Hiking Guide for Beginners in Mount Rainier in 2021

Mount Rainier is one of the most recognizable mountains in the world.

Standing at 14,411 feet, it is the tallest peak in the state of Washington and can be found on the license plates of cars across Washington state.

Hiking Tips for Beginners in Mount Rainier
Hiking Tips for Beginners in Mount Rainier

If you want to plan your next adventure trip to Mount Rainier, it’s important to follow these tips to make sure that you get the most out of your next trip.

Preparation

Mount Rainier is summitted successfully by thousands of people every year!

But is it possible to just decide that you’re going to day hike it out of the blue? Most definitely not!

You’ll need to spend a few months prior to your trip preparing to take on this monumental challenge.

To help you figure out the best ways to set yourself up for success, be sure to follow the following steps before embarking on the adventure of a lifetime!

Fees

Before you begin your trek up Mount Rainier, you’ll need to be sure to pay the fees necessary to climb.

As summitting Mount Rainier has become more popular over the years, there has been an increase in the number of services needed to ensure that the mountain remains in good condition year after year.

When you pay your fees, they go towards making sure that the delicate alpine environment stays protected and pristine for the wildlife that calls it home.

As people climb Mount Rainier, they deposit waste, and the fees go towards helping move the waste off of the mountain.

In addition to helping keep the mountain clean, your fees also go towards paying the staff that mans the high-altitude stations along the way.

The staff ensures that all climbers treat the high-alpine environment with respect as well as provide life-saving services in the event of an accident.

In addition to paying your climbing fees, you’ll need to obtain a climbing permit before every climb that you attempt.

Fitness

Now that you have paid your fees and obtained your permit, it’s time to get serious about getting into shape for hiking Mount Rainier.

Aside from gaining over 9,000 feet in elevation over the course of the hike, you’ll be climbing on the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 of the US.

The number of glaciers and the scale of elevation that you will climb make being in top physical shape an absolute priority!

Your current fitness level will dictate how much training that you need to do in preparation for Mount Rainier.

If you are in pretty good shape and you regularly hike as it is, you won’t need to train for as long leading up to your climb.

If you are starting your hike from your couch, you’ll want to spend several months getting a strong base level of fitness established.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are training to climb Mount Rainier is that consistency is way better than intensity.

What that means is that you will be much more likely to be in the shape necessary to successfully and safely climb Mount Rainier if you spend 365 days prior to your climb training at a moderate level instead of spending one or two days going really hard during the week and then not working out because you need to recover from the intense workout you completed.

With those guiding principles in mind, here is a great workout routine that you can do with minimal equipment so you can effectively prepare to climb Mount Rainier for the first time:

30-60 minutes of slow state cardio

  • Get your heart rate up to the aerobic rate for at least 30 minutes. If you have a difficult time maintaining that, scale your total time down to smaller sets so that you can complete at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing your cardio until you hit the 60-minute mark. Don’t increase your time by more than 10% per week. You’ll avoid burnout and injury by only adding 3 minutes of extra slow state cardio a day.
  • Great examples of doing slow-state cardio are walking, hiking, stair climber, and biking. Pick the exercise that gets you moving the most consistently.

3 sets of 10-50 of the following exercises

  • Lunges
  • Star jumps
  • Air squats
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Sit-ups

These exercises are great for building muscle as well as aerobic strength, both of which you will need on your climb of Mount Rainier.

Again, with these exercises, start where you are and build up from there.

If you aren’t able to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise, scale it back a bit.

Try to do as many as you can of each until you hit the 10-repetition range for every exercise.

Then each week, just add 1 rep to each exercise until you hit the 50-rep mark.

Your body will adjust slowly and get very strong over a longer period of time, which is exactly what you want to happen!

Try to do this work out at least 3 times per week as you train to climb Mount Rainier.

The more you work out, the stronger you will get.

Be sure to listen to your body though.

If you’re feeling unusually sore or if you feel an injury coming on, take a few days off to make sure that your injury doesn’t become something more severe.

Remember this when you evaluate your injuries as you train; if it hurts to run, walk; if it hurts to walk, sit; if it hurts to sit, go see a doctor.

Gear

As you are preparing to hike Mount Rainier, you’ll want to begin collecting the gear you’ll need to successfully reach the summit.

On average, people spend 2 to 5 days climbing to the top of Mount Rainier, so you’ll need to bring your camp along with you as there are no hotels or indoor accommodations on the mountain.

The gear you’ll need to bring with you is as follows:

  • Shelter
  • Sleeping System

Shelter

For shelter, you will want to bring along a 4-season backpacking tent.

Mount Rainier has some of the most unpredictable weather since it has such a high elevation.

