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Mount Rainier Hikes

The snow on Mount Rainier never seems to melt fast enough for hikers wanting to explore the many treasures of Mount Rainier National Park. Use our guide to plan your hikes -- from short strolls to overnights -- from June through October.

In most years, the snow on Mount Rainier never seems to melt fast enough for hikers wanting to explore the many treasures of Mount Rainier National Park. Use our guide to begin planning your hikes -- from short strolls to overnights -- from June through October.

Before you go: Check trail conditions and check in with a park ranger. They always have great tips on where to go, what wildlife you might spot and will alert you to any hazards.

Camping: All overnight camping in Mount Rainier National Park requires a permit. Mount Rainier National Park has two campgrounds on the reservation system. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh accept reservations up to six months in advance; White River and Mowich Lake are on first-come, first-served basis.


Longmire Area

Lakes Trail

Roundtrip: 5.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 1550 feet
Highest Point: 5800 feet
When to Hike:Midsummer

Lakes Trail by timmysdad.jpeg
Lakes Trail. Photo by timmysdad.

Explore this loop that begins and ends at the popular Paradise Ranger Station on Mount Rainier. Hike a little more than five miles around and through a myriad of delightful lakes at the base of Washington's tallest volcano.

This hike starts and ends at Paradise, so go when the wildflowers are out and get a double whammy of mountain views and lakes on top of gorgeous blooms.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for the Lakes Trail


Carter Falls

Roundtrip: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Highest Point: 3650 feet
When to Hike: Midsummer

Carter Falls by Hike ALL the Hikes.jpeg
Carter Falls. Photo by Hike ALL the Hikes.

This relatively flat, easy-to-follow trail through old growth forest can be good for families or out-of-town guests, with cascades along the way for easy turn-around spots. Start at the small parking area about 2 miles from Longmire and just before Cougar Rock Campground road. You should run across Carter Falls at 1.1 miles and Narada Falls at 2.7 miles to Narada Falls. There's a sturdy footbridge across the Nisqually River.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Carter Falls


Cayuse Pass/Stevens Canyon

Indian Bar - Cowlitz Divide

Roundtrip: 15 miles
Elevation Gain: 2900 feet
Highest Point: 5914 feet
When to Hike: Midsummer

Indian Bar - Cowlitz Divide by Hikingqueen.jpeg
Indian Bar - Cowlitz Divide. Photo by Hikingqueen.

With views of craggy ridgelines from wildflower-dotted meadows, the Cowlitz Divide is truly a stunning section of Rainier's iconic Wonderland Trail. The first section includes some serious climbing, cresting a ridgeline at four miles in. Wander in wildflower meadows here, before venturing further up, past timberline and into a permanent snowfield before descending 800 feet into the Indian Bar basin. Cool your heels in the Ohanapecosh River and relax here, but be sure not to miss Wauhaukaupauken Falls.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Indian Bar - Cowlitz Divide


Carbon River & Mowich Lake Area

Paul Peak Trail

Roundtrip: 5.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
Highest Point: 4200 feet
When to Hike: June - October

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Paul Peak. Photo by Gibson Kite.

If you're willing to trade classic views of Mount Rainier for the panoramic variety, then you might want to try out the Paul Peak trail. It's clear of snow earlier, and the turnaround is at the intersection with the Wonderland Trail, so it's easy to extend if you want a little longer hike.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Paul Peak Trail


Spray Park

Roundtrip: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
Highest Point: 6400 feet
When to Hike: July - September

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Spray Park. Photo by Spartanhiker.

Like the Tolmie Peak Lookout trail (below), about 30 percent of Spray Park remains under snowpack well into July. But when it finally melts, you'll see why this climb up into a series of alpine meadows is worth the wait. With wildflowers, incredible vistas and maybe even a few marmots along the climb, this is a classic (and sometimes busy) hike; a good one to keep in mind for a September trip to the park.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Spray Park


Tolmie Peak Lookout

Roundtrip: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
Highest Point: 5900 feet
When to Hike: July - September

Tolmie Peak by HanamiBlossom.jpeg
Tolmie Peak Lookout. Photo by Hanami Blossom.

