Mount Rainier attracts 2.5 million visitors per year, with one million coming just for the infamous wildflowers in August. It’s no surprise that so many people visit Mt. Rainier National Park in a single day, as it’s one of the best things to do in the Pacific Northwest.
As a result, visiting one of the most famous Pacific Northwest national parks on your own during certain times of the year can be chaotic due to traffic and parking.
There are several entrances to Mt. Rainier National Park if you only want to spend one day there. Some are only available during certain times of the year, so check their website before planning your trip. Based on the visitor centers and numerous hikes available in the areas, the most popular places to visit are Paradise and Sunrise.
6 Things to Do in One Day on Mt. Rainier
This National Park is a must-see in Washington. It gives you Mount Rainier, an active 14,411-foot stratovolcano overlooking Puget Sound.
Let’s explore some of the best things to do on mount rainier day trip from Seattle:
Hike the Skyline Loop The Skyline Trail Loop, a popular Washington hiking trail, circles Mount Rainier’s south side. It’s a lovely hike through snow-covered dirt trails and my favorite way to spend a day on Mount Rainier.
The five 12-mile hikes begin near the Jackson Visitor Center. It will take you 4.5 hours to complete with a 1450 foot elevation gain. The Paradise area has a complex network of trails, so pick up a map at the visitor center.
- Ride the Mt. Rainier Railroad
Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad is located in the Elbe, south of the Park. Take a scenic 18-mile ride through the foothills and across the upper Nisqually River to a museum in Mineral. The museum has an extensive collection of logging steam locomotives.
The excursions are a blast from May to October for the whole family. During your day trip to Mount Rainier, there is a snack bar and history lessons.
- The Longmire Museum
James Longmire, who arrived in the mid-1800s, founded the Longmire Medical Springs and Hotel. James Longmire built the first road to Mount Rainier in 1890, clearing 60 miles of roadway from Yelm.
It is now a national historic district, home to the National Park Inn and the Longmire Wilderness Information Center.
Several trails nearby, including the 1-mile Trail of Shadows, start near the museum. It takes you to hot springs through the forest, past some cabin replicas.
- See the Park’s cascading waterfalls.
Myrtle Falls is one of the Park’s most beautiful waterfalls. A 10-minute walk from the Paradise Visitor Center, you’ll be rewarded with views of Mount Rainier.
The Silver Falls Trail is a must-do on your Mt. Rainier day trip. From Ohanapecosh Campground, it’s a 3-mile round trip. The loop gains 300 feet in elevation and takes about 1.5 hours to complete. Its relatively flat surface makes it a popular Mt. Rainier family attraction.
The trail follows the river to the cascades, then loops back to the campground. The falls are surrounded by lush greenery, making them ideal for vacation photos.
While the falls are most beautiful in the winter, they are a must-see when spending a day at Mount Rainier.
- Snow Glissading
Glissading is another term for sliding down a mountain in the snow. On Mount Rainier, there are areas for ice skating in the snow. It’s best to check with a park ranger when you first arrive to see how much snow there is and where the best winter hikes in Washington are.
If you’re an experienced snow hiker, head to Panorama Point and the Pebble Creek Trail. The route leads to the Muir Snowfield, used by those returning from Camp Muir.
Keep an eye out for hidden crevasses under the snow and stay on the Muir Snowfield route. I don’t recommend this for children or those unfamiliar with snow. As always, inform a ranger of your plans and ask for suggestions.
- See Mount Rainier’s Largest Glacier
The massive Nisqually Glacier is one of Mount Rainier’s most accessible glaciers. Take the 2.2-mile Nisqually Vista Trail to see the Nisqually Glacier on your Mt. Rainier day trip. It’s a family favorite for its gentle mountainside trek. The trail is 45 minutes long and gains 400ft in elevation.
While visiting Mt. Rainier National Park in one day, take a stroll through beautiful wildflower meadows. Several lookout points offer spectacular views of the glacier. The glacier feeds the Nisqually River, flowing through the mountain to the Puget Sound.
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