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Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park

Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park

From glaciers and snow-capped peaks to wildflower meadows and alpine lakes, Mount Rainier National Park is home to some of Washington’s most captivating scenery. Not only that, but it also contains the highest peak in the Lower 48- Mount Rainier. Known for being one of the US’s most glaciated peaks and an active volcano, Mount Rainier is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most magical destinations. 

As this national park is just a couple hours away from the Seattle Escape Camper Vans hub, a Seattle to Mount Rainier road trip is the perfect long weekend getaway. After reading this comprehensive guide, you’ll be ready to hop in your dream camper van and start your journey to Mount Rainier National Park!

Best Route From Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park

Following our itinerary, you’ll head straight to Mount Rainier National Park after picking up your camper van from Seattle Escape Camper Vans. To get to the park, you’ll enter through the Nisqually Entrance. Then, you’ll get to experience Mount Rainier’s most beloved areas, including Paradise, Sunrise, and Longmire. 

Keep reading to discover all that Mount Rainier National Park has to offer!

Travel Time From Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park

This road trip begins and ends at the Seattle Escape Camper Vans pickup location. The drive is approximately 222 miles from start to finish and takes about 6 hours. This itinerary is perfect for a 4-day road trip. However, you could also shorten this into a 3-day road trip by skipping the first day of this itinerary.

Mount Rainier National Park is also easily accessible from the Portland Escape Camper Vans hub. This road trip is approximately 384 miles from Portland and takes about 8 hours and 11 minutes.

Best Time of Year for a Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park Road Trip

Mount Rainier National Park is open year-round, and each season at the park is uniquely beautiful and exciting. That being said, some park roads close from late fall to early spring, making certain areas and facilities inaccessible during this time. To experience the park at its peak when all park areas are open, we recommend visiting between late spring and early fall. 

Before booking your trip from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park, here are a few more seasonal differences to consider. 

 

Spring: At the beginning of spring, the park is wet, cold, and quiet. However, towards the end of spring, the park becomes more lively as park facilities and roads begin to reopen. As it warms up and the snow melts, Mount Rainier’s rivers and waterfalls are also at their peak. Simply put, visiting in the spring provides much of summer’s beauty without the overwhelming crowds. 

Summer: Visitors flock to Mount Rainier in the summer to witness the park’s blooming wildflowers and enjoy the warm, dry weather. Since all of the park’s facilities, roads, trails, and campgrounds are open at this time, there is a ton to do here in the summer. On the other hand, summer also means lots of park traffic, congested trails, and fully booked campgrounds. If you’re planning a summer trip to Mount Rainier, we recommend visiting the park mid-week to avoid some of the crowds. 

Fall: With incredible fall foliage all around the park, autumn is another wonderful time to visit Mount Rainier. The park remains open until mid-fall, and it’s much quieter at this time. If you visit during late fall, expect cold weather, high chances of rain and snowfall, and some park closures.

Winter: While some of the park’s roads and facilities close during this time, there are still lots of winter activities to enjoy around Mount Rainier. However, you’ll need to bring winter gear, including snow chains for your camper van. It’s also important to note that vehicle access is only allowed through the Nisqually Entrance in the winter. 

Pro tip: Always check the park’s operating hours and seasonal closures before visiting. You can also call the park at 360-569-2211 for the most up-to-date information. 

Preparation for a Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park Road Trip

With five park sections and hundreds of miles of roads and trails, planning a trip to Mount Rainier can be a bit intimidating. To help you prepare, we’ve compiled everything you need to know before embarking on the ultimate Seattle to Mount Rainier road trip. Follow these tips to make the most out of your adventure!

Mount Rainier National Park Entrance Passes

All visitors must have an entrance pass to visit Mount Rainier National Park. There are a few different pass options, so here’s a quick guide to help you pick which one is best for your trip! 

Standard Entrance Pass: This pass is valid for seven consecutive days from the date of purchase and costs $30 per private vehicle (including camper vans).

Annual Entrance Pass: This pass is valid for a year from the date of purchase, making it the best option for anyone planning to visit Mount Rainier several times in a year. It costs $55. 

Both the standard and annual entrance passes can be purchased online or in person at select entrances and visitor centers. For more information on where each pass can be purchased, visit Mount Rainier’s Fees & Passes page

The America the Beautiful Pass: This federal pass allows pass holders to enter more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including Mount Rainier National Park. This is an excellent option if you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year. The annual pass costs $80 and can be purchased online. To find out where you can purchase this pass in person, check out the National Park Service’s website

Additionally, Escape Camper Vans also offers the America the Beautiful National Park pass. It can be purchased when picking up your van, and it’s valid for the next 12 months. 

