Family Fun at Mt. Rainer National Park
There’s no doubt Mt. Rainier’s an impressive mountain. 14,411 feet high with the most glaciers in the lower 48 states. It’s so large you can see it from most places in Washington, and so amazing that it’s the fifth oldest national park in the entire country.
But we know these facts alone may not be enough to entice the younger kids in your group—or the ones who feel like they’re being dragged to a national park. Here we talk about our favorite family activities in the Park. For more information about Mt. Rainier in general, please visit the specific Mt. Rainier section under Activities.
JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM:
Mt. Rainier’s Junior Ranger program is fun. Your child will learn more about the mountain and have the opportunity to earn a badge. (Remember how much you liked those when you were a kid?) We’ll have this year’s current schedule when you check in.
SUNRISE VISITORS CENTER: We love the interactive exhibits at this Visitors Center and the huge fireplace. The exhibits in this Center were completely overhauled just last year, and the new ones are impressive for all ages. The Park also offers some short interpretive walks at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. each day (.5 mile) and these are usually just about the right length for kids.
SUNRISE AREA HIKES:
Sunrise is ideally suited for young hikers. You’re already relatively high (at 6400 feet, Sunrise is the highest point to which you can drive in the Park) so you can go on hikes without having to gain a tremendous amount of elevation. Here are some of our favorites.
- Shadow Lake: It’s always easiest for young hikers to have a destination in mind, and this is a great one. A gorgeous cold lake where they can take their shoes off and wade—with the added summer bonus of lots of frogs! About 3 miles roundtrip.
- Emmons Vista Trail: A short (.5 mile) hike to a viewpoint of the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the lower 48. Pretty impressive.
- Fremont Lookout: A good hike for older kids, since it’s about 5 miles roundtrip. Another good destination hike with not a lot of elevation gain and the reward of an impressive fire lookout. In fact, you can see as far as the Space Needle on a clear day!
CHINOOK PASS/TIPSOO LAKE AREA HIKES:
You definitely want to stop at Chinook Pass while you’re in the area. Gorgeous, gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier and beautiful wildflowers. Two suggestions here:
- Tipsoo Lake: The trail around the lake is about a mile and is easy for everyone. Photographers have told us that the wildflowers here rival those anywhere in the Park. There are picnic tables and this is a great spot to take a lunch. The only negatives: You’ll need to keep your kids on the trail, and they can’t pick the wildflowers.
- Naches Peak Loop: A great hike with older kids that’s about 4.5 miles roundtrip. Hiking this loop clockwise is recommended as you get the best views of Mt. Rainier that way. More gorgeous wildflowers and great huckleberry picking in the fall.
OHANAPECOSH AREA HIKES:
The Ohanapecosh area is great with kids, and you don’t want to miss it.
- Grove of the Patriarchs. A stand of 1000 year old trees in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River, and you have to cross a suspension bridge to get there. Sounds like kid heaven to us!
- Silver Falls: The largest volume waterfall in the Park and an easy hike.
- Hot Springs: There used to be a hotel here and you could soak in the hot springs. Now you can just put your hand in where the hot water bubbles up, but kids find it fascinating.