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Mount Rainier is a place that’s best explored by trail. Obviously the area is all about the mountain, so to truly enjoy the things that make it so unique and wonderful, you’ll need to be outside exploring. Luckily, there are so many great hikes for kids in Mount Rainier National Park that you really can’t go wrong.
What Should Kids Wear Hiking In Mount Rainier National Park
When you go hiking in Mount Rainier with kids, be prepared for different weather. Plan on dressing in layers so that you can stay warm during the chilly mornings, and also have other layers to wick moisture away and keep you dry in case of rain. Here are our top recommendations for what to kids should wear for hiking around Mt Rainier:
Base Layers: We absolutely love these merino wool base layers for kids and use them year round. They keep them kids warm when it’s cold, but also regulate temperatures and cool them when it’s hot. Best of all, they are odor resistant so kids can wear them multiple days in a row. We’ve tested out all the best kids baselayers and these are our favorite merino wool base layers for kids.
Wool socks: Even with waterproof hiking shoes, your feet will still get a little wet. Merino wool works amazingly well when wet since it wicks moisture away from your skin and insulates even when wet. These are an absolute must for packing for a visit to Mount Rainier National Park. Check out the best kids wool hiking socks.
Waterproof hiking shoes: These are an absolute necessity. Even if it’s not raining while you’re hiking in Rainier with kids, there may still be mud, snow and water in many places along the trail. Check out our review of the top kids hiking shoes to find hiking shoe options that work well for your kids.
Waterproof Rain Jackets: Make sure to pack waterproof rain jackets for everyone in the family. With the mountain the weather can change very quickly, so always keep these in your hiking backpack in Mt Rainier. These are our favorite rain suits for kids (another more budget-friendly option for rain suit), kids rain jackets, and kids rain pants for hiking.
Hat: When you’re hiking around Mount Rainier with kids, remember that you’ll be at a high altitude, so make sure to wear hats for everyone. We love these baseball caps and these full brim hats for kids.
Best Time Of Year To Hike At Mount Rainier
The best time of year to hike at Mount Rainier is in July and August. We arrived in Mid June and were shocked by how much of the snow is still covered in snow with closed trails. The Sunrise Mowich area doesn’t open up to cars until the beginning of July and the Skyline trail at Paradise is usually not open until the end of July or early August. Also keep in mind that snow can start falling in September, so visiting Rainier in Fall can be unpredictable.
It’s also important to note that there are 2 million people a year that visit Mount Rainier and a majority of those are in July and August. Those two months can be VERY busy, so avoid weekends whenever possible. During July and August, the huge parking lots at Paradise often fill up by 7 or 8 am, so go early if you plan on family hiking in Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park.
If you don’t have your heart set on Paradise, we found plenty of other amazing hikes in mid June and also felt like we were visiting in the off season with few crowds. June in Mount Rainier is amazing!
Where to stay near Mount Rainier with Kids
There are several great places to stay inside of and near Mount Rainier. If you’re camping, book ahead and try to stay at one of the campgrounds inside of the park. Pick where you want to do the most hiking, and try to base yourself near there.
Here are some of the best Mount Rainier hotel options:
Best Hotels in Mount Rainier National Park
There are two great hotels within Mount Rainier National Park. The best is Paradise Inn, followed by the National Park Inn. Both offer easy access to hiking trails and are great for kids.
Best Hotels Outside of Mount Rainier National Park
Cowlitz River Lodge – One of the best hotels near Mount Rainier. Lots of room options for families
Where to hike with kids at Mount Rainier
While hiking to the top of Mount Rainier isn’t something that kids can do (or most adults), there are tons of easy hikes for kids at Mount Rainier National Park. Below we’re sharing some of our favorite kid friendly hikes at Rainier. There are a few different sections of Mount Rainier, so we’ve included this map to help you pick the areas you want to hike in. For detailed trail maps, I recommend that you get a subscription to the All Trails app which allows you to have detailed trail maps available offline since cell service is unpredictable in the park.
Best Hikes With Kids In The Longmire Historic District
The Longmore Area of Mt Rainier is a perfect place to hike with kids, especially really young kids. There you’ll also find a museum, a gift shop, an Inn and a restaurant. There are some good things to check out at Longmire and easy parking there as well.
Twin Firs Hike
Distance: 0.4 mile loop
This is one of the easiest real hikes in Mt Rainier for kids. The short loop is going to delight them with giant trees and twisting paths and best of all, they should be able to hike the entire thing independantly. If you’re bringing young kids this hike is a must do, and is the best hike in Mt Rainier for toddlers and young kids.