A camper van in Mt. Rainier National Park camping.

Timed Entry Reservations

To help reduce wait times, Mount Rainier is introducing a timed entry reservation system starting in 2024. This means that you’ll need to reserve a time slot to enter the park during the peak summer season.

From May 24 through September 2nd, timed entry reservations are required to enter the Paradise Corridor from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm.

From July 3 through September 2nd, timed entry reservations are also required to enter the Sunrise Corridor from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm.

Reservations can be made 90 days in advance. To make a reservation, visit this Recreation.gov website.

If you have a service reservation, such as a campsite reservation or a wilderness pass, a timed entry reservation may not be required. For more details about timed entry reservations, check out the National Park Service’s site.

Climbing Permits

If you’re planning to climb or ski above 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier, you’ll need to pay the annual climbing fee. The fee is $68, and it can be paid online.

You will also need to obtain a climbing permit in person at the park. Reservations for climbing permits are encouraged and can be made online at this Recreation.gov website. If you are climbing solo, you will also need to submit a solo climbing application form.

Gear

Rain Gear: Mount Rainier experiences its fair share of rain, especially outside of the summer season. Come prepared with waterproof clothes and shoes.

Extra Layers: The temperature in Mount Rainier National Park drops quickly from day to night. While gaining elevation on hikes, you’ll experience temperature drops too. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to pack an extra jacket, even during a summer visit. 

Seasonal Gear: There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy seasonal activities around Mount Rainier, so don’t forget your gear! For a winter visit to the park, you’ll need a warm coat, gloves, hats, scarves, and snow pants. 

Sun Protection: Sunscreen is essential, especially at higher elevations. Apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a hat to prevent sunburn.

Snow Chains: From November 1st to May 1st, all vehicles must carry tire chains per the park’s winter safety precautions. If you’re visiting during this time, don’t forget to add the optional snow chains to your Escape Camper Vans rental. 

Food & Water: Restaurant options are limited within Mount Rainier National Park, so we recommend that you stock up on food and water. Stop at a grocery store on the way to the park and make the most out of your camper van’s convenient kitchen. For additional ease while cooking, add the optional kitchen kit to your rental. 

Campsites

Throughout Mount Rainier National Park, there are three drive-in campgrounds. They are all open from late spring to early fall. Campsites book up very quickly, so it’s important to book spots in advance. For first-come, first-serve campsites, you’ll want to arrive early in the morning to secure a spot.

There are also several camping options in the national forests near Mount Rainier. To find nearby campgrounds outside of the park and to learn about their reservation policies, check out the National Park Service’s list of forest service campgrounds

In a camper van, you also have the freedom to enjoy dispersed camping, or camping for free on federal and BLM land. Dispersed camping is budget-friendly, and it’s also a convenient option when Mount Rainier’s campgrounds are fully booked. You can find dispersed camping spots near Mount Rainier with these apps.

Navigation

Phones & Chargers: Your phone is one of the most essential road trip gadgets, so you’ll want to make sure it stays charged. Pack a few portable chargers and a car charger. No road trip is complete without good music, so pack an aux cord as well! 

Maps: Cellular service is spotty in some parts of Mount Rainier National Park, so make sure to download the Google Maps route for offline access. A printed map is also good to have just in case!

Escape Camper Vans Rental

No matter your group size, destination, or travel needs, Escape Camper Vans has a vehicle for you! From the Seattle and Portland pickup locations, you can choose between the Mavericks, Mesa, and Del Mar van models.

All of these models feature solar panels, a fully-equipped kitchenette, and a comfortable queen-sized bed. They can all sleep up to 5 with a rooftop sleeper. The Mavericks is perfect for couples and small groups. The Mesa and Del Mar models offer more space, so they are ideal for larger groups.

Check out our selection of camper vans to choose the perfect adventure vehicle for your Seattle to Mount Rainier road trip! 

Getting Around Mount Rainier National Park

Before visiting Mount Rainier National Park, it’s important to familiarize yourself with its layout. This will help you plan your trip more efficiently and maximize your time in the park.

Mount Rainier National Park is divided into five developed sections with four park entrances. Depending on the activities you’d like to do and which areas you’d like to visit, you can select the most convenient park entrance.

Keep reading to learn important information about the park sections and their entrances.

A person holding a map of Mount Rainier National Park while on a seattle road trip.

