Best Areas To Visit in Mt. Rainier National Park
Our Favorite Areas to Play When We Go To Mount Rainier.
- Grove of the Patriarchs
- Silver Falls
- Naches Peak & Lake Tipsoo
- White River
- Reflection Lake
- Narada Falls
Any of our destinations make for a lovely day trip and each is near lovely hiking/walking options. If you plan well – you may be able to pack a few things in during a day or see all of them over the course of a 2 to 3 day tour of Mt. Rainier National Park.
“Oh, what a paradise!” Virinda Longmire’s exclamation upon reaching this scenic valley still holds true over 100 years later. There’s a reason Paradise is the busiest and most-popular area of the park; from cascades views to mountain vistas, wildlife to wildflowers, Paradise has it all.
Stop by the Henry M. Jackson visitor center to digest interpretive displays and a 10-minute video highlighting the natural and cultural history of Mt. Rainier before setting out on one of the many trails nearby. Paradise offers an extensive network of well-maintained trails; an often overlooked amenity, trust your feet to follow the paved paths—you’ll be spending all your time looking up and around at the breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier, Paradise Valley, and the rugged Tatoosh mountains.
Mt. Rainier’s secret (sort-of) side…
Sunrise offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainier and Little Tahoma without the hustle and bustle often found at Paradise during the peak (no pun intended) months. After checking out the visitor center, take your pick of an easy stroll through the Silver Forest or a moderately strenuous trek up to Burroughs Mountain.
Whichever hike you pick, keep an eye out for mountain goats, marmots, pika, and even bears. While all bears within Mt. Rainier’s boundaries are technically black bears, the reddish-brown coats of the bears around Sunrise have earned them the nickname “cinnamon bears.”
3. Grove of the Patriarchs
Want big trees? Grove of the Patriarchs has giant old-growth forests! As you walk the easy 1.5 mile loop trail you will find yourself transported back in time to an era where big trees (some over 1,000 years old!) reigned supreme across the landscape.
Enjoy a stroll through low-elevation forest before crossing the jewel blue Ohanapecosh River via a narrow suspension bridge. Once across, follow the path to the elevated boardwalk loop through the grove.
4. Silver Falls
Spend an hour or the whole afternoon exploring Silver Falls. This hike is perfect for a hot day, the shaded trail casually winds its way down to the sun-dappled falls. While the falls may look tempting, please stay on the trails and overlooks—these waters are as dangerous as they are breath-taking.
Look out for some of the hidden gems of the forest—woodland wildflowers like wild ginger, violet, and trillium. Less showy but not less interesting are the unique monotropas- pinesap, ghost pipes, and candysticks—peeking out from the mossy forest floor.
5. Naches Peak & Lake Tipsoo
Whether you’re stopping for a quick stroll around the lake or moderate hike up to Naches Peak, this destination is well worth the extra drive. Following Highway 410 east towards Chinook Pass, Lake Tipsoo is nestled below Naches Peak. Look out for pacific giant salamanders basking in the warm shallows of Tipsoo before making your way up to the peak.
The moderately challenging Naches Peak Loop trail offers stunning views of Rainier and the surrounding peaks. If you get tired of the alpine views, feast your eyes on the wildflowers lining the trail. Wild paintbrushes, bistort, lupin, and bear grass delight the senses and distracts one from protesting muscles on the way up to Naches Peak.
6. White River
From Seattle, one can almost trace their journey to Mt. Rainier by simply following the White River to their glacial headwaters on the mountain’s northeast flank. Indeed, until the early 1900’s the White River emptied into Seattle’s Elliot Bay via the Duwamish River. Natural course changes have since redirected the White River, yet one can still follow its course from the park’s northeastern entrance to the Emmons Glacier. Have a picnic at the White River Campground and dip your feet in the icy waters. Carrying glacial flour (crushed rock) from off the mountain, the milky river is sharply contrasted to the clear snow-melt creeks feeding into it.
7. Reflection Lakes
If you’ve ever seen a postcard of Mt. Rainier then odds are you’ve already seen Reflection Lake. This picturesque vantage point is a popular destination for both photographers and those looking to dip their feet.
For the thrill seekers, Reflection Lake also serves as the trailhead for Pinnacle Peak, one of the best kept secrets of the park. This 2.5 mile trail scales over 1,000 feet in just over one mile. As daunting as this may seem the sore muscles are well worth it! In addition to Mt. Rainier and the Tatoosh Range, Mt. Adams and St. Helens can also be seen on the horizon.
8. Narada Falls
Lacey Narada Falls generally considered a must-see destination in Mt. Rainier National Park. A slightly-steep trail starts above the falls and then meanders down to look back up at the 176 feet waterfall. On a hot day, enjoy a cool mist off the falls and keep an eye out for dazzling rainbows.
You don’t have to know much about geology to appreciate the cool rock formations. Columnar jointing, a relic of Rainier’s volcanic history, provide dramatic relief. And contrast sharply with the ancient granodiorite of the older Tatoosh range.