Mount Rainier’s Driving Tours

Mount Rainier is one of the most accessible national parks in the United States. Not only are there some great hiking trails that can lead you to incredible views, but there are also fantastic driving tours which let you enjoy the majesty of this park as well. In total, there are four well-defined driving loops that can be completed in a day if necessary, but the best results come with a weekend tour.

Here are Mount Rainier’s 4 driving tours and what you can expect to find during your adventure.

Driving Tour #1: Mount Rainier’s Circle

This driving tour complete encircles the mountain, but is only completely accessible from about May to October each year. The start and end of your journey will be in Enumclaw on Highway 410. Pick up whatever supplies you’ll need and then enjoy the 147-mile drive.

Reflection LakesYou’ll take Highway 410 to Highway 123. Continue south until you can turn right on Highway 706. Then return to Enumclaw by taking a right on Highway 162.

Here are the highlights of this tour.

  • Federation Forest State Park. With 12 miles of quiet trails looping through old-growth forests, this state park is the epitome of what Washington strives to be. An interpretive trail is included and there is a large day use area.

  • This small community is the last stop for services on this driving tour. Take some time to enjoy the shops, views of the White River, and maybe a stop at the Naches Tavern.

  • Suntop Lookout. Turn off of Highway 410 onto Forest Road 73. Go about a mile and then turn left on Forest Road 7315. It’s another 6 miles to the lookout on a gravel road that can be difficult to traverse – but the views are spectacular.

You may also wish to plan extra time for the Mount Rainier Lookout, Skookum Falls, Crystal Mountain Resort, and Tipsoo Lake. Box Canyon, Backbone Ridge, the Grove of the Patriarchs, and Reflection Lakes are also popular stops on this loop.

Mount Rainier Tours from Seattle

Mt Rainier Day Trip  Mt Rainier Day Tour  Small-Group Tour with Lunch Private Mt Rainier Day Tour

On this full-day tour of Washington state’s Mt Rainier, you’ll visit the majestic 14,411-foot (4,392-m) volcano and learn about the area from your informative guide. You’ll also explore local treasures like lakes and waterfalls en route from Seattle to Mt Rainier. Nature lovers won’t want to miss this!

Of all the mountains that surround Seattle, Mt Rainier stands the boldest. Appreciate the beauty of Mt Rainier on this full-day tour from Seattle. On clear days, you can see the mountain from downtown, but to grasp its full grandeur and magnificence, you must see it up close!

Admire close-up views of Mt Rainier’s snow capped peak, one of Seattle’s most iconic sights, on this full-day nature tour. See glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife in Mt Rainier National Park with a naturalist guide, and get a vivid sense of the mountain’s beauty while walking or snowshoeing.

On this private tour, take a scenic drive through the old-growth evergreen forests of America’s 5th-oldest national park, affording views of sparkling lakes, flower meadows and massive glaciers. Stop along the way to view wildlife and take photos and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy amidst the scenery.
Book Tour Book Tour Book Tour Book Tour

Driving Tour #2: Scenic Byways

Although this driving tour only skirts the edge of the national park, it is still easily one of the best experiences that Washington State has to offer. This driving tour takes you into rural foothill communities, allows you to experience nature at its finest, and can take you places where many visitors have yet to discover.

Mount Rainier Flowers and LakeThe easiest place to start this loop is in Naches. Take Highway 410 toward Mount Rainier. Turn left on Highway 123. Follow until reaching Highway 12, and then turn left to return to Naches.

Here are the highlights of this tour.

  • Edgar Rock. Named after the pioneer John Edgar, this stop offers a 4-mile trail that is filled with wildflowers in the spring and impressive rock formations all year long.

  • Oak Creek Wildlife Area. Just off of the Old Naches Highway, which you access off of Highway 410, is a bighorn sheep feeding station that remains quite busy throughout the year. It’s a primitive parking area and the signs are limited, so watch closely to make sure you don’t miss the stop. Mount Clemans stands in the background.

  • Clear Lake. Not only is there a waterfall to enjoy, but you can bring your fishing equipment for a great morning or evening of fishing. Bring your camera as well because elk, osprey, and bald eagles are commonly sighted.

Other popular stops on this driving tour include Dog Lake, Rimrock Lake, Boulder Cave, Bumping Lake, and Fife’s Peak. Some travelers like to linger at the Chinook Pass Summit for the views, take a stop at Goat Rocks viewpoint, or the Palisades viewpoint as well.

Driving Tour #3: The Road to Paradise

If you want impressive views of Mount Rainier while you drive through old-growth forests and have waterfalls visible from the road, then this is the driving tour for you. It’s pure Mount Rainier and there are several stops you can enjoy all along the way.

Paradise Inn SunriseStart this driving tour in Packwood off of Highway 12. Take Highway 52 until it reaches Highway 706 and then turn right. You’ll drive through Paradise until you reach Highway 123. Turn right and follow to the Highway 12 interchange and return to Packwood.

Here are the highlights of this 83-mile tour.

  • This is a great introductory stop to what this national park has to offer. You can stay there as well if you wish. Log cabins over a century old guard the community and there are plenty of trails to explore. The Trail of the Shadows is the most popular, leading you to mineral springs. Don’t miss Christine Falls during your stop.

  • Ricksecker Point. This stop gets missed quite a lot because it’s marked as a viewpoint only. You’ll be able to see many of the glaciers on the mountain, the false summit, and Gibraltar Rock. A note of caution – it’s only accessible in the summer months most years.

  • This is the primary destination for many visitors to Mount Rainier. It has a complete visitor’s center, access to alpine meadows, dining and lodging options, and the famous Jackson Grill.

If you prefer camping, the La Wis Wis Campground would let you sleep underneath tall trees with easy access to the Cowlitz River. Skate Park, Martha Falls, Glacier Vista, and Narada Falls are all easily accessible on this driving tour as well.

Driving Tour #4: West Side Loop

The sunsets are fierce on this loop as you drive through small mountain communities and enjoy the quiet of the forest. This loop just touches the southern end of the national park, but will allow you to enjoy what the community of Paradise has to offer. The snow is usually present when October rolls around and may stay closed until May, so plan accordingly.

Road to Mount RainierStart your journey in Morton and visit the historic train depot and the Logger’s Memorial. Follow Highway 7 up to Elbe, then turn right on Highway 706 to go through the national park. Turn right on Highway 123 and then stay on Highway 12 as you head toward Packwood. Follow Highway 12 through Randle until you once again reach Morton.

Here are the highlights of this 115-mile tour.

  • Mineral Lake. With Mount Rainier standing guard over it, this is one of the best places in the state to fish for trout. Boating and swimming are also highly encouraged and there is a public boat launch that is accessible. Stop at the local post office and the lodge to get a glimpse of what life in the area used to be.

  • There’s a train depot in this community as well, but it allows you to take a fun train ride via the Mount Rainier Railroad. The historic Lutheran church is also a fun stop for many as it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • West Side Road. It’s just a mile inside the park and you’ll be able to drive it for about 3 miles until you reach a gate. From there, you can hike to Gobblers Knob, Klapatche Park, or Tahoma Creek. Mud flows and flash flooding is possible, so keep an eye out for changing conditions.

Kautz Creek, the Hotel Packwood, White Pass Country, Cowlitz Valley, and Woods Creek are other popular stops along this loop. You’ll also be able to access some stops from other the other driving tours, such as Longmire and Box Canyon.

Mount Rainier’s driving tours allow you to see some of the best views the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Choose your favorite one or complete them all. Whatever you decide, you will find that each tour will provide you an amazing adventure that you are sure to enjoy.