8 Popular Attractions in Mount Rainier National Park in 2021

Mount Rainier National Park Washington
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington Sate

Whether you’re planning for a trip to Mount Rainier or you just want to visit there for a day, there are a ton of options to where you should visit first.

Today, we’ve compiled 8 of the best popular attractions in Mount Rainier National Park that you should discover.

  • Scenic Byways Loop
  • Chinook Scenic Byway
  • Sourdough Ridge at Sunrise
  • Paradise
  • Myrtle Falls
  • Carbon River
  • Silver Falls Loop
  • Ohanapecosh Trail

Scenic Byways Loop

This trip will take adventurers through the eastern edge of Mt. Rainier National Park and throughout the two most popular scenic byways, the White Pass Scenic Byway and the Chinook Byway.

Discover the nooks and crannies of these wilderness sites.

Spend your day travelling the Mt. Rainier National Park Ohanapecosh area and the Chinook Pass.

There you will see the geological formations and the mesmerizing views of the Chinook Scenic Byway.

At the same time appreciate the alpine lakes, herds of elks walking in the hundreds and view the historic dams along the White Pass Scenic Byway.

Chinook Scenic Byway

Acknowledged as a leading driving tour in Washington State, the Chinook Scenic Byway meanders through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Mt. Rainier National Park.

You will see the various scenery of the Central Cascades, from Enumclaw and the glacier-fed White River Valley to the west, up and over the Chinook Pass down to the verdant valley of the Naches to the east.

Nothing beats the eye-catching views of thick forests, rocky ridges, river canyons and lofty peaks that controls your journey.

Then move past the lush subalpine meadows, old growth forests, numerous streams, waterfalls and lakes, a word-class ski area and the distinctive basalt flows of the Columbia Plateau.

Fun and recreation awaits you.

Although Paradise is always the first place visitors of Mt. Rainier National Park travels to, there is also the mountain at Sunrise which is equally spectacular.

As the name implies, Sunrise got its name for being the first iconic peak that gets to be illuminated by sunlight each day.

With an elevation of 6,400- feet in the parkland meadows of Yakima Park, Sunrise is the highest point you can drive up at Mt. Rainier.

There you will see the close-up views of the huge Emmons Glacier which happens to be the largest glacier on the mountain.

Sunrise is practically the same with Paradise when it comes to its scenic grandeur.

But Sunrise is usually more brilliant than Paradise and less frenzied as lesser visitors and hikers crowd the area, making a more intimate communion with nature.

A Mt. Rainier firstcomer can try to visit this grand mountain of the Northwest before going on to more populated areas.

Sourdough Ridge at Sunrise

Sunrise is a lofty based-elevation where kid and adult friendly adventuring into the high country can be done.

In here, you can be able to experience the wonders of a sky-probing 7,000-foot mountain ridge in the northern edge.

The Sourdough Ridge could be overwhelming but once you come across the gentle breeze and the carpets of flowers of the subalpine forest you have a calmer feeling.

The nature trail leading to this ridge allows both young and old hikers to be challenged by such a hiking experience and at the same time, marvel at the breathtaking view. 

Hikers were not able to discover this ridge until 1931 during the time when the road to Sunrise was finished.

Just a trivia, Sourdough derived its name from a popular campfire brew of miners who named the ridge.

Today, Sourdough is now a part of Mount Rainier National Park, the fifth national park in the United States.

Once you reach about the 0.3rd mile, the trail will be forked.

If you want to have a longer ridge walk, go for the left path and in the 0.2nd mile, you will reach a ridge crest where you will witness Mount Rainier at its glacial glory.

You will not also neglect to see Yakima Park with its emerald-green lawn grazed by deer, ground squirrels, and marmot.

Surely, you will not also miss the heart-clenching beauty of the northern Huckleberry Basin in the midst of verdant ridges buried in the Puget Sound.

The Sourdough Ridge Trail can take you to that far-away basin or to the ever-famous tourist attractions such as the Burroughs Mountains and the Mount Fremont Lookout. 

Even if you have to get through snow patches along the way, it is not dangerous even for the little ones or the elderly.

This ridge is also where the very prominent Antler Peak is located.

Also, you will be blown away by sceneries of the gigantic Emmons Glacier, the crashing White River, the enormous Mount Stuart, the snowy volcano near the Canadian border, Mount Baker, and its neighboring rocky pinnacles adjoining Snoqualmie Pass.