Trail Of Shadows
Distance: 0.7 mile loop
The Trail of Shadows is a really easy hike with kids in Rainier. It’s very flat the entire way, and even our older kids loved that it had signs all along the trail to teach them about the history of the area. You can see some mineral spring artifacts that are over 100 years old, which was a fun way for the younger kids to learn about the history of the area. Keep a look out in the ponds in the area for beaver, which are best spotted in the early morning or evening.
Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous but short
Narada Falls is located directly off of the road, and has a good sized parking lot for you to access the falls from. There is a viewing area at the top of the falls, but don’t just stop there. Crossing over the bridge and down the trail to the other side of the falls is really amazing, and gives you the best views of the waterfall. The hike down to the best waterfall viewpoint is short and steep, and is a strenuous hike but since it’s so short it’s very doable.
Distance: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
If you want to hike one of the best waterfalls in Mount Rainier National Park, make sure to go to Comet Falls. This Washington waterfall is incredibly impressive and is one of the tallest waterfalls at Mt Rainier. With almost 1000 feet of elevation gain, this is a strenuous hike, but completely doable if your kids are in shape. The first quarter mile of this hike is the most difficult, but after you get past that, the rest of the hike is much easier. It’s one of the best hikes with kids in Mount Rainier National Park thanks to the numerous stream crossing (many on log bridges which the kids will love), as well as lots of other small waterfalls to spot along the trail.
The trailhead for Comet Falls is located 4 miles east of Longmire on the road to Paradise, but has extremely limited parking space. Plan to hike early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the crowds, or consider hiking from Cougar Rock instead.
Best Hikes With Kids at Paradise, Mount Rainier
We had incredibly high hopes of hiking at Paradise, since it’s one of the most iconic hiking areas in Mt Rainier. What those photos don’t tell you is that there’s a VERY short window of opportunity to do the best hikes in Mt Rainier in this area. We came in Mid June and there was still at least 12 feet of snow around the edges of the parking lot. The rangers that we spoke to said that the hikes along the Skyline Trail often don’t open until August and starting in September, snows start to fall so they can close at any time after that. Thankfully, we also really love snow, so we still had a great time. Below I’m sharing the hikes based on the extensive research that we did as well as photos from friends.
Take note that the Paradise area has the most popular hiking trails in Mt Rainier. Even with several large parking lots, they do fill very early in the morning during July and August. Our suggestion is to get up there early and enjoy a picnic breakfast when you get up to the top.
Distance: 1 Mile
Myrtle Falls is the easiest hike in Paradise and also the most heavily trafficed during peak season. The trail starts just behind the visitors center and Paradise Inn and is well maintained the entire way to Myrtle Falls. From here you can get great views of the falls from the south side of the waterfall, and the kids will love crossing over the bridge right above where the waterfall starts.
Nisqually Vista Trail
Distance: 1.1 miles roundtrip
If you want an easy hiking trail at Paradise, plan on hiking the Nisqually Vista Trail. This trail is a 1.1 mile loop and is perfect for hiking around Mount Rainier with kids. On a clear day, you’ll get views of both the valley below as well as Mount Rainier above. This trail can get very busy during the summer, and even with a very large parking lot it can often be difficult to find a packing place. For this hike and all other hikes at Paradise, plan on going at off-peak times.
Distance: 5.5 miles roundtrip
To really appreciate the true size of Mt Rainier as well as the stunning wildflowers in Paradise that are in full bloom in August, make sure that you hike the Skyline Trail. This trail starts behind the visitors center and Paradise Inn and is the most popular hiking trail in Mt. Rainier. The hike starts out quite easy until you reach Myrtle Falls. After you get to the falls, the trail does start a steady climb up towards Panorama Point. Overall, the total elevation gain over 5.5 miles is about 1400 feet. Although this trail does have a steady climb, the most difficult part of this hike is the crowds. If you plan on hiking Paradise with kids, make sure that you go during off peak times so that you can have more space to enjoy the area and to explore a little bit. This is our top recommended Mount Rainier hike for teens and older kids.
Best Hikes With Kids In Ohanapecosh, Eastern Rainier
If you are coming into Rainier from the east, this is a great place to enter the park. Ohanapecosh is located in the southeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park and will give you access to some great hikes with kids while you’re there. This can be combined with short hikes from the Sunrise area or if you only make a quick stop in Paradise.
