Photo Courtesy of Roman Khomlyak/Shutterstock.comA hike at Mt. RainierThe mighty Emmons Glacier - taken from an overlook near the Sunrise Visitors CenterAmong the lush forests surrounding Mount Rainier.

Families will love:

  • Stunning mountain views
  • Northwest forests and waterfalls
  • Mt. Rainier National Park visitor centers

Mt. Rainier is Washington's iconic centerpiece, dominating the south Puget Sound skyline like a giant majestic ice cream cone. Located in Mt. Rainier National Park, about two hours south of Seattle, the 14,410-foot volcano is fifth highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. and the most glaciated with 25 glaciers. On sunny days, when "the mountain is out," as locals like to ... more
Mt. Rainier is Washington's iconic centerpiece, dominating the south Puget Sound skyline like a giant majestic ice cream cone. Located in Mt. Rainier National Park, about two hours south of Seattle, the 14,410-foot volcano is fifth highest mountain in the contiguous U.S. and the most glaciated with 25 glaciers. On sunny days, when "the mountain is out," as locals like to say, the views of Rainier are incomparable, and Washingtonians flock to the region for hiking and sightseeing.

Created in 1899, the national park receives between one to two million visitors per year, with most visitors arriving on weekends in August -- for good reason: the snow is melted, all roads are open, the wildflowers are out, and more predictable sunshine makes mountain sightings likely. But winter is popular too, with skiers heading to Crystal Mountain Ski Area and nearby White Pass Ski Area. Winter visitors can also find snow play and cross-country ski opportunities at Longmire, open year-round, and Paradise's Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, open on winter weekends and holidays. The Ashford-Nisqually entrance and the lesser-known Carbon River entrance, which is closed to vehicles just inside the entrance, are the only park entrances open in the winter. (Crystal Mountain and White Pass are outside the park boundary and accessed via a different highway.)

The national park is big--368 square miles--offering four different entry points, three visitor centers, and a small museum. It's all too easy to put on the miles and wear out little travelers on slow-going, curvy roads. If you only have a day to visit, we recommend choosing a focus and not trying to do it all. Try the Jackson Visitor Center via the Nisqually entrance or Sunrise Visitor Center via the White River entrance on the other side of the mountain. If you have two or more days, you'll have time to make a loop tour with stops for hikes and other natural highlights, as well as more than one visitor center.

The Rainier region also features small towns with fun adventures for kids that are worth building into a visit. Kids might appreciate a bit of child-centered entertainment if they get tired of waterfalls, canyons, and forest trails.

Written by Joanna Nesbit less

Mt. Rainier National Park, WA Planning & Tips
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