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Mount Rainier/ Shutterstock Image

Mount Rainier/ Shutterstock Image

Mount Rainier National Park Itinerary

Lizzie

mount rainier tour stops map
Mount Rainier National Park is centered around an awe-inspiring, iconic volcano — Mount Rainier — and takes you through miles and miles of:

  • old-growth forests
  • up and down the rollercoaster of the Cascade Mountain Range
  • lakes
  • rivers
  • waterfalls
  • stupendous hikes
  • and into wildflower meadows

The overlooks along the drive will take your breath away. The serpentine roads up to Paradise and Sunrise, the most popular sections of the park, will keep your heart pumping and your camera clicking!

Read on for an itinerary of the stops along Shaka Guide’s Mount Rainier National Park Tour. This tour starts from the main starting point of Elbe/Ashford, entering the park at the Nisqually Entrance.

Below, you’ll see some:

  • sections (meaning there are numerous things to do there)
  • overlook (just a place to pull off the road and see the view)
  • waterfall (there are several popular ones you can stop and see that won’t take long)
  • lake or river (to either hike to or just photograph)
  • rides (gondola ski lift-type)

For all of the details and specifics regarding each hiking trail, check out Shaka Guide’s Mount Rainier Hiking Guide

1. THE HISTORIC LONGMIRE SECTION OF THE PARK

old log cabins in the forestImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 30 min - 3 hours

At this location, you’ll be able to visit the historic log cabin lodge owned by the park — The National Park Inn. Perhaps, you can sit a spell on its porch, which perfectly frames the mountain for an amazing first full view of Rainier from inside the park.

While visiting the historic Longmire section of the park, you’ll want to stop in at the General Store for souvenirs. Additionally, it's a convenient spot to stock up on snacks and water for hiking.

There’s also a popular trail in this section of the park called the Trail of the Shadows. It takes you past historic landmarks and old buildings. 

Stop at the small museum here. Also, visit the Wilderness Information Center where you can see a 3-D version of Mount Rainier to acclimate yourself to your location in relation to the mountain. While you’re there, say hi to a ranger and pick up some hiking maps. 

The recommended time spent here depends on your preferences. Whether you want to take the hike, visit the museum, or grab a bite to eat on the porch, each activity could take up a couple of hours.

Alternatively, you could take a quick walk through the hotel and snap some pictures from the porch. You can also grab a souvenir t-shirt or hat at the general store, allowing you to be on your way within a half hour of arriving.

Pro Tip!

Break up the tour into two days. On day one, book a reservation in advance for this hotel. First, drop off your stuff early on arrival morning. Head up to Paradise, Reflection Lakes, and the Bench & Snow Lake Trails (all on the Shaka Guide tour).

Then, head back to Longmire. Walk the Trail of the Shadows, see the museum, and have dinner on the porch before bed. You can pick up the tour the next day on Stevens Canyon Road and head over to the east side of the park.

2. CARTER FALLS

signboardImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 5 minutes

This waterfall flows during the ice melt season, otherwise, it may be dry. It’s just a pull-off, so it won’t take more than a few minutes to stop, snap a picture, and take a look.

3. CHRISTINE FALLS

waterfallsImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 15 minutes

This is a popular waterfall that flows frequently. You'll probably want to allocate about 15 minutes to visit here.

4. RICKSECKER POINT OVERLOOK

overlook of river from a mountain with green forestsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 5 minutes

This is just a pull-off for the view, so you’ll only need a few minutes to stop and see it.

5. NARADA FALLS WATERFALL

waterfallsImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 15 minutes

This is another popular waterfall that is more often running than not. 

6. PARADISE SECTION OF THE PARK

visitor center in mount rainierImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 30 min - 3 hours

This is one of the park's most popular areas. You could spend several hours here, depending on your hiking plans. You’ll definitely want to take the short walk to Myrtle Falls, one of the most photogenic waterfalls in the entire park. 

You’ll also want to stop inside the main visitor center for the park — The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. While you’re exploring the Paradise section of the park, peek inside the Historic Paradise Inn lodge if it’s open. 

Two of the best trails in this section of the park are the Alta Vista Trail and the Nisqually Vista Trail. Enjoy the wildflower meadows that surround you in Paradise!

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7. PARADISE RIVER OVERLOOK

riverImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 5 minutes

This is just a quick pullout for the view.

8. INSPIRATION POINT OVERLOOK

snowy mountainImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 5 minutes

This is just a quick stop for the view.

9. REFLECTION LAKES

lake with tourist on the shore and big mountain at the backImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 30 minutes

This is a glorious stop, especially on a clear day when Mount Rainier is showing off its reflection on the main lake. There’s a lakeshore path and several viewpoints from both the path and the parking lots. In this case, you’ll probably want to allow at least a half hour at this stop to take in the different views and search out that perfect reflection for some iconic photos! 

Pro Tip! Walk to the last parking lot (the one furthest east) for the best reflection. You’ll thank us later! 

10. BENCH & SNOW LAKES TRAIL 

trail with pine trees on the sideImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 60+ minutes

If you want to take this hike, you’ll need to allow at least an hour to do part of the trail (longer if you want to hike the entire out-and-back trail.) Check out our Hiking Guide for more information about this trail. 

11. BOX CANYON OVERLOOK

deep riverImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 5 minutes

This is just a short stop to take in the view.

