Three Main Destinations
Longmire: Only this little village of classic national park architecture stays abuzz year-round, with a museum and the National Park Inn, complete with lounge-worthy front porch.
Paradise: The park’s visitor hub lives up to its name, situated on wildflower meadows on the south side of the mountain. It boasts the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center (with dining), Paradise Inn (more dining), and sledding on an average 643 inches of snow every winter (that’s BYO food).
Sunrise: Up north and even higher than Paradise—an airy 6,400 feet—subalpine meadows overlook the Emmons Glacier, and a summer-only day lodge and visitor center offer snacks and interpretive programs.
Three Major Campgrounds
Cougar Rock: Located between Longmire and Paradise, it offers 173 sites (plus five just for large groups) of centrally located convenience. Reserve at recreation.gov.
White River: Some sites back up onto the titular waterway, but even better: All 112 of them are first come, first served, so it’s the only landing pad for car campers without reservations.
Ohanapecosh: The park’s biggest site sprawls across almost 200 campsites—in thick old-growth forest. Named by the Upper Cowlitz who used this riverfront acreage, it’s also bookable at recreation.gov.
Three Scenic Drives
Westside Road: This one’s a cheat; it’s a route for mountain bikes. Washington old-timers remember when the paved road was open to cars, but since 1993 it’s been closed to motor vehicles three miles in, leaving another nine miles of easy pedaling past old bridges and silent forest to Klapatche Point.
Stevens Canyon Road: These 19 heart-stopping miles offer the only link between the park’s east and west side—and that’s the least exciting thing about this route. Hairpin turns through steep mountain walls are dramatic but feel very safe thanks to the quaint but sturdy stone walls that line the road.
Mather Memorial Parkway: Consider it a twofer; a drive on the summer-only street means a path through both Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass, on a road that doubles back on itself as it winds down to the American River.
Three Blockbuster Hikes
Spray Park: Wildflowers without the hordes? The meadows on the northwest corner of the park, accessible from the lesser-known Carbon River entrance, are the frosting on a three-mile ramble past Spray Falls and over log footbridges.
Skyline Trail Loop: At 5.5 miles but less than 2,000 feet of elevation gain, the circle route through Paradise’s meadows to Panorama Point is the classic Rainier trek. Bonus: a backcountry bathroom built into a rock wall on the scenic point.
Burroughs Mountain: Ascend multiple peaks on a single hike, with the first one 4.8 miles from Sunrise and the second six miles out; expect the whistles of marmots to soundtrack the journey through alpine tundra.
On the hunt for even more hikes? Find a whole list of them here.
Three Ways to Pay
$30: Good for park entrance for a full week, for everyone in the car.
$80: Pays for an America the Beautiful pass, which works for all national parks for the year, plus Forest Service and BLM land access.
$0: Entrance fees are waived on certain days, like the National Park Service Anniversary on August 25 and National Public Lands Day on September 28.