Hiking Trails

Tips for Planning a Trip to Mount Rainier National Park

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Ohanapecosh River

5. Ohanapecosh and Stevens Canyon (southeast): This area is home to lighter crowds, waterfalls, boxwood canyons and towering ancient trees. Its entrance also closes when the weather intensifies, but it’s usually open from late May to early November.

Where to stay and eat

Heaven. From May to early October, check in at the Paradise Inn, which is in the park, high on the southwest side of the mountain, about 30 km from the entrance to Nisqually. Its 121 rustic rooms are nestled under a steep shingled roof designed to shed snow (which can linger well into June or July). In the evenings, rangers often give lectures in the Great Hall, an inviting space with twin fireplaces, cedar-slab tables, and a rustic carved piano.

Longmire. Historic Longmire is home to the park’s other lodging option, the cozy 1926 National Park Inn (technically in Ashford, about 6 miles from the Nisqually entrance). Its 25 tiny, basic rooms don’t have Wi-Fi or TVs, but the property stays open year-round. Insider Tip: Don’t miss the spectacular views from the rocking chairs on the veranda and afternoon tea beside the oversized stone fireplace in the living room.

Both properties have ADA accessible rooms.

Ashford. You can get more for your money just outside the park. The mountain town of Ashford is 10km west of the entrance to Nisqually, the only one open year round to cars. This area has the largest and most sophisticated selection of accommodations and restaurants near Rainier. You can book a tree house or cabin in Ashford at the Wellspring Spa & Woodland Retreat, a bohemian sanctuary in a fern-covered forest (think “Hobbiton meets Rivendell”, with a maze, driftwood arches and hot tubs. outdoor cedar whirlpools). Nearby, the 1912 Alexander’s Lodge at Mt. Rainier has 23 quaint rooms (upper floors are only accessible by stairs). For added charm, stay in one of the turret bedrooms, overlooking the waterwheel.

Also in Ashford, Ukrainian restaurant Paradise Village serves dishes such as white cabbage borscht, galushki (gnocchi) and sour cherry pierogies, as well as pancakes and pastries. This spot is also home to the Instagram-famous “Cannibal Hot Tub” – a giant wood-fired kettle – which is open by reservation, even to visitors staying elsewhere. Stock up on rib and carb fare for nearby climbers at the Copper Creek Inn, the mountain’s top-rated restaurant. Find out for yourself why her blackberry pie wins raves. Or wait just before the park boundary and indulge in pork momos (dumplings) at Wildberry Restaurant.

Mineral. 15 miles west of Ashford in Mineral, Elkamp brings a stylish modern twist to tent and campervan sites. It offers amenities more typical of a boutique property, like escorting all new guests to their sites and delivering ice and firewood. It will expand in 2022 to include cabins, yurts, a tree house and a luxuriously appointed Airstream. Savvy visitors gravitate to the old barn, where effusive owners sell art, vintage camping gear, gourmet treats such as cinnamon, bourbon, and pecan popcorn, and craft beers local Hellbent and Half Lion.

Eatonville. West of Rainier, sip draft beer at Eatonville’s Mill Haus Cider Company, a new venue with an outdoor music stage and covered patios with fire pits. You can also watch a movie at the Roxy Theater from 1942.

Wilkeson. If driving to the park from Tacoma, stop in the former mining town of Wilkeson en route to the park’s pedestrian entrance, Carbon River, 14 miles southeast. It offers beautiful 19th century architecture and some of the best wood-fired pizza in the state at the Carlson Block. Savvy travelers line up an hour before opening (once the restaurant has used up its 120 balls of dough, it’s ready for the day).

Note: Many restaurants in the Mount Rainier area close for the winter and only stay open until 8 p.m. during peak summer season.