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The Best 4 Day Mount Rainier With Kids Itinerary

Mount Rainier was one of the top National Parks we’ve visited with our kids. There are so many family friendly trails and the views are absolutely stunning. The whole time we visited, we were picking our jaws up off of the floor because the views of Mount Rainier were so epic. This is one family friendly National Park we could visit over and over and over again! Read on for the best Mount Rainier with kids itinerary.

This Mount Rainier NP itinerary is based off of staying in Packwood, Washington. Packwood is a small mountain town that is a great place to stay when visiting Mount Rainier National Park. Packwood is pretty central to several areas of the park that you’ll want to check out while you’re visiting the park, but if you stay somewhere else you can still use this itinerary.

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Why Visit Mount Rainier National Park with Kids?

In 1899, Mount Rainier became the United States fifth National Park! Mount Rainier is an active volcano that last erupted about 1000 years ago. The stars of the show at this park are the 25 glaciers that cover the mountain and are rapidly disappearing. If you want to see the glaciers in all their glory, it may be wise to visit before they’re gone. Mount Rainier has so many unique geological features that are great learning experiences for kids and adults. This mountain captivates everyone in the surrounding regions and there are even websites dedicated to showing residents of Seattle and Tacoma if “the mountain is out“. Having lived in Tacoma ourselves, it’s definitely a special kind of day when you can see Mount Rainier from the city. It was a million times more special to see Mount Rainier up close at the National Park, and I’m so thankful to have shared that experience with both of our kids.

Whether you are looking for kid friendly hikes in Mount Rainier, fun lodging, beautiful mountain and forest views, or vibrant wildflowers and wildlife there’s something there for you! There are so many amazing things to do as a family in Mount Rainier National Park and we absolutely love this park. It’s close to several airports and has a wide range of short hikes, scenic drives, cute mountain towns, and more.

How to Get to Mount Rainier National Park:

Driving to Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the easiest National Parks to access in Washington. Located only 1.5 to 2 hours away from Seattle, 2.5 to 3 hours from Portland, or 4 hours from Spokane it’s a park you can get to easily no matter where in Washington you’re driving from!

Airports Near Mount Rainier National Park

The easiest airport to fly into to get to Mount Rainier National Park is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac). Other options include Portland International Airport and Spokane International Airport, but those will add on a few more hours of driving time. However, if you visit Mount Rainier National Park from Spokane, WA you can avoid a lot of traffic and it’s a beautiful drive through White Pass.

Mount Rainier National Park Entrances

Nisqually Entrance (Southwest)

This entrance is the most popular Mount Rainier National Park entrance. From Nisqually, you will be able to easily access the Longmire area of the park as well as the beautiful wildflower meadows in Paradise. Nisqually is one of the two park entrances open in the winter as well. Longmire is a great place to do some early season hiking when there is still snowpack! Just be aware that since it is the most popular park entrance, you may run into a bit of traffic if you go on weekends or mid day.

Carbon River Entrance (Northwest)

The Carbon River entrance is the closest park entrance to Seattle, and another option for entering the park during the winter. This section of the park is unique in that it is home to an inland temperate rainforest! You’ll also have access to Mowich Lake which is the deepest and largest lake inside the park. However, be warned that the Carbon River Road was washed out by the 2006 flood and can only be accessed past the park boundary by bicycles and foot traffic.

This part of the park is the most remote and the easiest place to avoid crowds in Mount Rainier National Park.

Steven’s Canyon Entrance (Southeast)

The Steven’s Canyon entrance to Mount Rainier NP is the closest entrance to Packwood, Washington. You’ll have access to the Ohanapecosh area of the park as well as the popular Grove of the Patriarchs trail. Steven’s Canyon is the closest entrance to the Naches Peak Loop and Tipsoo Lake.

White River/Sunrise Entrance (Northeast)

The White River Entrance is where you’ll have access to the Sunrise area of the park. If you are visiting in the shoulder season, make sure to check the status of the road since it closes usually in early May and Late October. This road is a stunning drive and was our favorite area of the park.

Where to Stay in Packwood, Washington:

Vacation Rentals:

There are so many amazing vacation rentals in Packwood, WA. If you’re looking for a cozy cabin vibe with a hot tub to ease your sore muscles after a long day, you definitely need to look at the VRBOs. While there are great campgrounds and hotels, the vacation rentals are really amazing in this small Washington town. Here are some vacation rentals with hot tubs in Packwood, Washington!

Nearest Campgrounds to Packwood, WA:
Hotels in Packwood, WA

Getting Around Mount Rainier National Park

If you want to see the main highlights of Mount Rainier National Park, I would highly suggest you rent a car. Then you will have the freedom to work around nap times or the schedule of your family. If you are interested in a tour, you can read about private tours on this website! However, this Mount Rainier with kids itinerary is built around having a car to go to different places at your own pace.

