The 5 Best Views of Mt. Rainier

Admittedly, everyone has his or her ‘favorite Mt. Rainier viewpoint’, so this list should be considered entirely subjective. One thing is for sure, though – any of these five spots will offer a breathtaking view of our state’s most iconic natural wonder.

Summit Lake

What you’ll need: Northwest Forest Pass
How to get there: Directions courtesy of Washington Trails Association 

What you’ll find: The Summit Lake trailhead is a little out of the way, and your drive will include several miles of rough
road not intended for low-sitting vehicles. But a little wear-and-tear is worth it for this sweet spot. Following an easy, 2.5-mile jaunt into the Clearwater Wilderness, hikers will stumble across a stunning eyeful of Mt. Rainier’s northwestern aspect. This view alone makes the trip worthwhile – but as a bonus, you can dip your feet (or entire body) in the picturesque alpine lake once you’re finished snapping shots. 

Rainier View/Noble Knob Trails

What you’ll need: Northwest Forest Pass
How to get there: Directions courtesy of Washington Trails Association

What you’ll find: Like Summit Lake, reaching these two trails first requires a strenuous journey; the Corral Pass Road is known to wreak havoc on undercarriages, so a larger vehicle is recommended. Once at the top, you can choose from two very different trails that offer the same awesome view. Noble Knob is a relatively flat, three-mile trek that offers numerous peeks at the mountain (as well as the gorgeous surrounding countryside). Rainier View, on the other hand, is mostly uphill and requires some minor rock-scaling. However, your workout will be rewarded – many locals believe this aptly named trail provides the best view of the mountain outside the park. 

Goat Rocks Wilderness

What you’ll need: Northwest Forest Pass, USFS Wilderness Permit (available at trailheads where it’s required)
How to get there: Directions courtesy of SummitPost.org 

What you’ll find: While many of us crave close-up shots of Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks provides the ideal view for those who care to hold the mighty peak at a distance. This wilderness area, which covers more than 100,000 acres, is nestled between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams – and provides generous views of both. Hikers can trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, or explore one of the many offshoot trails (Mt. Gilbert is a local favorite). In order to enjoy this wilderness to its fullest, overnight trips are recommended.

Sunrise

What you’ll need: National Park and Federal Recreation Lands Pass or daily entry fee ($15)
How to get there: Directions courtesy of Mt. Rainier National Park 

What you’ll find: Sure, Sunrise is likely to be quite crowded on any clear summer day – and slow-moving traffic may reflect this. But there is a good reason for the congestion: unless you can fly, you won’t find a better spot to gaze at the mountain in all of its snow-capped glory (as well as some of the region’s other volcanoes). During warmer months, sightseers can enjoy a network of hiking trails, have a picnic in a meadow filled with wildflowers, purchase food and gifts in the Sunrise Day Lodge or learn a thing or two in the Sunrise Visitor Center.

Lake Tipsoo/Naches Loop

What you’ll need: A full tank of gas (and that’s it)
How to get there: Directions courtesy of Washington Trails Association

What you’ll find: Though this popular area is technically located within Mt. Rainier National Park, you won’t need to pay an entrance fee or purchase an annual pass to visit it. First, warm up your legs with a walk around Lake Tipsoo, home to a dazzling array of lupine, paintbrush and other alpine wildflowers (as well as a patrolled parking area). Then start out on the Naches loop, which begins with a rigorous uphill climb but eventually steadies into a flat, easy-going trail. You’ll encounter some spectacular views, a pair of inviting lakes and, with any luck, some local wildlife before the loop returns you to the Tipsoo parking area.

Which of these Mt. Rainier viewpoints is your favorite? Or do you have an awesome spot of your own?

By Brad Nehring

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