Mount Rainier National Park is one of those places I never get tired of visiting. And with it only being a 3 hour drive for me, I visit as often as I can. Over the years, I’ve gravitated towards off-season and unique experiences near Mt Rainier while still keeping a healthy mix of the best hikes in Mount Rainier. This Mount Rainier Itinerary will offer a bit of everything to help you plan the ultimate getaway here including the best nearby Airbnb at Mount Rainier.
- Getting to Mount Rainier
- Ultimate Mount Rainier Itinerary:
- 1. Grab Coffee and a Snack at The Mountain Goat Cafe
- 2. Drive Skate Creek Road from Packwood to Paradise
- 3. Visit Christine Falls
- 4. Stop at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center
- 5. Hike to Myrtle Falls
- 6. Skyline Trail
- 7. Dinner at Packwood Brewing Co.
- Mount Rainier Itinerary Note:
- 8. Cannibal Hot Tub
- 9. Hike to a Fire Lookout
- Where to Stay near Mount Rainier: Best Airbnb Mount Rainier
- Packing List for your Mount Rainier Itinerary
- Nearby Destinations: Mount Rainier Itinerary
- Conclusion: Mount Rainier Itinerary
Photos in Collaboration with Logan Reavis
Getting to Mount Rainier
There are multiple entrances to Mount Rainier, so choosing where to go and where to stay near Mount Rainier will mostly depend on the time of year. If you plan to visit in the off-season, the Paradise entrance is where you will want to head. The road to Sunrise entrance closes down in early Fall, while the road to Paradise remains open with few closures due to snowfall.
Mount Rainier is by far the most popular National Park in Washington only a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle, and a 3 hour drive from Portland.
I recommend renting a vehicle to get around and give yourself flexibility as there are not many public transit options. Another option would be to book a tour with a guide that includes transportation!
Ultimate Mount Rainier Itinerary:
How Many Days Should I Plan for?
Things to do at Mount Rainier National Park are truly endless, but to have a great experience and see a variety of things, I recommend 2-3 days in the area. You can absolutely spend one day in Mount Rainier, but you have to be lucky that the weather cooperates!
I have visited the park several times with NO views of the mountain unfortunately. Having 2-3 days gives you a buffer for the weather to shift and to get the best views!
Tip: Visit the Mount Rainier Webcams page before driving into the park!
1. Grab Coffee and a Snack at The Mountain Goat Cafe
I’ve spent rather an embarrassing amount of time here when on the road. I love ordering Jasmine tea and working in the corner for a bit. It has lots of quirky small town charm and I highly recommend a stop in before heading out on this Mount Rainier Itinerary. Lots of tasty goodies too! Gluten free options available, but unfortunately no dairy free options while I was there.
2. Drive Skate Creek Road from Packwood to Paradise
I LOVE staying in Packwood, Washington. I’ll be sure to include my cabin stay recommendations below, but it is always such a treat. Skate Creek Road or Forest Road 52 is an absolutely stunning way to get to Mount Rainier, but really only makes sense if you’re staying in Packwood. You’ll see less traffic and lots of scenic river pull-offs.
What to Expect: Winding, occasionally bumpy road. Stunning views of trees, rivers and Mount Rainier. No facilities or gas stations so fill up in Packwood!
Season: Note that this road does close in December and reopens around May. So if you’re going in the winter, Highway 706 has year-round access to Paradise.
3. Visit Christine Falls
Christine Falls in Mount Rainier National Park is a very quick and easy pull-off that is definitely worth the stop. We drove up during a weekday in October and were the only ones parked there in the afternoon. Look out for the small parking lot and check out the cute cobblestone bridge that perfectly frames the falls.
4. Stop at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center
It’s always fun to stop in a National Park visitor center and grab a few post cards, snacks or just look at the detailed maps of where you’ll be headed! It’s also great practice to check out any posted signs for trail closures, weather alerts, etc. If you have any questions about trails or difficulty levels, ask a ranger there. This visitor center also has massive windows with views of Mount Rainier.
5. Hike to Myrtle Falls
Myrtle Falls is a classic Mount Rainier view. It is definitely one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park for how easy it is with fantastic views and a must for your Mount Rainier itinerary. I’ve seen it now with the mountain and without the mountain visible and of course its stunning either way, but always nice to see Rainier!
What to Expect: A paved 0.7 mile round trip walk with several steps leading down to the waterfall view. Expect lots of crowds here.
6. Skyline Trail
If you have time to spend in the National Park, the Skyline Loop Trail at Paradise is a great option that offers a lot of flexibility and views. And I’d say is definitely one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier. The entire loop is 5.7 miles with 1,768 ft elevation gain and rated difficult. However, you can do small sections of this loop that are incredibly scenic and rated easy to moderate.
Options from Skyline Trail:
- Dead Horse Creek Trail: 2 miles, 700 ft gain – Moderate difficulty
- Panorama Point: 3.8 miles, 1,322 ft gain – rated Hard.
- Myrtle Falls area: 0.4 miles to Myrtle Falls and it opens up to stunning views just beyond the turn off for the falls! Rated easy.
7. Dinner at Packwood Brewing Co.
The Packwood Brewing Co. is such a great spot to reward yourself with good food and a beverage after a full day of hiking around Mount Rainier National Park. Packwood is such a cute town near Mount Rainier and this brewery definitely delivers all the charm.