To enter the park, you’ll need a National Parks pass. As of 2023, these can be purchased for $30 per private vehicle for a 7 day pass. The other option – what we always choose to do, is to buy an America the Beautiful pass. This costs $80 and will get you into 2000 different federal recreation sites for an entire year! So if you visit multiple National Parks during the year this is a great cost savings option! Buy the America the beautiful pass here!

For more information on easy hikes with kids in Mount Rainier National Park – check out our article on 7 Easy and Beautiful Kid Friendly Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park!

4 Day Mount Rainier with Kids Itinerary:

Day 1 Mount Rainier with kids Itinerary

Stop #1: Coffee!

After driving this morning, arrive in Packwood, WA and get a coffee at the Mountain Goat. There is a cute sign outside of the coffee shop that makes for a great photo op!

Stop #2: Get settled & head to the Ohanapecosh area

Get settled in your hotel, vacation rental, or campsite and head through the Steven’s Canyon entrance to the Ohanapecosh area. This is a great day to get a picture with the National Park Entrance sign (the arch) and get your passport stamped at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center.

Stop #3: Take a short hike to Silver Falls!

We absolutely loved this family friendly Mount Rainier hike. While you’ll see signs for the Silver Falls loop of 3.0 miles, if you access the trail from a different trailhead it’s much shorter. Park at the trailhead for the Grove of the Patriarchs and cross the street. The trailhead is hiding a bit, but this is a much shorter and kid friendly version of the Silver Falls loop. If you can’t find the trailhead, feel free to ask a ranger! Hike through the dense old growth forest and eventually you’ll reach an overlook of the Silver Falls. Check out the beautiful view and continue on this hike past the Silver Falls viewpoint. Make sure to cross the bridge for a different and incredible view of the waterfall. Go as far as you’d like and turn around to head back to your home base.

Get to bed early so you can get an early start the next day! If you stay in one of the amazing cabins in the Packwood area, you’ll likely have access to a hot tub. This was an amazing way to end our day after hiking!

Day 2 Mount Rainier Itinerary

You’re going to want to wake up early to start this day. I know it’s hard to get going early – especially with kids. But I promise you, it will be worth it to avoid the crowds!

Stop #1: Drive from Packwood, WA to Paradise

It’s about an hour drive from Packwood to Paradise so make sure to plan that in when you are leaving for the day. Drive to the Paradise Visitor Center and park there for your first hike. The Paradise Visitor Center has limited hours. So if you’re relying on talking to a ranger before your hike, they may not be open. We did see several rangers outside of the visitor center early in the morning who were happy to help if we needed it!

Stop #2: Hike to Myrtle Falls

Start your first hike of the day to Myrtle Falls. This is one of the easiest hikes in Mount Rainier NP with beautiful views of both a waterfall AND Mount Rainier. It’s a short 0.7 mile walk along a paved path. The path will turn to the right (look for signs) and you will descend a steep path to a view of Myrtle Falls with Mount Rainier behind. If it’s foggy, it may be worthwhile to wait it out for a bit. It was completely socked in when we did this hike so we couldn’t see Mount Rainier at all. We decided to walk a little further up the Skyline Trail to see if it would clear. And sure enough it did clear! We hustled back down to Myrtle Falls and it was clear for 15-20 minutes. Then the fog rolled back in and the crowds started coming. It was a perfect morning!

Stop #3: The Historic Paradise Inn & Paradise Visitor Center

After your hike, grab a coffee or snack while you check out the interior of the historic Paradise Inn! This beautiful log structure was built over 100 years old in 1916. Get cozy around one of the massive fire places and even stay overnight if you want a unique Mount Rainier experience. They have a small gift shop you can check out too, but we preferred the one at the visitor center!

Then, head over to the Paradise Visitor Center to get a passport stamp and a souvenir. We always love to get a magnet at each place we visit and a sticker for our passport book! If you don’t have a National Parks Passport yet – get one here! It’s one of our favorite souvenirs.

Stop #4: Narada Falls

After you’re finished at the visitor center, head back down the road to Paradise and make a quick stop at Narada Falls if you’re feeling up for it. It’s a short 0.25 mile walk, but it is steep! You’ll get to the bottom to see a stunning waterfall around volcanic lava rock.

Stop #5: Packwood Brewing Co.

Looking for a brewery near Mount Rainier National Park? For your last stop of the day, make it back to Packwood and grab a beer at the Packwood Brewery Co. They have a lot of space as well as snacks and games for kids to enjoy while you enjoy a beer. Don’t like beer? They also have wine, cocktails, cider, and food! You’ll want to get to bed early again tonight for your early start tomorrow.

Day 3 Mount Rainier Itinerary

Wake up early (do you sense a theme here?). Mount Rainier can be a busy park since it is in such close proximity to Seattle and Tacoma. We always think the National Parks are so much more magical in the early mornings before the crowds come in. But if you must sleep in, we’ll forgive you!

Stop #1: Drive to Sunrise

The drive from Packwood, WA to the Sunrise Visitor Center will take you a little over an hour. Be warned there are no gas stations close by so you should definitely fill up before you leave Packwood. This drive is so beautiful and you’ll be tempted to pull over every 5 minutes for pictures. There is a great parking lot up top before you get to the visitor center that you can stop and see the panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains. I would highly recommend stopping at one of the best Mount Rainier viewpoints quickly for pictures and to feel like you’re on top of the world!

