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This campground is currently CLOSED


AMENITIES: picnic tables, fire platforms, flush toilets, water | PROHIBITED: pets off-leash, firewood gathering

SEASON: late June – late September | MAX RV/TRAILER LENGTH: RV: 32 ft, Trailer: 27 ft

NEARBY: Glacier Basin Trail, Sunrise

WEBSITE: National Park Page


The White River Campground, in the northeastern section of Mount Rainier National Park, presents travelers of all interests with the ideal gateway to the backcountry. Whether you are a climber heading for the high alpine air, or a hiker with an eye to the variety of excellent trails in the surrounding area, this is your base camp. With the stunning vistas and visitor amenities of Sunrise located just up the road, White River is a perfect place for car campers as well.

For climbers and hikers, automobile sight-seers and families, The White River Campground is just the ticket for exploring the east side of Mount Rainier.

Located five miles up from Highway 410, the White River Campground sits at 4,232 feet, making it the highest of the three drive-in campgrounds at Mount Rainier. The high elevation often makes this the last of the campgrounds to open and the first to close. Even with the shorter season, the sites are frequently filled to capacity and reservations are heartily recommended.

There are 112 individual sites within the campground and no group sites. Camping costs $12 and most of the sites are well placed for both privacy and scenic value. There are four main camping loops, with the majority of the sites positioned on loops C and D, farthest from the entrance. Because of the steep terrain around the campground and its proximity to the White River itself, little brooks cascading through the area provide a consistent and delicate serenade.

There are restrooms and washing facilities located in each loop and in the picnic area although, as in the rest of the campgrounds in the park, there are no showers. Ranger-led evening programs take place in the rustic campfire circle on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and there are Junior Ranger activities for the kids offered each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The White River is a few hundred yards down the bank from the camping area and, at this point in its development, is usually no more than a large creek. The flow is strong though, and the milky water flows fast and furious, bouncing through the rocky bottom on its way down the mountain. The giant tree trunks along its route and the scoured river banks give evidence of the raw power that the river is capable of during times of flood and will inspire respect in any visitor.

The Wonderland Trail runs through White River Campground, making it a good choice for beginning or ending a circle hike or as a resupply location. There’s a hike-in area reserved for backpackers just behind the historic patrol cabin between loops C and D. There is also a picnic area located adjacent to the climbers; parking lot, just above the river.

Hikers have a smorgasbord of trails to choose from, right out of White River Campground or in the regions close by. The Glacier Basin trail is among the most popular, and is used not only by day-hikers but also by climbers as they make their way towards the Emmons route higher up the mountain. For climbers, the White River Campground is the east-side trailhead, and although the number of people attempting to summit from this side of the mountain is far less than it is at Paradise, climbers are a common sight in the parking area and along the Glacier Basin trail.

From White River Campground, the trail climbs steadily for 3.3 miles, working its way up to Glacier Basin Camp, at 6,000 feet. Above this point, the trail meanders further in toward the mountain, through beautiful meadows and sections of treacherous rockfall before it ends at the foot of Inter Glacier.

The area around Glacier Basin was once the site of an extensive copper mining operation. In the early decades of the 20th century, a variety of structures stood in the high country around here, among them a sawmill, a powerhouse, and a rough flume shunting water from the creek, along with a blacksmith shop and a hotel for the miners working the claims. Remnants of the old Storbo Mine can still be seen in the meadows and along the trail at various points, rusting machinery slowly and quietly decomposing, returning to the land.

The historic buildings at Sunrise are a short drive up the twisting mountain road farther up the flanks of the mountain. For panoramic vistas and heart-stoppingly beautiful scenery, nowhere else comes close. (Nowhere else that you can drive to, anyway.) Mount Rainier presides over the southern sky like an ancient deity, all snow and rock, on a scale that defies imagination. The visitor center at Sunrise features excellent displays and informational exhibits that explain the mountain and the animals and plants that live there using innovative and interactive techniques. There is a gift shop and a small cafeteria here as well, and the area just north of the parking area has some great accessible hiking options, where the views get even better.

For climbers and hikers, automobile sight-seers and families, The White River Campground is just the ticket for exploring the east side of Mount Rainier.

– Ken Campbell