What to expect: Seasonal menu, craft beer, ciders and cocktails. Very cute decor with a fireplace, lounge and vintage mountain cabin vibes. Typically open until 9pm
Mount Rainier Itinerary Note:
The above activities of one through seven is the perfect itinerary if you only plan to spend one day in the National Park. Most of these activities require little time and would easily fit into a day. Skyline Trail would require the most time, but would just depend on how much of the trail you plan to do.
But if you plan to stick around here are some other add on activities or alternatives to keep the fun going!
8. Cannibal Hot Tub
This is probably the most unique thing you can do near Mount Rainier National Park. Warm up in a giant kettle of water heated by wood fire at Paradise Village Hotel & Restaurant in Ashford, Washington. You do not need to stay at the hotel in order to book a reservation at the cannibal hot tub. And a reservation at the cannibal hot tub is also NOT included in a reservation at their hotel/cabins.
You can adjust the temperature with the cold water tap to get the temperature just right. Large stones sit at the bottle of the cauldron since the metal does get pretty hot! You can also add on the sauna/sauna house with your reservation which was so lovely.
It was such a fun and unique place and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and also ate at the restaurant attached to the hotel. It is Ukrainian owned and operated and all the food was delicious.
Prices are per hour, not per person so I highly recommended gathering a group of friends to split the cost.
- Cannibal Hot Tub one hour: $140
- Cannibal Hot Tub two hours: $190
- Hot tub and Sauna combo one hour: $215
- Hot tub and Sauna combo two hours: $305
Check out their website here for more info and booking!
9. Hike to a Fire Lookout
Hiking to a Fire Lookout in Mount Rainier is one of my favorite experiences! They offer incredible 360 views and make for a great place to hang out and eat your lunch before hiking back down. You have a few to choose from, but here are my favorites for this Mount Rainier Itinerary:
Tolmie Peak is a little bit harder to get to since it is on a long dirt road outside of Carbanado, Washington. But because of this, it is a bit less busy. The hike is 5.6 miles round trip with 1,555 ft elevation gain. From Packwood, it is a bit of a longer drive at 2.5 hours to get to the trailhead. If you are coming from Seattle, it is about a 2.5 hour drive as well.
Fremont Fire Lookout
Fremont Fire Lookout is definitely in the category of best hikes in Mount Rainier. It has become a very popular spot, so I would consider going EARLY to beat the crowds. This viewpoint gets you up close and personal with Mount Rainier (if the weather is nice!) and is absolutely worth checking out if you are physically able!
What to Expect: 5.7 miles round trip with 1,108 ft of elevation gain and rated Moderate difficulty. This is about one hour from Packwood at the Sunrise entrance (closes October).
Where to Stay near Mount Rainier: Best Airbnb Mount Rainier
As mentioned several times, I prefer staying in Packwood, Washington. I just love the energy this small town near Mount Rainier has to offer as well as the small handful of food options. Also, you can almost always plan on seeing elk in the middle of town or in the neighborhoods.
1. Cedar and Pine A Frame
I just had the pleasure of staying here and absolutely loved how cozy and charming this A Frame is. Perched up in the trees, it gives access to all the best forest views. This cabin can sleep up to 7 guests with one King bed downstairs and 3 beds up in the loft. The wood burning stove and massive window were my favorite features here.
2. Elk Point A-Frame
Elk Point is a charming 1967 A-frame cabin that is located 3 minutes from the Cowlitz river. This cabin can sleep up to 6 guests with 3 separate bedrooms and has all the character and cozy touches. I really enjoyed the wood burning stove and how comfortable the living room space is.
3. Other Cabins and Lodging
Here are more options that are very scenic and charming for your Mount Rainier Itinerary!
- Packwood Lodge and Cabins
- Cozy A-Frame with Hot Tub, Fire Pit, and Fireplace!
- Mountain View Cabin with Hot Tub
- 20+ Unique Washington Stays
- 8 Dreamy PNW Cabin Stays
Packing List for your Mount Rainier Itinerary
What you should bring for this Mount Rainier Itinerary will of course depend on the time of year, but here are some suggestions that are great any time of year.
- National Park Pass. I always buy an annual pass. It pays for itself if you’re going to multiple National Parks a year.
- Rain Jacket. No matter what time of year, it’s always a good idea to have a rain coat in Washington.
- Warm Layer. Paradise at Mount Rainier sits at 5,500 ft elevation and if youre hiking up another 1000 or so, it can get chilly!
- Hiking Boots. These are going to be my next pair and are top rated!
- Versatile Shoe. These shoes are fantastic for going out to dinner or even short day hikes. I bring these on every trip.
- Backpack. You’ll want to bring a day pack for hikes to keep snacks, extra layers, sun protection, water and anything else you need.
- Water bottle. Bringing water hiking is a must!!
- Hat for sun protection and/or warmth!
Nearby Destinations: Mount Rainier Itinerary
This is just one itinerary of some of the best experiences near Mount Rainier. To extend your trip or check out other add on experiences, check out these blog posts:
- 5 Favorite Hikes in Mount Rainier
- Hike and Sleep at High Hut with Views of Mount Rainier
- 20 Easy Washington Hikes Near Seattle
- Stay in a Fire Lookout in Washington
- Scenic Hot Springs
- 20 Best Backpacking Trips is Washington
Conclusion: Mount Rainier Itinerary
This Mount Rainier Itinerary offers variety and a balance of hiking and unique experiences! Of course there are endless things to do in this area and Washington in general so I don’t envy the decisions you have to make in planning your trip haha. Mount Rainier National Park is a stunning place, so whatever you decide on will be beautiful! Even the drive up gives you fantastic views of the towering volcano.
Let me know in the comments below if you plan to visit Mt Rainier soon and what activities you’ll be doing!
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