On this tour we circumnavigate “The Mountain” (as Mt. Rainier is known to locals), contemplating the highest concentration of glaciers anywhere in the U.S. outside of Alaska, and taking time to get to know the residents as we go. Deer, elk, black bear, marmots and mountain goats abound in the forests and alpine meadows of this high-country wonderland. Triumphant views provide a continual backdrop for our classroom as we explore the natural history of these singular environments on some of the most spectacular trails the area has to offer.
The August tour is scheduled to be after most of the snowmelt to improve trail accessibility and still catch the tail end of the wildflower season. In September you should enjoy spectacular fall color! We operate this tour during midweek-only to avoid the weekend crowds from the city.
Day 1: Sunrise
Sunrise Visitors Center. Yakima Park. Burroughs Mtn.
Begin at Sunrise Visitor’s Center with a hike above the tree-line through open heather and rocky alpine tundra on the north side of the mountain. Tree islands of whitebark pine and mountain hemlock float upon seas of meadows dotted with wildflowers. From Glacier Overlook, peer down on nearly 4.5 square miles of ice – Emmons Glacier – the largest river of ice in the contiguous states. From Second Burroughs Mountain, Mt Rainier hovers so close you can wrap your arms around her. If you can manage to tear your eyes away from the mountain for a moment, look north over the endless green carpets of Grand and Berkeley Parks and marvel at the Cascade Mountain Range extending to the horizon. Mt Baker, Glacier Peak, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains – all are visible on a clear day. Watch for mountain goats and black bears foraging or cooling themselves on the snowfields.
Walking Distances: 6 miles; 1300ft gain; 6400-7400ft (options for more, depending on the group)
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Day 2: Hiking in Paradise
Paradise Meadows. Nisqually Glacier. Tatoosh Range.
Today, hike straight out the door of historic Paradise Inn up the flanks of Mt Rainier toward Camp Muir. Berry patches abound on these slopes. The natives referred to these gardens as Sahalee Illahee. “land of peace”. Famed conservationist John Muir dubbed them “the lower gardens of Eden.” Whatever you choose to call them, do not miss the opportunity to savor the flavor of the highly coveted mountain huckleberry in season. With luck, gather a sampling grouseberries. A mere thimbleful of these miniscule, generally overlooked, treasures will overwhelm you with their intense flavor somewhat reminiscent of Juicy Fruit gum. Contemplate the workings of the Nisqually Glacier from above while gazing at the rugged peaks of the Tatoosh Range. Relax upon a rock and take some tea in the sunshine with the adult marmots and watch while their youngsters wrestle each other in the meadows. Visit the spot where the native guide “Sluiskin” waited for Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump to make the first summit climb in 1870. This is where you have your chance to cheer on the intrepid climbers set to ascend to the 14,411 foot summit.
Walking Distances: Muir Route: 6 miles; 1600ft gain; 5400-7000ft (options for more, depending on group)
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Day 3: Meadows, Lakes, Waterfalls and Forest
Reflection Lakes. Narada Falls. Twin Firs.
Beginning at Paradise again, we head west toward Longmire, dropping down out of the meadows and tree islands of the alpine zone into lush old growth rainforests on the western slopes of the volcano. Visit the home of northern flying squirrels and spotted owls and learn about the plants and animals that are unique to and dependent upon these original forests. Waterfalls, too, abound in this area. Early in the day is the perfect time to visit Narada Falls and witness the fabulous rainbow created by the morning sun’s rays passing through the spray from the falls.
Walking Distances: Hiking distances variable according to the group.
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Mount Rainier National Park Tour Details
- Tour Highlights
- Tour Inclusions
- Accommodations & Food
- Customizations for Your Family or Group
- Additional Information
- Tour Preparation
Enjoy two nights in Paradise Inn, the Park’s premiere accommodation!
Choosing hikes on two sides of the mountain allows us to more fully explore the diversity of the Park.
Naturalist guides connect you to the story behind the scenery.
Naturalist tour leader
National Park entry fees.
Overnight accommodations – all included
We will pack our trail lunches from fresh, local, organic (where possible) ingredients.
Full breakfasts – all included
Full dinners – including appetizers. Alcohol at restaurants is not provided. One dinner on your own.
Snacks, water, sparkling water, local wine, local beer, etc.
