Sarah Taggart
by Sarah Taggart
Posted October 26, 2020

If you’re looking for majestic mountain peaks, stunning wildflower meadows, and fun outdoor activities, look no further than Mount Rainier National Park. With close proximity to Seattle, it’s a crowded park, but definitely worth the trip. The volcano is an icon of the Washington landscape with its snow-capped peak that appears to be floating in the sky. The park roads allow you to get up close and personal to Mount Rainier, which is seriously impressive.  

Mount Rainier National Park deserves way more than one day, but sometimes road trip time is limited. We still want you to get in as much as you can, though, which is why we are here to tell you how to make the most out of one day in Mount Rainier!

Video source: GoTraveler

Tip #1: Plan ahead for camping.

If you can, drive to the park the night before and set up camp. That way, when you wake up in the morning, you won’t have far to go to start your exploring! It allows you to get a head start on any activities you want to do or embark on a hike that may take a little longer.

I had the privilege of exploring Mount Rainier a few summers ago. We had intentions of staying in a park campground because it was so close to the mountain and had stunning views. I guess everyone else had this idea as well because it was full. We didn’t have a plan B, it was dark and late and we were really tired. We noticed a very large pullout by the entrance that several other cars were camping at, so we decided to park there.

About two hours later we awoke to park ranger headlights in the window. We were informed that we could not boondock at that spot because we were still in the national park. Frustrated, we explained that we were tired, had driven a few hours today, and the campground was full. He was very helpful and directed us to national forest land a mile down the road that we could boondock at. Moral of the story: plan ahead if you want to camp!

Tip #2: Choose the time that you visit wisely.

If you’re in Seattle for a few days and want to make a day trip to Mount Rainier, choose the day that you decide to travel wisely. Weekends draw in massive crowds, especially during the peak summer season. If you want more space for yourself and less trouble finding parking, visit during the week when crowds are a little smaller.

one day in mt rainier national park
photo credit:

Tip #3: Don’t rely on GPS.

You can save yourself some major time simply by not relying on your GPS. There are four entrances, and going to the wrong one can eat away at time spent doing fun stuff. Plan ahead to see what activities you want to do, and plan your route accordingly. 

For instance, if you want to visit the Paradise area of the park, you’ll use the Nisqually Entrance on the southwest side. If you want to see the Sunrise area, you’ll use the Northeast Entrance.  We went to the wrong entrance at first and had to drive out and back around half of the park to get to the correct one. So, trust me! Check out a map of the park here.

landscape photography of man standing on brown mountain

Tip #4: Dedicate a few hours to hike around.

One of the neat things about Mount Rainier National Park is the trail system. Hiking is the best way to take in the beauty of your surroundings. As you move through the wilderness, the scenes will constantly change and reveal sights more magnificent than the one before! With over 260 miles of trails in the park, you can find the perfect one that fits your time and difficulty constraints. 

While we were there, we drove to the Sunrise Visitor Center and hiked some of the Sourdough Ridge Trail. The trail is moderate and you can go as far as you like. No matter how far you hike, one will still enjoy magnificent views of the park. This trail is also known for having a spectacular sunrise view, so be sure to get there early.

Here is a detailed list of all the trails from the Sunrise Visitor Center. And, look here for more trails at Mt. Rainier National Park.

Tip #5: Don’t be afraid to venture outside the park.

Don’t get me wrong— Mt. Rainier National Park is fantastic and you could easily spend days within the park boundaries. But, there are some other really neat ways to see it outside the park, like aboard a train excursion on the Mt. Rainier Railroad or the Mt. Rainier Gondola. If one of these activities piques your interest, don’t be afraid to venture a little further out.

green trees near lake during daytime

Hit the Road

Whether you’re on the road for a weekend or a week, doing a little research ahead of time can help you make the most of your time. The bottom line is that Mount Rainier National Park is a can’t-miss attraction. Make sure to check out this national park in your Outdoorsy rental!

Sarah Taggart

Outdoorsy Author

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