Avalanche Lilies bloom in abundance on this trail, but huge chunks of the trail (including the first section out from the trailhead) remains under snowpack until late July. Between the snow and frozen lakes, you might want to flag this one for August hiking, when you'll have a better chance of making it safely to the Tolmie Fire Lookout. Kids will love the lakes and the lookout, though 7.5 miles is no short roundtrip for little legs.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Tolmie Peak Lookout


Sunrise/White River

Glacier Basin

Roundtrip: 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
Highest Point: 5900 feet
When to Hike: July - October

Glacier Basin by elevatedtv.jpeg
Glacier Basin. Photo by elevatedtv.

Glacier Basin is one of the most popular trails in Mount Rainier National Park. Day hikers enjoy camping in the White River campground and then taking to the trail directly from their campsite. Backpackers long for camping in the basin. It's also one of the best bets for seeing wildlife in the park, especially if you go early.

What creatures are you likely to see? Trip Reporters often mention bears, marmots, otters and songbirds. The trail is wide and easy, with wildflowers and lovely views. Follow the bamboo wands where they mark fragile meadows hikers are asked to avoid. And don't forget to notice all of the fine stone handiwork along the trail; WTA volunteers have spent four years building this impressive new section of trail.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Glacier Basin


Burroughs Mountain

Roundtrip: 7.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
Highest Point: 7400 feet
When to Hike: July - September

Burroughs Mountain by neverstophiking.jpeg
Burroughs Mountain. Photo by neverstophiking.

Spray Park may have more in the way of blooms (and bugs), but this high trail wins for gobsmacking views of Mount Rainier. Hike from Sunrise through meadows to Frozen Lake. Climb up to the ridges and carefully traverse any remaining snow fields from First to Second Burroughs. By the time you reach the summit, you'll be spinning around, taking in the vistas from every direction. Complete the hike by looping back to the visitor center.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Burroughs Mountain


Tipsoo Lake-Naches Peak Loop

Roundtrip: 3.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 feet
Highest Point: 5849 feet
When to Hike: Late -July - October

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Naches Peak Loop. Photo by Andrea123.

This is a trail to save until August or September. In this short window of time, hikers will rejoice at its opening by frolicking in fields of wildflowers and soaking in one of the classic views of The Mountain. Plus, it's a loop hike! If you want to find solitude on this trail, try going at sunrise with a thermos full of hot coffee. Be sure to take some bug spray, too. And to get the best views of Mount Rainier, hike the loop in a clockwise direction and go on a clear day!

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Tipsoo Lake-Naches Peak Loop


Summerland (to Panhandle Gap)

Round Trip: 8.6 - 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 1950 feet (2950 feet if you continue to Panhandle Gap)
Highest Points: 5800 feet (and 6800 feet)
Best Season: July - August

Panhandle Gap by hikingshen.jpeg
Panhandle Gap. Photo by hikingshen.

Guidebook author Dan Nelson calls Summerland "the single most spectacular day hike in the entire park." Mountain views, glaciers, marmots, goats and flowers - this hike has it all. The meadows of Summerland are renowned for their beauty. Go here once, and you'll already be planning your return.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Summerland


Ohanapecosh Area

Grove of the Patriarchs Loop

Roundtrip: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Highest Point: 2200 feet
When to Hike: May - October

Grove of Patriarchs by Rayan.jpeg
Grove of Patriarchs Loop. Photo by Rayan.

This is a fantastic hike for families to stretch their legs on. This short, flat loop features enormous old-growth hemlocks, cedars and Douglas firs as the patriarchs. If you've got a group, the trees are perfect to snap some photos of hug chains around their base. The likely highlight for young hikers, though, is a bouncy suspension bridge about halfway around.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for the Grove of the Patriarchs Loop


Laughingwater Creek to Three Lakes

Roundtrip: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 2800 feet
Highest Point: 4880 feet
When to Hike: July - October

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Laughingwater Creek. Photo by Jim Clagett.

For a true old-growth forest experience, day hike the first five miles of trail in July and peer up and around towering Alaska yellow cedar and mountain hemlock. In mid-summer, red and white striped candy stick fungus pops out of the forest floor, and you may be lucky enough to have this place to yourself.

The full 12 mile hike to Three Lakes doesn't melt out until late summer, so save it for September after the bugs have gone, or prepare for an onslaught!  Because it doesn't feature many of the views that people come to expect from a Mount Rainier hike, the trail is usually crowd-free. It's great on a cloudy day and makes a solid overnight destination. The first few miles and the last few miles are the most challenging.

>> Read WTA's Hiking Guide entry for Laughingwater Creek to Three Lakes