When Is the Best Time
The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park is in July and August. Both summer months offer mild and dry weather, which is excellent for hiking. Additionally, the wildflower season occurs from mid-July to August.
However, even in summer, unpleasant weather can still occur. Always check the forecast, bring rain gear, and dress in layers to be prepared for every kind of weather. If you want to avoid the most snow, don’t go before June. In May, even places like Paradise are still covered with snow. In most years, the area is usually snow-free from about mid-July through late September.
We visited Mount Rainier National Park quite often in spring, summer, and fall. Thus, we can provide you with very helpful tips for each season.
Avoiding the Crowds
July and August are also the peak tourist months. Paradise and Sunrise will be quite crowded. If you can visit in June or September: After the first Labor Day weekend (early September) tourist crowds dissipate.
However, from our experience, there are 3 simple ways to dodge the crowds and get a parking lot even during peak season in the summer:
- Be there early in the morning. Preferably before 9 AM. The earlier, the better. Stay at a nearby hotel or lodge (see our tips below).
- Alternatively, you could arrive late, between 5 PM and 6 PM. Most visitors have left the park at 6 PM. You’d avoid most crowds and enjoy one of the fascinating Shorter Hikes.
- Try to avoid weekends and visit mid-week if possible. We always tried to go mid-week.
Sweet Spot Months
Sweet spot months with fewer crowds and a high chance of good weather are June and September (immediately after Labor Day crowds disappear). In September, it’s even snow free, and the visitor centers and all its facilities are usually open until the end of September.
But still, try to avoid weekends in September if possible or start early in the morning. We had the best times when we visited during this month.
The Best Hotels (Lodging Tips)
- Paradise Inn: Located directly at Paradise. Very comfortable. Book well in advance!
- Nisqually Lodge (Top Tip!): Another excellent location. Short drive to Paradise (39 minutes), very friendly staff, free wine in the evening, comfortable beds, great location at Mt. Rainier. We almost always booked this one and loved our stay there!
- Mt Rainier Hotels & Lodges: More alternatives. Use the comfortable search: Enter your preferred dates and then check the list of hotels. Make sure to change the search criteria to your liking at the top bar. We usually select ‘Review Score & Price’.
Mount Ranier Tour Tip (from Seattle)
Mt. Rainier Full-Day Tour – Walk or Snowshoe. Coming from Seattle? This is an amazing guided hike or snowshoe adventure with an excellent tour guide. Including lunch and pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in Seattle.
Tourist & Weather Calendar
Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits.
You can start your adventures either at Sunrise Visitor Center or Paradise. Both can be reached by car. Check detailed opening hours for both centers here: NPS Mt. Ranier Operating Hours
Sunrise vs. Paradise
Sunrise (Map Location)
The highest place in Mt. Rainier National Park (6400 feet) is located on the east side and not on the mountain itself. Usually, it’s completely closed from late September or early October until early July. Smaller than Paradise, it has some of the best views of the Mountain. The gorgeous miles of wildflower meadows, hiking trails to very high places and stunning views make this place so special. A visitor described the difference between Paradise and Sunrise like that: Sunrise is more barren and harsh.
Paradise (Map Location)
Bigger than Sunrise, and most of its facilities are open year-round. It’s also more crowded with buses of tourists in the peak season. And it’s the departure point for climbers. It’s not as high as Sunrise, but at 5100 feet and being on the mountain, there is usually snow well into July. The weather at Paradise can be worse than at Sunrise sometimes, which is protected by the mountain. You can check current weather or even crowded parking areas via the official webcams: NPS Webcams Mt Ranier
- Check the official Twitter Page for updates, road closures and more
- Arrive early or late in peak months to dodge the crowds
- Dress in layers, even in the summer. Bring rain gear
- Choose your preferred Hiking Trail before you go
- For day hikes no permit is required. For wilderness overnight camping you need one.
- Slow down, be quiet, turn off your cell phone and every other device! Just look, listen, and feel this majestic area
- Frommers Mt Rainier – More When To Go Details
- Fitclimb – Best Time to Climb Mt Rainier
- NPS – Hiking & Camping at Mt Rainier
- NPS – Wildlife at Mt Rainier
- NPS – Mt Rainier Wildflower Status
- NPS – Mt Rainier FAQ
Great blog by National Park Rangers: Mount Rainier Climbing