Top 20 Washington State Trips

Paradise Mt Rainier

Paradise is the most popular destination at Mt Rainier in Washington State.

Paradise is 3-hours from Seattle, at an elevation of 5,400 feet on Mount Rainier's southern slope. 

Check road conditions before leaving, because the area can get snowed in. You might also need to book a timed entry reservation, before you visit the mountain.

Paradise is famous for its breathtaking scenery and sub-alpine meadows, and has amongst the most celebrated mountain vistas in America. 

Visitors are awestruck the first time they lay eyes on Paradise, arriving at a picture perfect setting with a historic lodge set against the dramatic backdrop of Mt Rainier. In summer there's a brief window where the stunning meadows are carpeted in wildflowers, turning a blazing red hue in fall, before the heavy snowfall sets in.

There's so much to do up at Paradise.  Venture out on the trails, browse the exhibits at the Visitor Center, enjoy a coffee at the inn, and breathe in the mountain air.

Can I stay overnight at Paradise Mt Rainier?

Stay overnight at the historic Paradise Inn designated as one of the 'Great Lodges of the West' (closed during winter and early spring). There are also rustic cabins at Ashford near the Nisqually Entrance to Mt Rainier, and the National Park Inn further up the road at Longmire (open year round).

5 best things to do at Paradise Mt Rainier

1. Stop at the old park headquarters at Longmire, on the way to Paradise.

Start at the Nisqually Entrance of Mt Rainier National Park, then drive 10-minutes east along an enchanting road with old growth forest, to the original park headquarters at Longmire.  Many visitors speed through this area on their way up to Paradise, but it's well worth a visit.

The historic village of Longmire at Mount Rainier was the original park headquarters, and provides some of the best examples of rustic National Park dwellings from the 20's and 30's.  Check out the Longmire Museum, housed in one of these historic buildings.

Stroll onto the porch at the historic National Park Inn, with beautiful views of Mt Rainier. There are also hiking trails that depart from here, and you can camp at nearby Cougar Campground.

Stock up on supplies or souvenirs at the quaint Longmire General Store.

The excitement builds as you catch a glimpse of snowcapped Mt Rainier through the trees at Longmire.

Take a closer look at the old National Park Service Administration Building, also in Longmire.

You can't miss the bright red Kenworth motor coach.  This vintage touring bus took visitors from Seattle and Tacoma up to Mt Rainier, from 1937 to 1962.  

2. Drive the final 11-miles between Longmire and Paradise, along a spectacular road.

Drive 11-miles along the dramatic mountain road between Longmire and Paradise at Mt Rainier (check road conditions before leaving).

This road follows the Nisqually River, before crossing an arched bridge over the roadside Christina Falls. You can catch a quick glimpse of the falls from your car, but it's better to park at the pullout and take a short walk down to the Christina Falls Viewpoint.

The road then crosses the Nisqually River over a longer bridge (pictured), and loops around as it makes its final ascent to Paradise Mt Rainier.

The magnificent Nisqually Glacier comes into view on the southwestern face of Mt Rainier, visible with a naked eye.

There are more pull-outs along the way to Paradise Mt Rainier, with incredible vistas.

The Nisqually River snakes its way down the slopes of Mt Rainier, to the lowlands of Puget Sound, glistening in the sunlight.

The road climbs closer to Paradise Mt Rainier, with orange snow markers lining the road.  Mt Rainier can get up to 53 feet of snow each year!  Look out for the sign-post to the popular two-tier Narada Falls, accessed just off the road.

The awesome sight of Mount Rainier is immediately visible when entering the Paradise parking lot.  At 14,410 feet, Mt Rainier is the highest peak in a spectacular series of volcanoes along the Cascades in Washington State.  

3. Explore the historic Paradise Inn.

Enjoy a coffee at the Paradise Inn's cafe, and admire the stunning views from the porch. There's also a restaurant on-site in the historic dining room, and you can stay overnight (check opening times, closed during winter and early spring).

4. Stop by the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise.

Walk over to the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise Mt Rainier, for the cinema, exhibits, snack bar and gift shop (check opening times).

5.  Pick up a map at the Jackson Visitor Center, to understand the complex trail system from Paradise Mt Rainier.

Pick up trail maps at the Jackson Visitor Center, essential for exploring the confusing network of trails in the area.  Check weather conditions, wear appropriate gear, and always let someone know where you're going.

Follow the paved trails outside the lodge at Paradise Mt Rainier, for incredible views of the south face of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier.  The trails start at the stone stairs, inscribed with a quote from conservationist John Muir.  

The stone stairs lead to magnificent mountain pathways and this iconic view.

These photos were taken in fall, with slopes covered in the intense red huckleberry shrub.

Stroll past the Climbing Information Center, near the Paradise Inn. Unfortunately many professional climbers have lost their lives on Mt Rainier.

Check out these incredible views of the south face of Mount Rainier!

The paved trails at Paradise Mt Rainier are uneven, so watch your step.

Here's the view back down the trail to the Paradise Inn.

The trail passes mountain streams, meandering down the slopes of Mt Rainier.

The path then continues along a wide open meadow, with glorious views.

Giant boulders are strewn along this ancient, volcanic landscape.

The paved pathways soon give way to dirt paths, and the air becomes thinner as you make your ascent.

These pathways near Paradise Mt Rainier are blanketed in snow for most of the year.

Look out for the Glacier Vista sign.

This is Glacier Vista at 6,300 feet elevation, overlooking the Nisqually Glacier.

This glacier feeds the Nisqually River, that flanks the road on the drive up to Paradise Mt Rainier. Can you see the waterfall?

Professional hikers descend along a ridgeline.

On a clear day Mount Adams (12,280 feet) is visible in the distance, the second highest mountain in Washington State after Mt Rainier.

The views back down the trail are equally impressive, with pristine mountain streams and unusual tree islands clinging to the slopes of Mount Rainier. 

Visitors stand in awe of their surroundings.

Savor panoramic views across the rooftop of the Cascades.

The trail is now rocky and uneven, with lots of stairs to tackle.

Should I visit Sunrise or Paradise Mt Rainier?

Paradise is the most popular destination at Mt Rainier, followed by Sunrise.  It's a 1 hour and 40 minute drive between the two. 

For a first time visit to Mt Rainier, Paradise is a better choice because it has more amenities like a visitor center, restaurant, cafe and inn.  Sunrise only has a day lodge with a snack bar and no overnight accommodation, and is only open for a short window each year.  However, if you're looking for a less crowded destination, you might prefer Sunrise. 

Just an hour from Sunrise, Crystal Mountain has incredible views of Mt Rainier from it's 10-minute gondola ride to a mountain-top restaurant.  This is a must-do in all seasons!

What months is everything open at Mt Rainier? 

Check here for opening times for visitors centers and lodging at Mt Rainier.  Almost everything is closed during winter and early spring.

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