Mt. Rainier National Park is one of Washington State’s most popular tourist destinations, with over 2 million people visiting the mountain each year. The massive volcano is 14,410 feet tall and is a prominent feature on the Seattle skyline. When you see it for yourself, you will quickly understand why so many visitors also book a tour to Mt. Rainier during their trip to Seattle.
The mountain is easy to reach from Seattle, with Mt. Rainier tours leaving daily and paved roads up the mountain making it possible to reach alpine-like vistas without leaving the comfort of your car.
Another reason for the national park’s popularity is the wide variety of activities for visitors to choose from. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can hike, climb, ski, sled, fish, camp, and more!
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Mount Rainier?
For warm weather and clear skies, the best time of year to visit Mt. Rainier is July and August. A trip during these months will treat you to subalpine meadows covered with wildflowers, optimal visibility, and minimal fog.
Of course, if you are more interested in winter sports than summer hikes, you should plan your trip during one of the colder months.
To help you determine what time of year is best for you, here is some information on each season.
The summer climate on Mt. Rainier is somewhat cool, with highs in the 60s and 70s. The warm weather also comes with clear skies, making July and August ideal months for hiking and picnicking on the mountain.
If you want to see wildflowers, plan your trip between mid-July and the middle of August. The visitor center areas at Sunrise and Paradise are just two hours from downtown Seattle and are famous for their vibrant wildflower meadows.
Autumn washes the mountain in brilliant colors, but the cooler weather and increased chance of rain thins out the crowds. So if you prefer hiking alone or cycling, this is the best time of year to visit. By late October, there is a high chance of snow, so if you’re planning a trip at this time, make sure that you are prepared for colder temperatures.
If you want to see the fall colors on Mt. Rainier, the best time to visit is mid-October. Ideal locations to witness the changing colors include: Grove of the Patriarchs, Reflection Lakes, Paradise, and Sunrise.
Daytime temperatures range from highs of 36 to lows of 21 degrees. The cold winds of winter also carry snow, which heavily blankets Mt. Rainier during this time — in 2018, Paradise received 738 inches of snow.
The harsher weather does a good job of clearing out the crowds, making November-March the perfect time of year to visit Mt. Rainier if you like being alone in nature. There is still a lot to do during this time though — some of the most popular activities include snowboarding, snowshoe hikes, and skiing.
With daytime highs getting into the 50s and low chances of falling snow and rain, spring is an excellent time of year to visit Mount Rainier. Something to be aware of is that spring arrives differently each year, so check road and trail conditions before your trip to make sure that the winter snow has cleared away.
If you are hoping to see spring flowers, it’s best to visit the mountain in mid-May and June. The flowers start blooming at lower elevations and slowly work their way up, following the melting of the snow. In mid-May, possible flower locations include the Rampart Ridge Trail at Longmire and the Boundary Trail near the Carbon River. By mid-June, you should be able to find wildflowers appearing on Rainier’s subalpine meadows.
Tips For Visiting Mount Rainier
Now that you know the best times of year for exploring Mt. Rainier, here are some parting tips to help your trip go smoothly.
Check the Weather Forecast
The weather on Mt. Rainier can change quickly, so always check the forecast before leaving the hotel for your mountain visit. This ensures that you are wearing the right clothes for that day’s weather.
Visit During the Week
Summertime is Mt. Rainier’s busiest season, with weekend crowds clogging parking lots and hiking trails. If you want to take advantage of the warm weather in July or August, try to visit the mountain on a weekday so that you don’t have to fight someone for parking. If you are still planning on a weekend trip, arrive as early in the morning as possible.
Enter the Park with a Full Gas Tank
Mt. Rainier National Park does not have any gas stations, so make sure you fill up before making the long drive up to Sunrise or Paradise.
Living Close to Mt. Rainier
Redfin put together a good article, “15 Cities Near National Parks Worth Considering for Your Next Home” that may be helpful if you have always wanted to live close to a National Park.
Join a Professional Mount Rainier Tour
Joining a Mt. Rainier tour means you don’t need to worry about parking or finding the right trail. Your tour guide will lead you to the best locations for the current season and will be on hand to answer any questions you have about the mountain’s history, forests, and wildlife. Booking a tour to Mount Rainier is the best way to ensure you get to the mountain early, don’t miss any important sights, and get back to Seattle at a good hour.
If you would like to learn more about booking a tour, see our Mt. Rainier tour itinerary here.