It’s not uncommon for it to snow at the top of Mount Rainier in the summertime because of this!

A 4-season backpacking tent will allow you to face any weather that you encounter at Mount Rainier.

Sleeping System

After shelter, you’ll want to focus on putting together an awesome sleep system.

A sleep system is made up of:

  • A sleeping bag
  • A sleeping pad
  • A pillow

Each piece of the sleeping system plays an important part.

Obviously, the sleeping bag is where you will sleep inside of each night.

You’ll want to get a sleeping bag that is rated for temperatures that range between 0°F and 20°F so that you’ll be prepared to sleep in sub-freezing temperatures at all times.

The fill material of your sleeping bag also matters.

Down-filled sleeping bags are lighter and pack down smaller than synthetic-filled sleeping bags.

What makes down-filled ideal for hiking up Mount Rainier is that they are lightweight, making for a lighter pack and easier hike.

On the other hand, synthetic-filled bags still retain some of their insulating properties when they get wet.

Down-sleeping bags lose all of their insulating properties when they get wet because the down can’t loft up, which is what makes down-filled bags warm.

If you don’t mind carrying a few extra ounces, a synthetic sleeping bag might give you the peace of mind that you’ll be relatively warm at night if you bag does get wet.

After sleeping bags, it’s important to be sure to bring along a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads come in a wide variety of materials.

The most important thing to consider when deciding which sleeping pad to bring on your climb of Mount Rainier is R-value.

What is R-value?

R-value is the temperature that the sleeping pad is able to guard against. The lower the R-value, the less insulating the sleeping pad is.

The higher the R-value, the more insulating the sleeping pad is, which means that you can sleep on colder surfaces.

Find a sleeping pad with an R value of 5.5 or higher as those sleeping pads will help resist the heat transfer of the cold ground to your warm sleeping bag!

Finally, you need to bring a pillow along with you to keep your head elevated off of the ground.

Just like with sleeping pads, pillows help keep your head from losing heat to the cold ground.

They also serve the benefit of making for a comfortable night’s sleep!

There are several styles of pillows on the market, from synthetic-filled pillows to blow up pillows.

Pick the pillow that offers you the most comfort, the most insulation from the ground, and the lightest weight you can find.

Clothing System

Now that you have gotten your shelter and sleeping system figured out, you’ll need to bring along the proper clothing to safely climb Mount Rainier.

Bring along the following at a minimum:

  • Down jacket
  • Warm base layer tops and bottoms, wool or synthetic
  • Synthetic climbing pants
  • Down pants
  • Beanie
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Wool socks
  • Mountaineering boots
  • A hat that blocks out the sun
  • Gaiters
  • Crampons

The number 1 thing to remember when selecting the clothing you’re going to take is this: cotton kills.

When cotton gets wet, it stays wet and there is nothing more dangerous when you are in cold environments than being wet.

That means that you will likely need to purchase clothing that is rather expensive.

But these are the things that will ensure you stay dry and warm during your climb, so it is best not to skimp on clothing.

Safety Gear

When you are hiking Mount Rainier, help might not be able to reach you in time, so you need to be prepared to self-rescue.

Be sure to bring at least the following when climbing Mount Rainier and know how to use them:

  • Ice axe
  • Carabiners
  • Ice screws
  • Climbing rope
  • Belay device
  • Route marking wands
  • Map and compass

Each of these items will ensure that you have the tools necessary to safely and successfully climb Mount Rainier. Again, it is super important that you learn how to use each of these tools and that you practice using them before you attempt to climb Mount Rainier.

Cooking System

Unless you plan on bringing along a personal chef to cook for you (most don’t due to extra weight), you’ll want to bring along a cooking system!

The most important things you’ll need to bring for cooking your meals are:

  • A stove
  • Stove fuel
  • A titanium mug
  • A long handle spoon

Each of these items will help you cook your meals every day that you are on Mount Rainier.

Be sure to bring along a stove that will work in extreme conditions.

MSR is a reputable company that sells stoves designed to be used at a high altitude.

The titanium mug is important to bring as it will act as a pot to boil water in for meals as well as a cup for drinking.

Long handled spoons will help you get every last bite of the food you bring along with you while not getting your hands messy.

Final Thoughts

Hiking Mount Rainier for the very first time can seem like an overwhelming task.

But with these steps in mind, you’ll be able to start making meaningful progress towards accomplishing your goal of hiking the tallest peak in Washington state.

Remember:

  • Prepare by buying your permits
  • Get in shape with consistently over a long period of time.
  • Gather the right gear to safely summit the mountain.

If you’re inexperienced at mountaineering, be sure to bring along a partner that is experienced or higher a guide company to climb with.

This will ensure that you successfully make it to the top, but also back down!

How to get there?