Have you heard of Sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park? You may be more familiar with the Paradise area, as it is the most popular. However, we highly recommend a trip to Sunrise as well! It has some of the best views of Mt. Rainier in the entire national park!
Watch the video below to see why visiting Sunrise is a must for your trip to Mount Rainier! Then continue scrolling down to read more about things to do here and in the area.
About Mount Rainier National Park
In case you didn’t catch it in our last blog post about the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park, Mount Rainier is 14,411 feet tall and is the 5th tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. It is an active volcano and actually has a high probability of erupting again in the future. Other interesting facts are that it is the most heavily glaciated mountain in lower 48 states, with 25 named glaciers. The Puyallup tribe first called the mountain Tahoma or Tacoma. There’s actually a movement to restore the name to Tahoma, like what was done with Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska. It became a National Park in 1899 and was our nation’s 5th national park.
There are 4 entrances to the park and 5 areas to visit:
- The Nisqually entrance in the southwest gives you access to the Longmire historic district and the Paradise area on the southern slopes of Mount Rainier.
- The Stevens Canyon entrance in the southeast gives you access to the Ohanapecosh area. This area is known for its ancient forests.
- The White River entrance in the northeast gives you access to the Sunrise area.
- The Carbon River entrance in the northwest gives you access to the Carbon River area. This area is more remote and thus one of the quietest areas of the park, with lakes and fire lookouts.
The Sunrise area in the northeast section of Mount Rainier National Park has amazing views of Mt. Rainier similar to Paradise, but from a different side. From here the Emmons Glacier is very prominent. This is the highest you can drive up by car in the park. At Sunrise you will be at an elevation of 6,400 feet.
Here you can also visit the Sunrise Visitor Center, Sunrise Day Lodge, and picnic area. The Sunrise road does close in the winter, so check the road status before you go.
Make sure to stop at Sunrise Point on your drive up to Sunrise itself. It is a curve in the road with a parking lot where you can get out and see a fantastic view of both Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range. Sunrise Point is at 6,100 feet and from here you’ll continue another 300 feet higher to Sunrise itself.
Hiking at Sunrise
There are quite a few hiking trails at Sunrise. We did the Sunrise Nature Trail which has great views but is a bit shorter than some of the other trails. It was 1.5 miles. Head to the right of the Visitor Center and past the picnic area and you’ll see the trailhead sign. You’ll head uphill and then around a loop at the top with amazing views. The Sourdough Ridge Trail actually continues in either direction from the top portion of the Nature Trail if you want to hike further to enjoy even more of the scenery.
Another hike that sounded amazing but that we’ll personally save for when our kids are older, is a hike out to the Mount Fremont Fire Lookout. This sounds like a great hike with a fun reward at the end of seeing the fire tower. This trail is 6 miles round trip. If hikes to fire towers is something you’re interested in, there are several in the park including another 6 mile hike to the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. This one is in the northwest area of Mount Rainier National Park.
A few other trails noted on the park map that sounded especially interesting to us include:
- Emmons Vista Overlooks (1 mile), for views of the Emmons Glacier
- Frozen Lake Loop (3 miles), up to the ridgetop and out to Frozen Lake
- Shadow Lake Loop (x miles), out to Shadow Lake through alpine meadows
Crystal Mountain Resort
Crystal Mountain Resort is not far from the Sunrise Area of the park and offers both summer and winter activities. Though we weren’t able to check it out ourselves, the research we did made this seem like a great place to visit and we’ll keep it on our to do list for next time!
Mount Rainier Gondola
Did you know there is gondola with views of Mount Rainier in the area? You can take the gondola at the resort to the peak of Crystal Mountain. You’ll ascend over 2,400 vertical feet to the summit for awesome views. We unfortunately weren’t able to do this ourselves as the gondola closed for the season right before we had planned to check it out. There seems to be a break between the summer and winter seasons. If you’re able to go, book ahead online if possible as there were cost savings for doing so and the gondola appeared to operate via timed passes.
At the top you can also check out the Summit House, Washington’s highest elevation restaurant. Also at the top are some hiking options and the Northway Trail sounded like a great one. Supposedly you hike along the ridge line and it is a relatively easy hike. Hike out and back as far as you’d like before taking the gondola back down the mountain.
Camping At The Resort
There’s also the opportunity to camp at the Crystal Mountain Resort, with both 30 amp and 50 amp for RVs, or even tent camping. There is no dump station but you can get access to water with your own hose. This would be a great launching point to enjoy the activities of the resort without having to drive far.
If you visit Mount Rainier, we highly recommend taking the time to drive to the Sunrise area of the park. We hope you’ve enjoyed your time with us as we’ve shown you Mount Rainier National Park!
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If you’d like to read about our family travels, full-time RVing, and other adventures, then check out some of our other posts :
- What Is It Like To Climb Mount Rainier? Visiting Paradise & Ohanapecosh
- Best of the Best North Cascades National Park Hiking Trails
- How To Experience North Cascades National Park Lakes
- Petrified Forest National Park
You can check out some of our favorite gear and memberships on our Resources Page.
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