Park Sections

Paradise: Paradise is the park’s most popular section. It’s located on the south side of the park, and it’s open year-round. This area contains wildflower meadows, tons of trails, and several park facilities. It’s also a great place to enjoy winter activities.

Sunrise: The second most visited section of Mount Rainier, Sunrise also offers lots of natural beauty and an extensive trail system. It’s situated on the northeast side of the park. From this area, you can experience unmatched views of Mount Rainier and Emmons Glacier. Sunrise is also home to the highest part of the park that can be reached by vehicle, which sits at 6,400 feet of elevation. 

Ohanapecosh: Situated in the southeast section of the park, Ohanpecosh is filled with old-growth forests, serene hot springs, and the remarkable Ohanapecosh River. With tons of nature and much smaller crowds, a visit to Ohanapecosh can be a nice escape from the busyness of Paradise and Sunrise. 

Longmire: Known as Mount Rainier’s historic district, Longmire is home to the park’s original headquarters, the Longmire Museum, and other important park facilities. It is conveniently located next to Paradise in the southwest corner of the park. It’s open year-round and is another amazing winter destination. 

Carbon River: Located in the northwest corner of Mount Rainier, Carbon River is more remote than the other areas. In this park section, you can visit rainforests, the Carbon Glacier, and Mowich Lake, the park’s biggest natural lake.

Park Entrances

Nisqually Entrance (Southwest Entrance): The Nisqually Entrance is the park entrance you’ll use if you follow our itinerary. It provides access to Longmire and Paradise, and it’s open year-round. It’s the most popular entrance, so you can expect some park traffic near here. 

Stevens Canyon Entrance (Southeast Entrance): The Stevens Canyon Entrance provides access to the Ohanapecosh section of the park. It’s typically open from late May until early October. 

White River Entrance (Northeast Entrance): The White River Entrance provides access to Sunrise and the White River Campground. It’s typically open from the end of spring until mid-October.

Carbon River Entrance (Northwest Entrance): The Carbon River Entrance provides access to the Carbon River area and Mowich Lake. It’s open year-round, but vehicle access is only permitted up to the entrance. After the entrance point, Carbon River Road is only accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park Road Trip Stops

While four days in Mount Rainier National Park isn’t enough time to cover it all, it’s a great start! Following our itinerary, you’ll explore three of the park’s five sections- Longmire, Paradise, and Sunrise. Get ready for nonstop natural beauty and some unforgettable hikes during this camper van road trip of a lifetime!

Pro Tip: If you’d like to turn this into a 3-day Seattle to Mount Rainier road trip, we recommend skipping day 1 and starting your adventure from day 2 instead. In this case, you’ll still enter the park through the Nisqually Entrance but drive through Longmire and head directly to Paradise. 

Day 1: Longmire & Paradise

After picking your camper van from the Seattle Escape Camper Vans location, it’s time to hit the road for Mount Rainier National Park! On your first day in the park, you’ll explore the beloved Longmire and Paradise sections. These areas are open year-round and can be reached through the Nisqually Entrance.

From Seattle, you’ll drive approximately 80 miles (about 1 hour and 46 minutes) to Longmire.

Pro Tip: If you’re visiting from late May to early September, don’t forget to make a timed entry reservation. This reservation is required to enter Paradise between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm during the peak season.

Escape Campervans A Bartee Rainier 2

Sights and Hikes in Longmire & Paradise

Explore the Waterfalls: Mount Rainier National Park contains some incredible waterfalls, and many of them are located in the Longmire and Paradise areas. You can easily spend a few hours exploring these falls. First, drive to Christine Falls, park your van at the pullout, and head to the overlook beneath the stone bridge. Next, visit the largest waterfall accessible by car in the park, Narada Falls. Finally, take a short 0.4-mile hike to Myrtle Falls, a 72-foot waterfall with a gorgeous view of Mount Rainier in the background. 

Hike to Bench and Snow Lakes: For a beautiful, relaxed hike, head to the Snow and Bench Lake Trail. Bursting with wildflowers and bear grass in the summer, this 2.5-mile trek is incredibly scenic. As the name suggests, it passes Bench Lake and Snow Lake, which are two enchanting subalpine lakes. 

Play in the Snow: Longmire and Paradise are the park’s winter activity hot spots. In Longmire, you can snowshoe, cross-country ski, and hike the Trail of the Shadows to mineral springs. In Paradise, you can sled, snowboard, snow-shoe, and cross-country ski. 