Upon reaching the junction, you can find the Dege Peak.

It was named after a prominent Tacoma resident, James Dege, who became the owner of the biggest clothing stores in the city.

From another angle, you can see Washington Summit Mount Adams that is the second highest peak in the United States.

It hovers over the Cowlitz Chimneys and sparkles in the reflection of the Clover Lake and the White River Park.

An added bonus to this trip is the sight of the enormous Grand Park.

You are sure that you are at the end of the Sourdough Ridge Trail junction when you begin seeing the Sunrise Point and the views of the wildlife-rich Sunrise Lake.

Paradise

In the Paradise area, you can locate the very welcoming Paradise Inn that leads to a journey along the Skyline Trail or Golden Gate Trail.

The Myrtle falls is located nearby along the trail.

Myrtle Falls

With the gigantic Mount Rainier as its backdrop, the spectacular Myrtle Falls descends along Edith Creek.

It is a classic view in the national park and one of the trademark sceneries in Mount Rainier National Park.

Myrtle Falls joyfully hops along the rocks, descending about 80 feet through the remarkable gorge sculpted out by Edith Creek and travels out to the Paradise Valley. 

The trip to these falls is a family-friendly walk along a smooth nature trail that is less than a mile to Edith Creek from the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise.

To view the falls from the best angle, take a short stroll down an unpaved trail, looking back up at the mountain and bridge crossing Edith Creek.

This is a favorite spot for both professional and amateur photographers.

It is also a wonderful location to have selfies, groupies, and even have a romantic proposal.

This is why Myrtle Falls is an extremely popular location.

You can get a better view if you arrive at the pedestrian bridge at sunrise or twilight.

Overnight camping, however, is not permitted because of the area’s fragile ecosystem.

Even though the falls flow year-round, they are not accessible when trails are snowbound during winter.

Carbon River

Mount Rainier’s smallest and least visited park center is the Carbon River Ranger Station and Wilderness Information Center.

Surprisingly, it is the closest to major population centers.

The Carbon River Ranger Station, located in the park’s extreme northwestern corner, invites visitors to explore a unique ecosystem within the park and inland temperate rainforest. 

Processions of moisture-laden clouds deposit copious amounts of precipitation on this deep canyon embracing the roaring, glacier-fed Carbon River and were 70 to 90 inches of rainfall drop annually.

By 1932, more than 15 miles of the Westside Road had been built and opened to traffic from the Nisqually Entrance to the North Puyallup River.

The Carbon River Road was extended five miles up valley to Ipsut Creek, where a ranger guard station and campground were constructed.

However, by the late 1930s, park officials decided to halt the project due to growing doubts that the road could be built up the rugged Ipsut Pass, as well as concerns that the road would open up pristine wilderness areas to development.

Thankfully, the decision of the park officials prevailed.

With this the pristine beauty of the wilderness areas were protected from development which would surely commercialize the area and destroy the natural scenery.

It is very important to preserve nature in its natural form as you cannot undo what has been changed by development.

Snow is uncommon in the Carbon River Valley due to its low elevation of 1,900 feet and mild winter temperatures.

While the majority of the park is covered in snow for more than half the year, the Carbon River Valley remains green and snow-free.

Hikers can explore the Carbon Valley’s trails all winter.

Because visitor facilities are limited in this area of the park, hiking is the primary activity.

The road, which has long been prone to major flood damage, has been closed since 2006 after several major washouts.

This year, park officials announced that the Carbon River Road will be converted to a trail rather than reopened.

This marks the end of a long chapter of road construction on the park’s west side.

Efforts were first begun in the 1920s to connect a road from the Nisqually Entrance to the Carbon River Entrance.

This road also provides access to some of the park’s most beautiful hiking trails, including one to the restored fire lookout tower on Tolmie Peak and another to the Spray Park wildflower meadows.

Mowich Lake and the road leading to it, at an elevation of 4,900 feet, are usually closed from November to early July.

The closed road does however offer excellent cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout the winter.

The Ipsut Creek Car Campground remains open, but it is now only accessible to hikers and bikers.

If you want to spend the night at this lovely Carbon River campground, get a backcountry permit from the Carbon River Wilderness Information Center near the Ranger Station.

The Wonderland Trail leads from Ipsut Creek for 3.2 miles to a suspension bridge over the Carbon River at the snout of the Carbon Glacier.

