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Mt. Rainier National Park is 2 hours south from Seattle, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen! The mountains are breathtaking and combining with waterfalls, wildlife, and trails, it’s the perfect destination for a weekend.
Because I arrived there in November, some of the roads were closed due to snow, and some of the trails were icy and snowy in some areas. We focused on the Paradise area which is still active during the winter season.
It’s always hard to decide what to fo when you only come for a day trip or a weekend! You don’t want to miss out the BEST places but at the same time you can’t do everything.
Here’s are the things you need to do in Mt. Rainier and everything you need to know before arriving!
Pro tip before we’ll get started: If you’re choosing to visit late in the season (as we did), make sure you arrive with the necessary supply- Ice grippers for your shoes and hiking poles. We didn’t plan on long and difficult trails therefore we didn’t carry this equipment. Most of the trail was moody and some areas were slippery but normal hiking shoes do the job perfectly.
Places you MUST see in Mt. Rainier Paradise
Let’s start with some basic information about Paradise. Paradise is famous for its incredible views and wildflowers. It is located in the SW corner of the park and open year-round. The area got its name back in the late 1800s when the park pioneer James Longmire’s daughter in-law, Martha, said “oh, what a paradise!”.
A popular, easy 0.3 miles out and back trail. One of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen (and I live in Oregon, so I’ve seen a lot). You can see a beautiful rainbow reflecting on the waterfall which I find magical!
For those who plan a day-hike, Narada Falls and Reflection Lakes loop is a great option. It’s a moderate 5 miles loop to the reflection lakes, another beautiful spot. We didn’t do the whole trail because we were too busy stopping in every viewpoint that it was too late, and we planned another hike on the second day.
Extra- During the summer you can drive to the reflection road and skip the hike, due to snow, the road was close when we arrived, and you could only hike there.
A moderate 0.8 miles hike out & back. The viewpoint is part of the skyline trail (which is 6 miles). You probably recognize the place from the thousands of Mt. Rainier’s photos. Unlike Narada Falls, you can get an incredible capture of the waterfalls and the mountain behind which gives you the perfect photo. When you’re walking on the skyline trail, you can’t see the falls, before arriving at the bridge, there’s a staircase to your right to a viewpoint where you can see the epic view.
Extra- you can keep going to Sluiskin Falls. It’s close to Myrtle Falls but the elevation was high, and we were told it’s icy and without the right equipment can be dangerous.
There are multiple options for this trail but overall, it’s a moderate 6 miles loop with 1,800 elevation gain. Again, because we came without the right equipment, we only did half of the trail to Glacier Vista and Panorama Point.
This is by far one of my favorite hikes in the U.S. and the views were literally breathtaking! The trail took us 3 hours (because I had to draw the incredible mountain) and because we were hypnotized by the beautiful view. If it was up to me, I could spend there the whole day drawing every single viewpoint.
We had the perfect day because the skies were clear, and we could see all the way to Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Hood in Oregon. The panorama point and the Glacier Vista point are great places to have your snacks and take a break while enjoying the view.
Note- We did the first two falls and the viewpoints on our first day. The viewpoints worth stopping and they’re absolutely gorgeous!
We dedicated the whole day for the Skyline trail and drive back to Portland.
You may be interested in reading:
- 12 Awesome Things to do in Seattle Washington
- The 10 Most Beautiful Instagram Spots in Oregon
- 10 Best Attractions in Portland Oregon
- 28 Best Gifts for Travelers
- The Oregon Bucket List- Best places to Visit
What to Bring for Hiking in Mt. Rainier?
- Hiking Shoes: probably the most important thing- don’t hike without hiking shoes or hiking boots. There’s a good chance you’ll hike through snow, even during the summer.
- Hiking Poles: we forgot to bring our poles back home and regretted it. It takes the stress from your legs and helps keep you balanced.
- Camera: any camera will do the job. I don’t think I need to explain; the pictures talk for themselves.
- Jacket/ Rain Jacket: be prepared for all weather conditions, especially if you’re coming at the beginning or late season. I brought too many layers and took all of them after 5 minutes.
Don’t bring too much because you have to carry it through the whole trail, bring something warm but also easy to carry.
- Bear Spray: the bears are common in Mt. Rainier, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll meet one (I didn’t) but it’s better to come prepared. The park is well known for its wildlife, before arriving, make sure which animals you may see and how to act if you meet them.
- Snacks and Water: always important.
Overall Mt. Rainier National Park is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest. I loved our weekend and already planning my next trip to the park.
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