Campgrounds Near Longmire & Paradise

Cougar Rock Campground: Nestled between Longmire and Paradise, Cougar Rock Campground offers 179 campsites. This campground is open from late May until late September. Its spots can be reserved up to six months in advance for the summer season. Campsites are first-come, first-served until the end of June, though.

Mounthaven Resort: If you’re unable to book a campsite in the park, check out Mounthaven Resort. It’s located just outside of the Nisqually Entrance and offers full hookup sites and tent sites. This peaceful campground also has a variety of amenities, including a shower room and a laundry room.

Places to Eat Near Longmire & Paradise

National Park Inn Dining Room: As the only park dining facility open year-round, the National Park Inn Dining Room is a true gem. Whether you’re looking for a hearty burger after a hike or a hot chocolate after playing in the snow, this restaurant’s got you covered!

Longmire General Store: You can find the Longmire General Store next to the National Park Inn. This store offers some groceries and beverages. You can find camping supplies and souvenirs here as well. While we don’t recommend doing all of the grocery shopping for your trip here, it’s a useful stop if you forget something or need a quick snack.

Day 2: Paradise

The second day of your road trip will be dedicated to exploring the Paradise section of Mount Rainier. Earning its name for a reason, Paradise is brimming with so much natural beauty. We recommend enjoying a quick breakfast in your camper van and getting outside as early as possible here. This will allow you to avoid some of the area’s crowds and make the most of your day in Paradise. 

From Longmire, you’ll follow the Paradise Valley Road for approximately 11 miles (about 22 minutes) to Paradise’s Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. 

Campervan rooftop tent, Hoh Rainforest, WA

Sights and Hikes in Paradise

Hike to Panorama Point on the Skyline Trail: If we could only pick one can’t-miss hike in Mount Rainier National Park, it would be this one. The Skyline Trail is Paradise’s main route. It features picture-perfect views of wildflower meadows, vast glaciers, and gushing waterfalls. This hike can be completed in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The clockwise route starts with a steep climb but gets easier from there. The counterclockwise route has a longer but more gradual climb up to Panorama Point. 

Enjoy the View at Reflection Lakes: With mirrored views of Mount Rainier projected onto the water, Reflection Lakes are truly mesmerizing. They are also one of the most photographed sights at Mount Rainier National Park. The lakes can be viewed from surrounding trails, including the Lakes Trail, Pinnacle Peak Trail, and the Wonderland Trail. 

Campgrounds Near Paradise

Cougar Rock Campground: As previously mentioned, Cougar Rock Campground is a great place to stay near Paradise. Make sure to reserve a spot here as early as possible as these campsites book up quickly. 

Ohanapecosh Campground: Another great option within the park is the Ohanapecosh Campground. It’s located just outside of the Paradise area, and it’s the park’s biggest campground with 188 campsites. This campground is open from late May until early October. Reservations are required from late June to early September and can be made up to six months in advance. Outside of this time, sites are first-come, first-served.

La Wis Wis Campground: Located south of Mount Rainier National Park, this campground is a great base for a visit to the park. It features 122 campsites that are ideal for camper vans. La Wis Wis is surrounded by nature, so there’s plenty to explore here as well! This campground is open from mid-May until late September, and its sites can be reserved up to six months in advance.

Places to Eat Near Paradise

Paradise Inn Dining Room: Inside the cozy Paradise Inn, you can find a restaurant and a cafe. Both are open from May to early October. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering delicious buffet options and à la carte menu items.

Paradise Camp Deli: For a quick lunch or snack break in Paradise, head to the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and visit the Paradise Camp Deli. This cafeteria serves up a variety of family favorites, including pizza, hot dogs, and sandwiches. The Paradise Camp Deli is only open on weekends and holidays in winter. From May to early October, it’s open daily. 

Day 3: Sunrise

Thanks to its breathtaking hikes, incredible vantage points, and gorgeous morning views of Mount Rainier, Sunrise is the second most popular area in the park. To enjoy a full day on the trails here, you’ll want to get an early start to your day and head north to the Sunrise section in the morning.

From Paradise, drive approximately 51 miles (about 1 hour and 45 minutes) to get to the Sunrise Visitor Center. 

Pro Tip: If you’re visiting from July to September, don’t forget to make a timed entry reservation. This reservation is required to enter Sunrise between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm during the peak season.

