My name is Shirin and I am an Iranian American living in the Pacific Northwest. Welcome to my journal where I share my travels throughout the PNW and beyond!
You will find travel itineraries, PNW bucket list hikes, and PNW weekend getaways, road trip ideas, and more! My aim is provide travel options for the working professional living in the Pacific Northwest to take advantage of your free time and get out in this big wide world!
May 24, 2022
In Washington, you will find some of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is very near and dear to my heart being born and raised in Seattle. As a child I used to LOVE when the mountain was out and our family day trips to the mountain. Sometimes you hear local PNWers refer to Mount Rainier as “she” or “her” and they will say “she’s out!” or “look at her beauty!”
We came to Mount Rainier many times as a family growing up. We never did any hiking or outdoor activities, but my parents would take us to the visitor centers to picnic! When navigating or planning a trip to Mount Rainier, it can be a tad confusing as there are many different visitor centers. Therefore, it’s best to plan ahead to determine what visitor center or hiking area you wish to visit. Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to do multiple visitor centers in one day, so map it out ahead of time!
Things to know before visiting:
-First, the best time to visit is July to August due to weather and snow-free trails, however this is PEAK tourist season and peak mosquito season so expect lines going into the park, crowded trails, and lots of mosquitos.
-Secondly, to enter the park, you will need to pay the entrance fee, or have a park pass.
-If you want to camp in one of the campgrounds, you will need a camping reservation through Recreation.gov, which is open during Summer season.
-The best hikes of Mount Rainier National Park will be busy. Therefore, I always recommend trying to do trips on weekdays and slightly before/after peak season, aiming for sunrise or sunset hikes, and avoiding all holidays.
-There are different sections of Mount Rainier so you will want to know WHERE you are going, WHAT visitor center you will be visiting, and WHAT hike or sight seeing you will be doing, to ensure you are going into the right entrance.
-Finally, as this is a national park leave your animals at home as no dogs or pets are allowed on trails!
Here are the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, long and short
1. Burroughs Mountain
Hiking Distance: 9.0 miles | Elevation: 2500 ft | Rating: Moderate
Parking Lot: Sunrise
This is by far one of the most drastic, epic views of Mt. Rainier for most age hikers. You literally feel like you can summit Mount Rainier you feel so close to the mountain. With the Winthrop Glacier in front of you, stop and seek the beauty of the Second Burroughs, and if you can, push downhill for the bigger adventure with the Third Burroughs towards the Glacier Basin Trail.
Second Burroughs offers impressive views into the Glacier Basin, Little Tahoma, and expansive views of the national park. You will also see views of the famous Fremont Lookout, a hike many choose to do. However, if you were to have to choose between Fremont Lookout and Burroughs, I would suggest Burroughs! Though, my friend and I did BOTH Fremont and Burroughs in the same day. With the elevation gain and mileage, Second Burroughs is a good turnaround point for most day hikers. But those after a bigger adventure can continue downhill to a saddle and intersection with the Glacier Basin trail.
Depending on the season, you will often find wildflowers and other florals on display. Additionally, you may see chipmunks and goats exploring the land alongside you. As for those pikas and marmots, they can be a little aggressive with seeking food, so be careful with your lunch! In my opinion, this is one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park and should be a must!
2. Tolmie Peak Lookout- Eunice Lake
Hiking Distance: 7.5 miles | Elevation: 1100 ft | Rating: Easy-Moderate
Parking Lot: Mowich Lake
This is a classic Washington hike. Tolmie Peak offers views of lakes, trees, mountains, and beautiful alpine wilderness. As stated above, this is not a dog friendly hike so please leave your dog at home! This hike starts at the Mowich Campground and leads to an old fire lookout overlooking Eunice Lake. At the end of your hike, you deserve a swim in Mowich Lake! The trail will lead to Eunice Lake. You can turn around here, have a break and lunch, or you can muster up some energy for a final mile steep push up towards Tolmie Peak!