Carbon glacier is the lowest elevation glacier in the Lower 48 and the longest glacier in the contiguous states, with an elevation of 3,500 feet.

Other lovely hikes off the Carbon River Road include the 3.4 mile round trip to Ranger Falls and Green Lake, and the 0.4 mile round trip to Ranger Falls and Green Lake.

The 0.3-mile Rainforest Loop Trail begins right at the ranger station and makes a great kid-friendly excursion.

This interpretive trail explains the complexities and dynamics of the interior rainforest.

Admire the Sitka spruce that grows here, a tree that is common along the Olympic Coast but extremely rare in the Cascades.

Carbon River Road is also a great place to go for some outdoor fun.

The Carbon River Road, like the now-closed Westside Road, is one of the few places in the national park where mountain bikes are permitted.

Park officials will install bike racks at trailheads along the Carbon River Road, allowing for the unique experience of bike and hike outings.

It will be perfect for children, adults towing children and folks looking for an easy bike ride.

Silver Falls Loop

Silver Falls is a spectacular sight, careening over a series of ledges before plunging 40 feet into a deep blue pool. It is also easily accessible.

From SR 123, a short trail leads to it.

The best way to experience the Ohanapecosh River’s cascading spectacle is to hike to it on a delightful loop from the Ohanapecosh Visitors Center.

You’ll pass an old hot springs resort, some big old trees, an overhanging mossy ledge, and possibly a surprise or two along the way.

Ohanapecosh Trail

Continue on the boardwalk past several steps until you reach a fork. The trail to the right continues the short Hot Springs interpretive trail.

It takes about 0.4 mile to return to the visitor center after passing by more pools.

The Silver Falls loop continues straight after crossing a lovely cascading creek.

Soon after, cross the much larger Laughingwater Creek, which cascades down from the Cascade Crest.

Just beyond the crossing, there is a fork where the Laughingwater Trail branches off to the right, soon crossing before climbing through the lush old-growth forest on its way to Three Lakes.

This is also the quickest way to get to the falls if you don’t want to do much hiking to see them.

Ohanapecosh Hot Springs is situated on a forested bench above the Ohanapecosh River.

While the springs are now warm enough that soaking is prohibited, please stay on the trail and boardwalk.

Thousands of people flock to the springs for their alleged therapeutic powers as their popularity grows.

The loop soon bends left, revealing a stunning view of Silver Falls.

The falls will be thunderous if you arrive early in the season. Look out at the raging river, which careens over ledges before plunging 40 feet into a deep pool.

The waterway is lined with towering firs and hemlocks. The river continues through a flume-like deep and narrow chasm.

In the rapids, keep an eye out for tenacious dippers looking for tasty insect larvae.

They are frequently spotted perched on ledges and rocks in the spray zone.

Continue hiking, making sure to stay behind the railings that are in place.

The ledges beyond are wet and slippery, and more than a few people have slipped and drowned in the fast-moving waters below.

Maintain a safe distance from children and stay on the trail.

Cross the river on a high bridge, where the river churns in a narrow rocky chasm below.

At about 1.3 miles, there is a short spur that leads to a spectacular viewpoint right next to the falls.

Prepare to get wet from the spray of it’s spring, so put on your shell and keep that camera lens or phone dry.

If you’ve ever wondered what Ohanapecosh means, one widely accepted version attributes it to an Upper Cowlitz Indian name that means “clear stream or deep blue.”

Look into the plunge pool in front of you and you’ll see a deep blue strand emerge from a clear stream.

Continue hiking until you reach a junction with the Eastside Trail.

You might want to hike a short distance on this trail to admire the impressive rapids above the falls.

Otherwise, hike left to continue on the loop.

The path ascends a small rise before traversing slopes shrouded in ancient timber.

It brushes up against a wall of mossy ledges with overhanging shelves before skirting a small seasonal wetland pool and gradually descending.

The trail returns to the Ohanapecosh Campground at 2.7 miles, terminating next to the Amphitheatre at the west end of the campground bridge spanning the Ohanapecosh River. 

Before returning, take one last look at the waterway, which is much more tranquil here than upriver.

Admire the waterway one more time here which is much more sedate than upriver before returning to your start just beyond the bridge.

Final Thoughts

There you have it!

Now that you knew the popular attractions in Mount Rainier National park, please tell us which spot you want to visit first?