From capturing photos of wildflower frenzies in the summer to snowshoeing and skiing in the winter, no visit to Washington is complete without a trip to experience the natural sanctuary and year-round recreational paradise that is Mt. Rainier. But with some 2,800 square miles to explore and myriad attractions and recreational opportunities, it can be tricky knowing where to start. This article will help you get your arms around all there is to see and do at and around “America’s Everest.”
Let’s start with getting there. Mount Rainier National Park is located in the west-central portion of Washington State and is about 2-3 hours by car or bus from Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, and Portland. At 14,410 feet, you can’t miss it on a clear day: Just look up. The Rainier area offers year-round activities for visitors, but keep in mind some roads may be closed during the winter.
With so much to see and do, you’ll want to stay the night. And with more than 60 places to stay when visiting Mount Rainier, you’ve got options. You’ll find an exhaustive list of lodging options at visitrainier.com. Choose from cabin rentals ranging from cozy rustic log cabins to posh sprawling escapes you won’t want to leave. Find the best historic lodges with exposed timbers and open-hearth fireplaces. Discover affordable roadside motels, cabooses, tranquil treehouses and charming country inns. There are even resorts with pools and restorative spa retreats.
If you’d like to stay near the national park, gateway communities surrounding the area also boast unique attractions and fantastic places to stay, from cabins and vacation rentals to lodges and hotels. Here are the four communities to consider:
Ashford: Just minutes from Mount Rainier National Park’s only year-round entrance (the Nisqually Entrance, with access to Paradise and Longmire areas), attractions in Ashford include locally-owned shops and galleries, community parks and family-friendly eateries. Lodging in Ashford includes a variety of intimate cabins sized for all types of travelers.
Crystal Mountain: Here you’ll find Crystal Mountain Resort, with the highest elevation dining experience in all of Washington State and seasonal hiking, horseback riding, scenic gondola rides, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Elbe: Elbe is home to the Mt. Rainier Railroad, which offers steam train rides through the forest and over the Upper Nisqually River, along with a series of special events and museum exhibits. It’s also home to the Hobo Inn and the largest collection of cabooses in Washington.
Enumclaw: Find great shopping, a thriving local culinary scene, and the Enumclaw Expo Center hosting a long list of special events. Less than an hour from Seattle and the largest gateway community near the park, Enumclaw is a historic logging town with a variety of local businesses and more than 10 public parks for hiking, fishing and other recreation.
Download your free Visit Rainier vacation planners to find itineraries and travel tips to the mountain that will help you plan the perfect vacation any time of year.
You’ve seen the postcards. Now create a few memories of your own. You’ve got everything you need to make this the year you Rainier.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
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Photo Credits in order: Mike Peters, Derby Dixon, Janelle Walker, Ian McRae, Craig Romano, Guest Services, Derby Dixon, Jeff Caven, Derby Dixon, Ian McRae