Mt Rainier National Park, Washington waterfall

Sights and Hikes in Sunrise

Follow Sourdough Ridge to Dege Peak: Instead of taking you towards Mount Rainier, this path actually heads away from the mountain. In turn, you get 360-degree views of the neighboring peaks, including Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Baker. Once you reach the summit at Dege Peak, you can enjoy a picnic with a view. While this trail doesn’t get as busy as some of the park’s other popular routes, we recommend completing this 4.2-mile hike in the morning for the most peaceful experience. 

Watch the Sunset From Mount Fremont Lookout: The Mount Fremont Lookout is one of four historic fire lookouts in Mount Rainier National Park, and it’s also one of the best spots to watch the sunset from. Follow the Sourdough Ridge Trail to the top of the ridge, and then you’ll approach a trail intersection near Frozen Lake. From there, follow the trail to Mount Fremont, and you’ll arrive at the lookout after about 1.3 miles. This hike is about 5.6 miles roundtrip and takes about 3 hours to complete.

Hike the Naches Peak Loop Trail: For a relaxed hike that offers a wide range of nature within 3.5 miles, head to the Naches Peak Loop Trail. As you hike along a hillside and through grassy meadows, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Dewey Lake and, of course, Mount Rainier. We recommend completing this hike in the clockwise direction for optimal views of Mount Rainier.

Campgrounds Near Sunrise

White River Campground: White River Campground is the third campground located within Mount Rainier National Park. It’s about 12 miles away from the Sunrise area. This campground is open from late June to late September. Its 88 campsites are all first-come, first-served. These spots book up super quickly each day, so arrive early in the morning to secure a spot here.

Silver Springs Campground: For a camping option outside of the park, check out Silver Springs Campground. It’s located about seven miles from the park’s White River Entrance in the scenic Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This campground is open from mid-May to late September, and its campsites can be reserved up to six months in advance.   

Places to Eat Near Sunrise

Sunrise Day Lodge: After working up an appetite hiking around Sunrise, you’ll definitely want to stop at the Sunrise Day Lodge. You can enjoy delicious chili, a variety of burgers, and refreshing beverages here. The lodge’s gift shop also features snacks and ice cream bars you can take on the go. Please note that the Sunrise Day Lodge is only open from July to October. 

Summit House Restaurant: This restaurant is located outside of the park at Crystal Mountain Resort, but it’s still worth a visit! After taking the Mount Rainier Gondola up 2,500 feet, you’ll find Washington’s highest-elevation restaurant. Summit House’s sandwiches, salads, and soups are all amazing. However, the highlight here is the incredible view of Mount Rainier that you’ll experience while dining at 6,872 feet in the sky. 

Day 4: Seattle Escape Camper Vans

Unfortunately, the time has come to say goodbye to Mount Rainier National Park. Enjoy your final morning in the park and pack up your camper van one last time. Then, drive approximately 80 miles (about 2 hours) to drop off your van at the Seattle Escape Camper Vans location.

To discover more activities around Mount Rainier National Park, check out this article

Why Rent a Camper Van for a Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park Road Trip?

With 147 miles of roads and over 260 miles of trails located within the park, Mount Rainier National Park is quite expansive. To explore the park efficiently, you’ll need a vehicle that’s compact and adventure-ready, such as a camper van! 

Here are just a few benefits of renting a camper van instead of a traditional RV for a Seattle to Mount Rainier adventure.

More Compact: Since there’s limited parking at Mount Rainier, finding a parking space can be tough, especially in the summer. In a bulky RV, it’s even more impossible to find a spot. Luckily, our camper vans are compact and can fit in standard parking spaces. Plus, you’ll be able to stop at Mount Rainier’s scenic pull-offs more freely.

User-Friendly: Driving around Mount Rainier’s winding mountainous roads can be intimidating in an RV. However, camper vans are much easier to maneuver. For this reason, you’ll feel much safer and more comfortable driving around the park in a camper van than in an RV. 

No Hookups Required: Most RVs require sewer and electrical hookups which limits the campgrounds that they can stay at. Since our camper vans are self-contained and don’t require hookups, you’ll have access to more campsites and even dispersed camping opportunities in a camper van. 

Versatile and Convenient: Our camper vans are thoughtfully designed for adventurers, and they’re packed with features to help your road trip go smoothly. Additionally, you can choose from our wide range of optional accessories to further enhance your road trip. 

Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for Your Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park Road Trip 

As you can see by now, a road trip from Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park is the ultimate getaway for nature lovers. There are so many awe-inspiring sights around the park, and there’s no better way to explore them all than in a camper van from Escape Camper Vans! 

Book Your Mount Rainier Getaway!

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