3. Skyline Loop Trail/Myrtle Falls
Hiking Distance: 5.5 miles | Elevation: 1700 ft | Rating: Moderate
Parking Lot: Paradise
Mount Rainier’s most popular destination, Skyline Trail, gets nearly two million visitors each year. Be prepared for a crowded trail, long line at the visitor center entrance, and crazy parking if you choose to go on a sunny weekend in Summer. Other than it’s crazy foot traffic, this hike (or visitor center) is worth visiting. Prior to starting any hike, I always suggest having a paper map or the trail of your desired hike downloaded on AllTrails App or Maps.Me as navigation can sometimes be confusing. Behind the Jackson Visitor Center you will find signage for the Skyline Trail. This trail is often completed as a loop, in which you can hike clockwise or counter clock wise, or out-and-back to any other trail/viewpoint. In this hike you will see the Nisqually Glacier, climbers proceeding to Camp Muir, and Glacier Vista, where many people choose to turn around.
4. Summerland Camp / Panhandle Gap via the Wonderland Trail
Hiking Distance: 12 miles | Elevation: 2950 ft | Rating: Moderate
Parking Lot: Towards Sunrise, just beyond the bridge over Fryingpan Creek (there are about 20-30 slots on the right of the road)
As part of the Wonderland Trail, this is hands down one of the most classic hikes in Mount Rainier. At 12 miles, Summerland – Panhandle Gap will make you feel like you have entered a different world if you are able to push towards Panhandle Gap. You will likely find sheep foraging on the cliffs, grassy meadows, cairns, rocky vegetation. Once you reach the summit, you will see views of Goat Rocks Wilderness, Mount Adams and Mount Hood! Soak in the views as you see other hikers in the distance continue the Wonderland Trail. If you choose to camp overnight at Summerland you will need reservations ahead of time here.
If you’re short on time:
1. Sourdough Ridge
Hiking Distance: 2.5 miles | Elevation: 400 ft | Rating: Moderate
Sourdough Ridge is often the competitor to Dege Peak Trail. These are both relatively short hikes that provide wonderful views, and just the right amount of elevation to be family-friendly. Your hike will start at the Sunrise Visitor Center and follow a set of stairs to start your hike. During the same starting point hikers going to Dege Peak, Burroughs and Fremont Lookout will also start off with you. Your ending point will depend on you as some may choose to add on additional trails at the five-way intersection. Even if you do not add on any other trails, this beginner trail will show you amazing alpine mountain views, Little Tahoma, Sunrise Valley, Wonderland Trail, Huckleberry Valley, and Antler Peak.
2. Dege (Deh-Gay) Peak Trail
Hiking Distance: 4.0 miles | Elevation: 600 ft | Rating: Moderate
Starting at the Sunrise Parking lot, Dege Peak Trail is an interesting perspective on the mountain as it leads you further from the mountain. Whereas, the competing trails at the trailhead (Burroughs Mountain and Sourdough Ridge Trail) lead you closer. I suggest this hike if you are short on time or don’t feel like you can do a longer more moderate hike. If you would like a longer but easier hike, you can then tag on Sourdough Ridge Trail! At the summit of Dege Peak you will find an amazing place to snack, while seeing views of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker.
3. High Rock Lookout
Hiking Distance: 3.2 miles | Elevation: 1200 ft | Rating: Moderate
Ok, so this isn’t actually IN the park, but it’s right outside which is nice because it is dog friendly! There are lots of dispersed camp spots as well along the way if you wanted to do a sunrise hike. Call us crazy, but my good friend and I drove 3.5 hours from Portland one weekday after work to do a sunset hike at High Rock Lookout! I do not regret one minute! This was an AMAZING sunset hike, short distance, and just the right amount of elevation to hustle our butts up to the lookout! Make sure to bring a jacket and rain/wind jacket for the top as the high wind can make you go from super hot to super chilly in no time.
Is hiking not your thing? That’s ok! Here are some other laid-back options!
–Tipsoo Lake (Naches Peak Loop)
–Nisqually Vista Trail
–Groves of the Patriarchs (Closed as of Nov 2021 due to flooding- check conditions!)
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