12. GROVE OF THE PATRIARCHS (VIA THE EASTSIDE TRAIL)

trail with fallen treeImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 60+ minutes

This is a hike (short and easy) that leads to a pedestrian suspension bridge over a river and to a grove of old-growth, enormous trees. It is super popular, and worth the stop (if you can nab a parking space) that would take you at least an hour, if not two.

13. OHANAPECOSH SECTION OF THE PARK

old bridgeImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 30 minutes - 2 hours

This area features a very long and lovely trail that leads to a waterfall, called the Silver Falls Loop Trail. Or, you can walk a much shorter nature trail that leaves behind the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center.

The amount of time you’d spend in this area of the park depends on whether you have hours to spare to take the very long hike, or instead just want to walk the short nature trail. 

Alternatively, you could just spend a few minutes in the Visitor Center and perhaps just walk to the bridge near the parking lot to watch the river flow for a photo or two.

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14. TIPSOO LAKE and TRAIL

yellow mountainImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 60+ minutes

This area is technically just outside (across the road from) the park, but is overseen by Mount Rainier National Park. The lake is absolutely beautiful, with gorgeous views of Mount Rainier. It’s very photogenic, and there’s an easy path that will take you on a walk around the entire lake if you want to spend an hour or two doing so. 

15. NACHES PEAK LOOP TRAIL

trail with overviewImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 3 hours

Part of this trail, which is across from Tipsoo Lake, is Pacific Crest Trail land, but the Naches Peak Loop trail is overseen by Mount Rainier National Park. This amazing trail features views of the Cascade mountain range and Mount Rainier, along with wildflower meadows, that are spectacular.

That said, if you do the entire loop trail, you’d need to allow at least three hours here. So I’d recommend you take at least a little bit of the trail for the views and then turn around if you don’t have time for the whole thing.

16. SUNRISE POINT OVERLOOK

snowy mountainImage by Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 30 minutes

This, my friends, is the most important and magnificent overlook and view in the entirety of Mount Rainier National Park and is not to be missed! So drive up that mountain!

Even if you don’t have hours to hike in the Sunrise area of the park, the road up to this overlook will be unforgettable. You’ll want to park and spend almost a half hour walking around ‘on top of the world’ for the unimaginable 360-degree views!

17. SUNRISE SECTION OF THE PARK

sunrise in mount rainierShutterstock Image

Approximate time: 30 minutes - 3 hours

This is the second most popular area of the park (after Paradise). But only because most people who enter at Nisqually don’t take the time to drive all the way across (or around) the park to get to the east side in order to drive up to Sunrise. If you ask me, Sunrise is the most incredible area of Mount Rainier — or of any national park! 

You’re as high as you can drive within the park, you have a front and center view of the biggest glacier on the mountain (and on any volcano), and if you hike the Silver Forest Trail (which I highly recommend). Along that trail, you can see all the way down to the White River…thousands upon thousands of feet below. 

I’d also recommend hiking just a small part of the Sourdough Ridge Trail (mainly because the whole trail could cost you an entire day).

I’d say just go as far as the first bench, and sit for a moment knowing you’re above all the other Cascade mountains. The view is tremendous!

Time spent here will vary depending on whether or not you decide to hike, and, if so, how far you decide to go.

18. WHITE RIVER CAMPGROUND SECTION OF THE PARK 

riverWhite River/ Lizzie Gerecitano

Approximate time: 60+ minutes

Once you get back down from Sunrise, I’d highly recommend you stop at the White River Campground. Walk through the camping loops and wend your way down to the river to experience how powerful that meltwater flowing off of the Emmons glacier is up close! Did I mention that I highly recommend getting up close to this river? 

From Loop D, I’d also recommend you hike at least part of the Glacier Basin Trail through the forest. That trail leads to the Emmons Moraine Trail, which is also popular. Time spent here will depend on whether or not you decide to hike and, if so, how far you plan to go. I’d recommend just taking part in the Glacier Basin Trail.

19. CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RESORT

gondola in rainierCrystal Mountain Resort

Approximate time: 60+ minutes

This ski resort is open in winter and summer, and we list it on our Shaka Guide tour because this is the home of the Mount Rainier Gondola ride!

Nowhere else will you find a ski lift ride that’ll take you up into the sky to view that great big volcano!

So if you happen to be passing by this area (right across from the Sunrise section of the park) and the ride’s open, buy yourself a ticket! 

Once you’re at the top, you can even dine at Summit House — the highest-elevation restaurant in all of Washington, with that stupendous view of Mount Rainier from inside the restaurant or from its deck! 

Time spent here will depend on how long you spend at the summit, or if you’re just taking the gondola ride and not stopping at the top for photos or a meal.

Exploring with Shaka Guide

This is just an overview of your Shaka Guide Mount Rainier itinerary along the Shaka Guide Tour route. But really, this journey is up to you! You choose which stops to make, how long to spend in each area, and how many hiking trails you want to explore.

These factors determine how much fun you can have in one day, a few days, or even longer. Rest assured, once you begin your drive, Shaka Guide will provide complete details, information, and directions every step of the way, helping you make decisions that suit your preferences.

Our hiking guide will also be a big help, as will picking up trail maps at the Wilderness Information Centers and Visitor Centers throughout the park. 

Finally, be sure and read our “Know Before You Go” to prepare for the best adventure you can possibly have at the incomparable Mount Rainier National Park!

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.

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

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18 Amazing Mt Rainier National Park Hikes

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