and head back.

18. The Tolmie Peak Trail

A view of peak turning golden in the sunset with a cloudy sky in the background.B. Burnett /NPS

Yet another trail in a remote section of the park not featured on the Shaka Guide tour, and for which you’d need all-wheel drive to get, leads to a historical fire lookout tower and the subalpine Eunice Lake, one of the four remaining fire lookouts at Mount Rainier.

You’re actually allowed to climb the lookout tower for amazing views of Mount Rainier and two shimmering lakes. But this is a 6.4-mile round-trip hike, rated moderate, with a 1,400-foot elevation gain. At the highest point of the hike, you’ll be at almost 6,000 feet. 

Getting There

Tolmie Peak Trail Map

  1. Start your journey from Buckley and follow Rt. 165.
  2. After driving for just over 10 miles, you'll encounter a bridge.
  3. Just beyond the bridge, bear right onto the 17-mile-long, rut-filled Mowich Lake road.
  4. Continue along this road until you reach the parking area and Tolmie Peak Trailhead at Mowich Lake.
  5. Begin your hike by following the Wonderland Trail.
  6. This section of the trail is relatively flat and will take you along the western shoreline of Mowich Lake.
  7. After hiking for approximately 1.5 miles, you'll come to a junction where the Wonderland Trail continues straight.
  8. Head left at this junction onto the Tolmie Peak Trail.
  9. As you proceed on the Tolmie Peak Trail, you'll encounter a descent of about 200 feet, which you'll need to climb on your way back.
  10. Along the way, you'll also encounter a couple of steep and rocky sections of the trail.
  11. Continue hiking until you find some relief and reach the beautiful Eunice Lake.
  12. While at Eunice Lake, take a moment to look up and try to spot the Fire Lookout in the distance.
  13. To continue your hike, rock-hop across the outlet creek of Eunice Lake.
  14. From here, start ascending a series of switchbacks as you continue your adventure on the Tolmie Peak Trail.

Scenic Views Along the Way

Before the final ascent, you’ll see views all the way out over Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains … including the Seattle (and Tacoma) skylines! But that’s not all – on a clear day you can even see, in the distance, Glacier Peak in the Canadian Rockies!

The Fire Lookout Experience

At 3.2 miles into the Tolmie Peak Trail, you’ll reach the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout atop a 5,939-foot knoll, built in 1933 (and still occasionally staffed).

You are allowed to go up to the catwalk and spend some time there for one of the greatest, most sweeping views in the park. Eunice Lake will be straight down below.

Look up and out to see Mowich Lake, where you started your hike. And, of course, Rainier. Look to the southwest to see Mount St. Helens. 

Safety Guidelines

Preparation is crucial for your safety. Now that you’re armed with all this great hiking information, I’ll bet you’re just itching to get out onto the trails! But first, here are a few notes on how to prepare:

Weather

First and foremost, make sure to check the weather forecast and trail conditions before embarking on your journey. The weather can be unpredictable and conditions can change rapidly. 

Clothing

It’s essential to wear layered clothing to adapt to temperature fluctuations, including moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof shell. 

Hiking Boots

Choose hiking boots (not sneakers). Make them sturdy and high-top for ankle support on rugged terrain. This is a must since many trails are steep and craggy. 

Food & Water

Carry a backpack with plenty of water, high-energy snacks, a first-aid kit, and a map. I’d also highly recommend a personal locator beacon if you’re alone, but it’s much better to hike with a buddy.

Inform

Make sure someone has been informed of where you’re going (the name of the trail, the time you left, etc...)

Bear Spray

Some hikers choose to pack bear spray for extra security.

Camping Essentials

If you’re hiking deep into a trail, you may want to carry a tarp in case it starts to rain hard. And if you’re doing a full day’s trail and may not have time to get back before dark, you might consider bringing a lightweight, portable stove for camping out (along with some food to cook). Just be sure and pack out anything you bring in.

Leave No Trace

Follow the Leave No Trace principles to preserve the park’s natural beauty.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy this magnificent stratovolcano we call Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest of Washington State. Here’s to an unparalleled hiking experience in the shadow of that mountain. And don’t forget to tag Shaka Guide in your photos!

Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Mount Rainier National Park Tour!

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Mount Rainier National Park Itinerary and Know Before You Go article.

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20 Epic Things To Do In Mt Rainier National Park

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