Lovers of epic vistas, rugged hikes, and wildlife viewing are called to this adventure. We have picked our favorite hikes on different sides of Mt. Rainier to experience all that the famous volcano has to offer—from cascading waterfalls to mammoth old growth forests, panoramic views to ancient glacial ice. We take in incredible vistas and keep our feet moving, exploring the various facets of this geographic landmark and the remarkable terrain which surrounds it.
On this tour, we circumnavigate “The Mountain” (as Mt. Rainier is known to locals), witnessing the highest concentration of glaciers in the continental U.S., 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 Pacific Northwest has to offer.
The July departure is scheduled to be after most of the snowmelt to improve trail accessibility and witness the famous wildflower season. In August, wander the trails as the flowers turn to berries, sampling the diverse flavors of these wildgrown fruit as you hike. Join in September to enjoy the beginning of fall colors!
DAY 1: Journey to Sunrise – Mount Rainier’s High Points
Start the day with a pickup at your downtown Seattle hotel before heading south towards Mount Rainier National Park. Along the way, enjoy numerous views of the mountain, long before we reach the gates to the park. Coffee, tea, a morning snack and an important restroom break will be available to break up the drive, then head straight up to the main destination for the day – SUNRISE! Once at Sunrise Visitor Center, gear up for 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 lower-48. 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, Salish Sea, 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.
After returning to the trailhead, travel around to the south side of the The Mountain until you reach your accommodations for the night — the historic Paradise Lodge. Unwind in the beauty of Mount Rainier, enjoy dinner with a Pacific Northwest flare at the lodge dining room, and watch the sunset below the Cascade Mountains.
Walking Distances: 4-6 miles; up to 1300ft gain (options for more, depending on the group)
Locations: 6400-7400ft above sea level
DAY 2: Wake up in Paradise – Wildflower Fields + Old Growth Forests
Today, hike straight out the door of historic Paradise Inn up the flanks of Mt. Rainier toward Camp Muir. Wildflowers, berry patches and fall colors abound on these slopes as the season progresses. Contemplate the workings of the Nisqually Glacier from above while gazing at the rugged peaks of the Tatoosh Range. Relax upon a rock and refresh in the sunshine with marmots and watch while their youngsters wrestle each other in the meadows. It’s hard to describe the magnitude of this volcano until you find yourself gazing up, with unobstructed views, towards the summit nearly 10,000 feet above you.
After lunch, journey 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 are easy to find in this area, cascading down into the glacial rivers below. Enjoy a full day of exploring before returning towards Seattle, having made a full circle around the most iconic peak in the state.
Walking Distances: 4-6 miles; up to 1000ft gain (options for more, depending on group)
Locations: 2500-5500ft above sea level