Mount Rainier RVTravel Guide
Mount Rainier isn’t just a National Park and a 14,410-foot peak; it’s also an active volcano! Active steam vents and earth-tremors are evidence that the volcano is dormant, not dead. In fact, scientists give Mount Rainier a high probably of erupting in the near future, making it the third most dangerous volcanoes in the United States. (Still want to visit?)
Hopefully you do, because the park has over 270 miles of trails and 147 miles of roads to explore. As the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range and in all of Washington State, Mount Rainier is an impressive sight. On a clear day, the mountain is visible from Vancouver, Canada, Portland, Oregon and of course, seattle washington. It’s also the most heavily glaciated peak in the U.S. outside Alaska.
For more information about visiting and camping at Mount Rainier, go to Keep Your Daydream.com / Rainier
The park has 5 separate regions and entrances, all 2-3 hours apart by car. Suffice it to say, this park is big, so get your bearings before you visit. The five regions are:
- Paradise (south)
- Sunrise (northeast)
- Ohanapecosh (southeast)
- Longmire (southwest)
- Carbon River/Mowich Lake (northwest)
- Read the map: As we mentioned, this park has five entrances. GPS can take you to the wrong entrance or lead you to closed gates, so check directions and park maps to verify any instructions from your GPS, as rerouting can take hours.
- Pay attention: Mount Rainier is an active volcano. Geologic hazards like debris flows, rockfall, and glacial outburst floods are all possible at the park, so pay extra attention when navigating on roads or trails. Many hiking trails in the park pass through “geohazard areas,” and any river in the park is at risk for debris flow. Watch for sudden rises or drops in water level, shaking ground, or rumbling noises (similar to the sound of a train). If you notice these signs, get to higher ground! Risk is low, but it’s always good practice to be aware of your surroundings.
- Use the webcams: Wondering about weather conditions or parking availability during busy times? Use the park’s live webcams to get a real-time view of what’s happening in the park.
- Be prepared: Mountain weather is very changeable, especially at higher elevations. Snow remains above 5,000 feet well into mid-July. Hikers should bring layers and prepare for rain, snow, and hot sun at almost any time of year. Bring rain gear and extra clothing for protection against storms, and check for avalanche warnings if you’re hiking in snowy areas.
- Take the road less traveled: We’ll share the best places to visit, but during busy seasons, use the park’s “off the beaten path” guide for tips on how to avoid the crowds and still enjoy your visit.
- Bring bug spray: During summer, mosquitoes in the park can be intense. Bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and good hiking boots so you can enjoy your time on the trails.
- Start early: The park is crowded most of the year, and especially in summer. Start hikes before 8 a.m. (and even earlier on weekends) to beat the crowds to the most popular trails.
- Leave Fido at home: The park service actively discourages canine visitors at Mount Rainier National Park. There are no hiking trails where dogs are allowed, so plan to leave your pup at the campground.
- Hiking season is short: With so much snow year-round, you’ll have the best luck hiking between July and September. Trails can remain heavily snow-packed through late May!
Where to stay in the park
The park has three RV-friendly campgrounds: Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, and White River. Most sites are reservable, but some first-come, first-served sites are also available. None of the campgrounds have electricity, water, or a dump station.
- Cougar Rock: Open late May to late September. Max RV length is 35 feet (27 feet for trailers).
- Ohanapecosh: Open late May to late September. Max RV length is 32 feet (27 feet for trailers).
- White River: Open late June to late September (at 4,400 feet). Max RV length is 27 feet (18 feet for trailers).
For more information and reservations, visit the NPS website here.
Where to stay outside the park
With five entrances covering a large area, there is no shortage of places to stay near Mount Rainier National Park. Here are a few that offer some of the shortest drive times:
- Mounthaven Resort: https://mounthaven.com/
- Silver Springs Campground: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mbs/recreation/recarea/?recid=18090&actid=29
Harvest Hosts/Boondockers Welcome:
- Paradise Village Hotel and Restaurant
- Nemo Farms
Things to do
- Paradise: Paradise, situated at an elevation of 5,400 feet, is a great place to start your park visit. It’s also home to the main visitor center for the park, Paradise Jackson Visitor Center. You can also visit the historic Paradise Inn, open mid-May to early October. Paradise is best seen in peak wildflower season (July to August), but is beautiful at any time of year. Just keep an eye on when you’re visiting; parking can be hard to come by.
- Sunrise: Sunrise offers 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys from its perch at 6,400 feet. It’s also the highest spot in the park that’s accessible by vehicle, so if you’re looking for peak views without a hike, this is your spot. Two short hikes are accessible here: the Sunrise Nature Trail and Sunrise Rim Trail.
- Grove of the Patriarchs: This 1-mile loop trail is one of the most popular spots in the park—but sadly, as of the time of writing, it’s closed due to flood damage in November 2021. The famous suspension bridge that enables access to the area is unsafe for visitors until further notice. But because it’s such a famous spot, we had to mention it!
- Longmire: Mount Rainier became the 5th U.S. National Park in 1899, and James Longmire’s homestead and mineral springs resort was made the park’s headquarters. You can still visit the original 1916 headquarters building, today a museum with exhibits about the early days of the park. This spot is something of a hidden gem, and a good place to visit during peak busy times.
- Skyline Trail: The most iconic and well-known hike in the park. This 5.5-mile trail is accessible from the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. It’s a 2-mile climb to Panorama Point, named for its breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Plan three to five hours for the full round-trip journey.
- Silver Falls Trail: A 3-mile round-trip trail that stars from the Ohanapecosh Campground. This hike is relatively flat, so a good choice for families with smaller kids.
- Mt. Fremont Lookout Trail: We’ve heard multiple people say that this is the best hike in the park because it offers one of the best views of Mount Rainier. It’s 5.7 miles out and back and considered a moderately challenging hike.
Permits and closures
Grove of the Patriarchs is closed until further notice, due to extensive damage from flooding in November 2021.
Through September 29, 2022, Stevens Canyon Road (from Stevens Creek to Box Canyon) will be closed to through traffic from Monday mornings at 6 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. The road is open after 8:00 p.m. Thursday, Friday-Sunday, and before 6 a.m. on Mondays. However, expect 20-30-minute delays due to a single lane closure through a damaged section of the road. Access the closure map here.
Permits are required for all backcountry camping in the park.