Mount Rainier vs. North Cascades National Park – Comparison 2021

Mount Rainier vs North Cascades National Park
Mount Rainier vs North Cascades National Park: Comparison

There are 3 national parks in the state of Washington.

Other states might have one national park, but Mother Nature seemed to love Washington a little more because it gives them three.

Olympic National Park is the largest among the three.

It covers about 1 million acres of the Washington Peninsula.

The other two are the Mount Ranier National Park, and North Cascades National Park.

Comparing their land size, North Cascades is larger than Mount Ranier.

Among the three are Mount Rainier national park and North Cascade national park.

Both offers a wonderful and scenic view as well as great outdoor activities that everyone can try.

Comparing the 2 national parks, Mount Rainier is more visited than North Cascade.

But do not let that popularity fool you.

If you are in Washington and you will be staying for more than a week, then you could probably squeeze in your itinerary visiting these 2 national parks.

To give you an overview of what can you expect from these national parks, continue reading the article.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park Washington

Mount Rainier is probably the most popular national park in Washington.

This Is because this magnificent volcano can be seen across Washington.

Whether you are in Seattle, or you are in Olympic Park, you can have a glimpse of this towering piece of nature.

Mount Rainier is said to be an active volcano.

However, it has not erupted for over a hundred years.

It is the tallest mountain in Washington and it is surrounded by glaciers.

North Cascades National Park

If Mount Ranier is the most popular one, North Cascades is probably the least popular among the three national parks.

North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park

But do not underestimate this park as it has a lot to offer as well.

This national park has mountain scenery, snowfields, glaciers, meadows, waterfalls, and other natural things to offer.

Because of its glacier-filled peaks, it is considered to be the North American Alps.

North Cascades has 2 units which are the north and the south unit.

The north unit is the unit that extends to Canadian borders and the south unit is where you can find Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.


Both locations have multiple activities that they can offer.

For Mount Rainier, since it is the tallest mountain in Washington, the main activity that you can do in the area is hiking.

Depending on how long are you staying, but you can choose to do someday hiking or hike for days on the trail of Mount Rainier.

Enjoy the scenic views Mount Rainier has to offer.

On the other hand, for North Cascades, you can enjoy the view while driving on the North Cascades Highway.

Kayaking in Diablo Lake, North Cascades National Park

Along this paved highway are lakes to visit and several scenic views.

Trail and hiking are not off on the list of activities in North Cascades.

With plenty of overlooks to offer, you will surely enjoy hiking in the trails of North Cascades.

Where to stay?

There are many recommended places where you can stay.

It is always advisable to stay inside the national park especially if you are planning to explore the national park thoroughly.

For North Cascades, Ross Lake Resort tops the recommended place to stay.

Ross lake Resort

However, you could choose to immerse yourself in the community of Stehekin which is located at the far northern end of Lake Chelan.

From Stehekin, you can explore Stehekin Valley and go camping there.

Note that Stehekin can only be reached via boat, plane, or foot so if you want to visit the area, make sure that you stay a minimum of two days inside North Cascades.

Mount Rainier has a lot of hotels and lodges inside the national park also.

The most recommended place to stay in the Paradise Inn.

Have a taste of the Paradise view of Mount Rainier National Park by staying in this hotel.

Paradise Inn in Mount Rainier National Park

Paradise is the area in the national park where you can view the waterfall, the wildflower-blanket, and the towering Mount Rainier.

It is indeed a paradise for all the people who will visit.

How much time is needed?

Mount Rainier is the most accessible part if you are coming from Seattle.

You can access it via 5 different roads which is why many people opt to go here first.

If you are planning to go and explore the park thoroughly, you will need a minimum of 2 days.

With these 2 days, you can already explore different regions of the park and do some activities in it.

However, if you are only planning to do some site seeing, a drive through the park would only take a day.

North Cascades needs around 2 days too if you are planning to hike and explore the trails.

But if you are really into exploring the whole park, and would want to check all the things that nature has to offer, then you could easily spend a week there and it will probably not enough.

There are so many trails and activities that you can do in North Cascades that a week will probably pass without you noticing it.

Best Time to Visit

Because of the warm weather that is optimal for hiking conditions, it is good to visit Mount Rainier from July through August.

It is during this time that you can see that wildflowers are in bloom and you can see how it transforms the meadows.

Mount Rainier National Park Washington
Wildflowers in Mount Rainier

For North Cascades National Park, it is good to visit the area around mid-June through mid-September.

But during this time, beware of summer storms.

During wintertime, you have to be prepared for avalanches as they may cause road closure and may cause inconvenience on your end.

 Mount Rainier National ParkNorth Cascades National Park
Land Size236,380 acres505,00 acres
Entrance Fee$30 for one vehicle, valid for 7 daysEntrance fee is free but depending on the campground, car camping can cost you $16
Visitors per year2M (2019)38000 (2019)
Highest Point elevation4,392m3286m
PetsAllowed in parking lots, camping grounds and paved roads that are open to public vehiclesAllowed on-leashed in most areas
WeatherPartly cloudy all year round45F to 70F depending on the season

Final Thoughts

Depending on what type of adventure you are planning to take, these two national parks can cater to your nature sightseeing needs.

Take a break from the buzz and noises of the city and inhale the fresh air and natural scents that are brought by nature tripping.

If you are near Washington state, give all 3 national parks a visit.

They offer different variety of activities anyway.

You can never go wrong with whichever park you choose.