Stop #2: Hike to Frozen Lake

We chose to hike to Frozen Lake from Sunrise along the Sourdough Ridge Trail. This trail absolutely blew us away with mountain views along both sides of the trail. The actual destination of Frozen Lake was a little underwhelming (we didn’t even realize we had made it!), but the views along the way made this hike amazing!! Be warned, if you are hiking with small children and don’t have them in your pack, this trail could be a bit dangerous. There are steep drop offs along the way that I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting my small children hike alone.

This hike is typically done as an out and back, or for about the same distance you can make this a loop. We talked to a volunteer along the trail that recommended doing the loop and we were so glad we did! By going this way we got to see a different section of the trail, and it was less crowded and more kid friendly (less steep drop offs). There was also tons of wildlife on the second half of this trail including a pika, marmots, and colorful birds. If you want to do the loop, just take the Wonderland Trail down shortly after the Frozen Lake Viewpoint. Then continue on the Sunrise Campground Trail until you hit the Sunrise parking lot. Ask a ranger before heading out if you’re unsure of the route!

Stop #3: Explore the Sunrise Visitor Center

After your hike, take a few minutes to explore the visitor center. There wasn’t much for souvenirs in here (although we did find this cool Volcano book and a Pika stuffed animal that our two year old loved!) The Sunrise Visitor Center also has some interesting interactive exhibits that were perfect for our kids to explore. If you need another passport stamp you can get one here as well. Even if you don’t get a hike in during this part of the trip, the Sunrise area is something you definitely have to add to your Mount Rainier with kids itinerary!

Stop #4: Stop at Tipsoo Lake (optional)

Get back in the car and drive towards Packwood. If you need to break up the drive, make a stop at Tipsoo Lake to walk the short 0.7 mile flat loop. We love stretching our legs and letting our kids get out of the carseat for a bit. Don’t feel bad if you’re not up for this stop, if you choose to follow tomorrow’s itinerary you will be here for hiking the Naches Peak Loop.

Stop #5: Get Ice Cream at the Ice Cream Airstream

Head back to Packwood and get some well deserved ice cream at the Ice Cream Airstream near the Packwood Brewing Company. Make sure to check the hours on Yelp ahead of time. Since Packwood is a small town, sometimes the businesses are closed at unexpected times.

You’ll likely have a big day of driving tomorrow – so once again, get to bed early so you feel well rested! If you chose to stay at one of the amazing VRBOs in Packwood, you can enjoy the hot tub after a long hiking day!

Day 4 Mount Rainier Itinerary

Stop #1: Hike the Naches Peak Loop

For your last day, head to hike the Naches Peak Loop – one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park with kids!

Looking for the best packs for hiking with kids? Here are our favorites to help make hiking with kids that much easier!
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Front Carrier for Babies with good head control

The Naches Peak Loop is a 3.5 mile loop hike with about 650 feet of elevation. You’ll start the trail at the Tipsoo Lake Trailhead. You’ll want to hike this trail clockwise for the best views. This trail starts out with views of Tipsoo Lake and heads through the woods. Then you’ll cross the highway on a beautiful bridge and meet up with the PCT. Seeing some of the PCT thru hikers was really awesome!

For the rest of the hike you’ll have stunning mountain and lake views and wildflowers depending on the season. Towards the end of the hike you’ll get to see Mount Rainier (if she decides to say hello!) We would highly highly recommend this hike and will definitely be doing it again if we get the chance.

Since this trail can be crowded and the parking lot is not enormous, your best bet would be to go early. It also isn’t covered for a lot of the trail so keep that in mind if you’re hiking in the heat of the day.

Stop #2: Head home!

Make your trek home, and dream about Mount Rainier National Park until you are able to visit again!

Mount Rainier with Kids Itinerary Map

Best of Mount Rainier National Park

Must See: The Sunrise Area of Mount Rainier National Park and all of the stunning views!
Would Skip: We loved everything we did at Mount Rainier NP, we would skip hiking mid day when there are lots of crowds.
Next Time: I would love to hike to a fire lookout or so some more long hikes. I also would love to visit Crystal Mountain!

Overall Thoughts on Mount Rainier National Park with Kids

We loved visiting Mount Rainier NP with our kids. This park easily became one of our favorite National Parks and we can’t wait to visit again and again. Whether you like to do longer hikes with your kids, scenic drives, short walks with stunning views or stay in cute Mountain towns – Mount Rainier NP has something for you! Happy travels! Let us know in the comments if this Mount Rainier with kids itinerary was helpful for you.

We hope you enjoyed our Mount Rainier National Park itinerary with your kids! If you are looking for other fun trips to take with our kids, check out some of our other fun National Parks guides:

Looking for other Mount Rainier National Park trip planning resources?

Happy Travels!

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