Spring is a time of transition. The snow melts and waterfalls start to roar. Roads reopen and restore access to increased areas of Mt. Rainier National park and regional trails. Beat the crowds of summer and book a refreshing getaway to the Mt. Rainier this season. Read our list below for 10 Ways to Experience Mt. Rainier this spring and be sure to download a free copy of our spring travel guides to help you plan an epic Rainier vacation.
All Aboard! Gain a new perspective of the Mount Rainier foothills on a vintage logging locomotive ride. Journey 18 miles along the countryside near the mountain and let the rhythm of the rails transport you back to the day when rail travel was king. Not to be confused with a luxurious rail line, this train offers a friendly and fun atmosphere, with plenty of room for children to walk around and see the sights. As the longest continuously operating steam train railroad in the Pacific Northwest, the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum proudly preserves a colorful slice of America’s heritage.
Admire the Waterfalls
The waterfalls of Mt. Rainier are nothing short of spectacular and the snowmelt during spring offers the best opportunity to view the falls at their peak. Driving to Paradise and just a short walk from their respective parking areas will afford views of pretty Christine Falls and thundering Narada Falls. Near Paradise, take a day hike to Comet Falls or trek along the Paradise River Trail affording views of both Carter and Madcap Falls. Once at Paradise, a family-friendly walk from Paradise on the Edith Creek Trail will take you to Myrtle Falls and one of the most photographed vistas in the park. Be sure to use our waterfall guide to easily locate which waterfalls are accessible by car, or hiking.
Where better to sip and savor a sampling of full-bodied reds and crisp, fresh whites than in the relaxed setting of Stringtown Cellars and Lavender Farm in Eatonville. Or try the Spring Wine Walk in Enumclaw.
Go Lowland Hiking
Rid a case of cabin fever on an early season, spring hike at Mt. Rainier. While many of the high elevation trails in the Paradise and Sunrise areas of the park are still under snow cover, lowland trails are already in their prime. On the northern side of the park along Chinook Pass, access trails to pretty Greenwater Lakes, Snoquera Falls, and Skookum Flats. Silver Falls is also a popular and family-friendly hike in the Ohanapecosh area and Green Lake and Ranger Creek are two scenic and more remote options in the Carbon River corner of the park.
Touted as one of the best trout fishing lakes in Western Washington, Mineral Lake is no secret to many anglers. With over 100,000 fingerling rainbow trout planted each year, it’s no wonder why it’s regularly listed as one of the top picks by Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for the annual Lowland Lakes Opener in April. With Mt. Rainier as a most stellar backdrop, the picturesque scene in the foothills of the Cascades Mountains is worth the trip itself. Mineral Lake is located just miles outside the Nisqually Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Take a Scenic Drive
An incredible opportunity to experience the beauty surrounding Mt. Rainier, take a journey along the Chinook Byway to the north and along White Pass Scenic Byway to the south. These two nationally recognized byways offer striking views passing through national forests, along with shining lakes, rumbling rivers and cascading waterfalls. Experience charming mountain communities, alpine country, state parks and agricultural land. Turnouts and overlooks along the way offer visitors the opportunity to take a moment to soak in the scenes and take a longer look at the striking wilderness which surrounds.
Cruise over mountain meadows and babbling brooks on a ride up to Crystal Mountain from the comfort of a fully-enclosed gondola. Skiers and foot passengers can all take a ride to the Crystal Mountain summit for captivating mountain views, a delectable meal or to drop back into the vast terrain that plunges below the ridgeline. At the aptly named Summit House savor hearty soups, gourmet pizzas, pasta, fondue and fresh salads, in addition to daily specials. Open year-round; keep in mind their popular sunset dinners and Sunday brunch. On a clear day, the views of the Northwest’s most famous volcanic peaks are unbeatable.
Experience captivating Northwest wildlife. Along the beautiful, winding walking trails at Northwest Trek, view over 200 North American animals, representing over 30 species. The varied habitats of Northwest Trek create a scenic landscape with lakes, meadows, forests, and streams. A fan favorite, bundle up for a 55-miniature tram ride viewing native animals grazing in fields, wandering in the forest, and quite possibly, right outside your seat. Whether you are peering out of the tram at bellowing bison or standing nose-to-nose with an otter, exciting wildlife encounters happen every day at Northwest Trek.
Explore a unique ecosystem within the park – an inland temperate rainforest – and do it on the back of a bike. Although the Carbon River Entrance of the Park is the closest entrance to major population centers, it remains the least visiting corner of the park. And the Carbon River Road is one of the few places mountain bikes are allowed within the national park. Soon to be added are bike racks at the trailheads along the road allowing for the unique experience of bike and hike outings. And since the 5.0-mile Carbon River Road is virtually level, it’ll be perfect for children, adults towing children and folks looking for an easy bike ride.
It’s a Presidentially proclaimed time to celebrate the diversity, beauty, and history found in our national park system. During this week each year in mid-April, entrance fees are waived for all visitors. Visit your national parks for free! The Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise is open daily during this period, offering visitor information, food service, and gift shop. The National Park Inn at Longmire is open year-round offering overnight accommodations, dining, and a gift shop. During this time of year, the Carbon River area of the park is often snow free and provides a great opportunity for hikers and bicyclists.