Drive Around Mount Ranier in one day

Established March 2, 1899, Mt. Rainier offers scenic views, nature walks, hikes, climbs, camping, backcountry adventures, birdwatching and more. Mt. Rainier is known for it’s epic climbs to the top that require training and a possibly a guide. Climbing Mount Rainier is a challenging, technical climb that requires a vertical elevation gain of over 9,000 feet and a distance of over 10 miles. Climbers should be in excellent physical condition and well prepared. They should also have technical glacier-travel rope skills to ascend and descend safely. Climbers will need a permit as the number of climbers has increased exponentially creating a traffic jam and hazards for Mt. Rainier.

Planning Your Drive

Researching as much as you can about Mt. Rainer can help you plan your visit but even the best planning and research won’t help when the weather won’t cooperate and the timing goes haywire. Coming from the Seattle area you will have to decide which way you want to go —clockwise or counterclockwise. The most popular route is counterclockwise heading into Mt. Rainier from the Nisqually entrance where you will find the Longmire Museum and also Paradise. That direction provides the best views along the way. Going clockwise you would go in through the east entrance and head to Sunrise where…yes you will see the sunrise if you go early enough. During winter though, the Sunrise side of the mountain is usually snowed in and closed to visitors. The Paradise side is kept open all year round even during winter. Be sure to check the hours on the NPS website.

The areas surrounding Mt. Rainier on both sides of the mountain are geared towards the tourists, hikers and backpackers.

The Longmire Museum provides a short history of Mt. Rainier.

The Trip

Heading out early in the morning around 9:30 am, we thought we would beat the crowds as it was supposed to be the last weekend that the visitor center at Sunrise was open. We headed straight to the Nisqually entrance to find the Longmire Museum and Mt. Rainier Lodge. We passed the NW Trek and Wildlife center and was hoping to spontaneously catch a tour but planning ahead is required. Before we got to the Nisqually entrance we came across a few little towns —the main one was the town of Elbe which also offer train rides, food (Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining) and lodging (HOBO Inn) in train cars, and a quaint little church. Don’t be fooled by the sign on the trains that lodge visitors that makes that middle car look like the check-in spot.

We also passed the Recycled Spirts of Iron Sculpture Park which we wished we had stopped for. 22410 Washington 706,  Ashford, WA 98304

Driving on we found Longmire, the Longmire Museum, The National Park Inn and the Ranger Station for that area. There is also a little Service Station at Longmire houses a history of transportation into the area.

We stopped to chat with the Rangers to learn more about the park — a must do thing in every park. There was a woman volunteering who was gracious with her time, sharing the world of the backcountry hiking nuisances (what do you do with the human waste, are there bathrooms in the backcountry and other tales.) We talked to one of the rangers asking him how one would get a job as a ranger. He shared his experience of volunteering first and then working for a summer and moving into a ranger position in CA and moving up to Mt. Rainier. He goes out to the backcountry for 5 days at a time to help backpackers and protect the environment.

Don’t miss the bridge at Longmire like we did.

Headed on up to Paradise, there are a few view points to pull off to to capture the views of the area. We caught ourselves on the webcam at Paradise right outside the visitors center!

By the time we got to and looked around at Paradise, we decided a drive around to the other side would get us there in the dark! So planning is important on your trip or just plan on coming back often or even living in the park for a year.

If you were to continue on your drive around Mt. Rainier you would then head from Paradise down to Reflection Lake, find the Ohanapecosh: Treasure of the Deep Forest and around on to Sunrise. On the way out visit the small town of Greenville for more experiences.