Enjoy two nights in Paradise Inn, the Park’s premiere accommodation.
Staying at Paradise gives you the opportunity to explore the area on your own as well as with your group. It is the only lodging from which you can access trails right outside your door.
Dinner is on your own the first night we are at Paradise Inn.
We are happy to tailor the tour to suit your desires and budget! See the "Customizations" tab for other ideas and options for your group.
While we have selected Paradise Inn as the best lodging for the tour, there are other options for accommodations in the area as well. We offer the following ideas for creating a different experience, or more economic tour for your group. We are happy to discuss these and other possibilities with you!
Alternate lodging possibilities include (in order of proximity to Paradise):
The National Park Inn at Longmire is a 25-minute drive from Paradise and offers accommodations and meals.
The Ashford area southwest of the mountain, a 45-minute drive from Paradise, offers several choices, including Alexander’s Lodge, Nisqually Lodge, and Cabin Creek Resort, among others. Dining options are either onsite or nearby.
The town of Packwood, a one-hour drive southeast of the mountain, has several basic hotels. Dining options are available but limited.
The hikes are easily customized to meet both the interests and abilities of your group.
You may choose to pay for breakfasts and dinners on your own.
The tour can be lengthened by a day to include a visit to Mt. St. Helens, now 40 years after the eruption. It is a lengthy drive, but you will hardly notice as your guide presents the compelling story of the most famous geologic event in Washington State history!
OVERNIGHT TOUR: While travel times to and from Seattle (2.5-3hrs each way) reduce the amount of time available for hiking the trails during the day, an overnight (2-day) tour to Mt. Rainier National Park is still a fabulous excursion. The diversity of the Park can be experienced by hiking trails on both the north (Sunrise) side of the mountain as well as the south (Paradise).
Combine this 3-day tour with another tour (or tours) in the region to create a longer and more diverse Northwest wilderness experience! Options include:
- Olympic National Park 3-day, or 6-day tour.
- North Cascades National Park 3-day, or 5-day tour.
- Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood 3-day, or 5-day tour.
Seasons (What to expect):
June to mid-July is generally considered early season for hiking at higher elevations in the Park. Some hikes in the high country will be impassable due to snow until mid-July. Others will be passable, but partially snow-covered.
July is usually when the wildflowers are at their peak! The unfortunate caveat is that this is also when the bugs (mosquitoes, biting flies etc) are at their peak.
August is considered an optimal time to visit by many. Only patches of snow remain on the high-country trails and there are still ample wildflowers. The bugs begin to settle down and the berry season begins - YUM!
September weather is cooler, but generally still nice. Fall colors begin to appear around mid-September, but usually don’t reach their peak until early October or so. Fall is indeed one of the most picturesque times to visit the Park!
The road to Paradise is open year around (conditions permitting) so it is possible to plan an adventure in any season. Snowshoe adventure, anyone?!
National Parks and Monuments:
Below is a suggested list of items that you may want to bring on your upcoming hiking tour. When packing, remember that the weather can offer surprises, especially in the mountains. Plan to dress in layers and carry extra clothing every day for lunch and rest stops.
- Hiking pants or convertible pants
- Casual clothes—jeans, shorts, sport shirts
- Dinner clothes—nice casual attire is fine
- Hiking boots suitable for rocky trails
- Casual shoes
- Hiking socks (no cotton) and casual socks
- Sweater or light jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Bathing suit for hot tubs and spas
- Camera, extra batteries, charger, and memory cards; dry bag (optional)
- Daypack with hydration system
- Driver’s license
- National Parks or Federal Recreation Lands Pass (optional; bring it if you have one)
- Reading material
- Ball cap for sun protection
- Sunglasses – dark enough for snow and bright sun
- Insect repellant of choice
- Toiletries and blister kit
- Vitamins and / or prescription drugs
- Extra set of glasses or contacts
- Small headlamp or flashlight
- Trekking poles (collapsible)
- A spirit of adventure
Additional Items for Cooler Seasons and High Elevations
- Baselayer shirts and tights
- Long sleeve fleece or mid-weight jacket suitable for active hiking
- Warm jacket for mornings and evenings
- Fleece or wool hat
- Winter gloves
- Thermal socks
- Wool sweater
- Waterproof rain gear