Mount Rainier National Park
Open all year, Mount Rainier has something for everyone, from ranger programs to mountain climbing. Mount Rainier National Park offers excellent opportunities for scenic drives, hiking and mountain climbing. Most roads are open from late May to early October and all provide stunning views and access to a variety of hiking trails and other sites. While many visitors attempt to see the park in a day, consider an in-depth exploration of on one or two areas of the park.
Mount Rainier, an active volcano, is encased in over 35 square miles of snow and ice. The park contains outstanding examples of old growth forests and subalpine meadows. Visitors enjoy hiking its flanks, climbing its summit, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on its slopes, camping along its glacier-fed rivers, photographing wildflower displays in subalpine meadows and just admiring the view. Mount Rainier, the most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, offers an exciting challenge to the mountaineer. Each year thousands of people successfully climb this 14,410-foot active volcano.
Seasonality / Weather
Mount Rainier National Park is open all year. Visitation peaks in July and August, when the weather is warm and dry and the wildflowers are blooming. Weather patterns at Mount Rainier are strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean, elevation and latitude. The climate is generally cool and rainy, with summer highs in the 60s and 70s. While July and August are the sunniest months of the year, rain is possible any day, and very likely in spring, fall and winter.
Mountain weather is very changeable. Wet, cold weather can occur anytime of the year. Snow will remain at the 5,000 to 8,000 feet elevation well into mid-July.
In spring, with ephemeral waterfalls and in autumn, with brilliant colors reaching deep into the valleys, visitors can enjoy a more leisurely vacation in the park. During these seasons, weather may determine the availability of facilities in certain areas of the park. Before making any plans check the current status of roads, campgrounds, trails and activities.
Hikers and mountain climbers should be prepared for changing weather. Pay attention to weather forecasts, both one day and long range, avalanche warnings, and special weather alerts. Have extra clothing, rain gear, and a tent for protection against storms anytime of the year.
From Seattle (about 87 miles away) or Tacoma (about 65 miles away), take Hwy 5 South to Hwy 512 East, then drive south on Hwy 7; continue east on Hwy 706 at Elbe and continue on to the Nisqually Entrance. From Portland,Oregon (about 136 miles away), take I-5 North to US 12 East to Morton; then take Hwy 7 North and turn east on Hwy 706 at Elbe, continuing on to the Nisqually Entrance.
Southwest entrance: Follow the above directions to Nisqually Entrance, which is the only entrance open year-round.
Southeast entrance: From Yakima, take Hwy 12 West, then take Hwy 123 North to Stevens Canyon Entrance.
Northeast entrance: From Seattle/Tacoma, take Hwy 410 South; from
Yakima, take Hwy 12 to Hwy 410 North, to White River Entrance.
Northwest entrance: Take Hwy 165 South to Carbon River Road. Road is closed at the entrance due to road damage from flooding.
In the winter, all park roads are closed except the stretch between Nisqually and Paradise. Call ahead for road conditions at (360) 569-2211.
Parking is limited in many areas of the park especially on busy summer weekends and holidays. If you are planning a summer trip to Mount Rainier, consider visiting mid-week, which is generally less crowded.
Aside from the Paradise shuttle service (summer weekends only), there is no public transportation to or in Mount Rainier National Park.
From May 1 to September 30, Gray Line Tours offers daily trips from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park. For more information, call Gray Line Tours at (800)426-7532.