Grove of the Patriarchs
Distance: 1.5 miles Roundtrip
This is another one of our favorite hiking trails for kids in Mount Rainier National Park. If you’re going to be on the south side of the park, this hike should not be missed. It’s short and sweet and is perfect for kids. The hike starts out going alongside the river and as you approach the Grove of the Patriarchs, it crosses the river on a suspension bridge. After crossing the bridge, you’ll enter the grove of massive trees, where you get to hike along a boardwalk. The hike is really easy and is another great way to introduce kids to how amazing nature is. This is a great hike to take a picnic on, since there is a big shoreline next to the river that’s a great place to eat lunch and throw rocks.
Distance: 2 Miles Roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Starting at the same parking lot where you park for The Grove Of The Patriarchs, you can hike south to Silver Falls. If you ask any of our kids, they’ll tell you that this is the best hike for families in Mount Rainier National Park and I wholeheartedly agree. The entire hike was absolutely amazing. When you get about 0.5 miles down the trail, the river starts to narrow and drop through a series of waterfalls and rapids. The waterfalls keep getting bigger and bigger as you hike south, finally culminating with Silver Falls. SIlver Falls is a big waterfall with an impressive spray zone, dropping into turquoise water. There are several viewpoints to see the waterfall from on both sides of the river, but we enjoyed the view from the bridge the most. This short Mt Rainier hike may be difficult for toddlers, but is great for other kids. Our 4-year-old hiked the entire trail without any problems. This is what we recommend as the best easy hike in Mount Rainier National Park.
Best Hikes With Kids in Sunrise, North Mount Rainier National Park
Sunrise is on the northern end of Mount Rainier National Park and is a great place to escape the crowds at Mount Rainier. The roads into the area don’t open up until at least July (sometimes later if there is more snow), so plan on visiting here later in the summer. This is also the highest place in Mount Rainier that you can get to by car, so be prepared for higher elevation, more sun exposure, and colder temperatures.
Distance: 0.5 miles
Tipsoo Lake is a great easy hike at Mount Rainier National Park. It’an easy walk around the lake and in late July and August, the meadows around the lake are filled with wildflowers. This is one of the best hikes with toddlers at Mount Rainier National Park.
Sunrise Nature Trail
Distance: 1.5 Miles
This easy nature trail is the perfect quick hike for kids at Mount Rainiers sunrise area. The loop is a self guided nature tour with signs to teach all about the things that kids are seeing along the way. The signs are a great way to keep older kids occupied on this hike that’s suitable for even the smallest hikers. Along this hike you’ll go through meadows that give amazing views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade range.
Silver Forest Trail
Distance: 2.4 miles
This is the easiest trail that starts from the Sunrise Visitors center, and it’s a very family friendly hike at Rainier. This trail gets its name from the many dead trees that have a silver color. From this trail you can get some of the best views of Mount Rainier as well as the Emmons glacier and moraine. This is what we recommend as the best hike with kids in Mount Rainier National Parks northern side.
All of the hikes we shared are family friendly hikes at Mount Rainier and easy Rainier day hikes. All of these are great for getting out on some easy Mount Rainier trails and enjoying the beautiful nature that’s here. If you want to help your kids learn more about Mount Rainier, we recommend these books:
Best Books About Mount Rainier For Kids
We created this coloring book featuring all of the US National Parks and it’s perfect for kids. Designed by my daughter and myself, this coloring book features Mount Rainier National Park as well as all the other parks in the US, and is a great one to bring along on your travels. If you’re wanting to visit a lot of US National Parks with kids, this is a great book to have and let your kids color each parks page after you visit.
This is a great activity book about Mount Rainier and is perfect for kids about ages 7-12. It’s full of games, puzzles and great information to teach kids about Rainier.
This book is a great little notebook for journaling in Mount Rainier and is really affordable. I highly recommend grabbing this if you have kids who are old enough to write so they can record their adventures here.
We’ve had this book for years (an older edition) and it’s one of our family favorites. If you want your kids to learn about National Parks all across the country, this is a must buy book. A great Mount Rainier National Park book for kids to introduce them to the park.
This book is inspired by potty humor, and is geared towards younger kids and is actually really cute. It’s a good book to teach kids about animals, and also really engaging since it keeps kids guessing what butt they’re looking at.
Questions about hiking Mount Rainier
The park is home to black bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife. Keep a safe distance, store food properly, and learn what to do in case of an encounter.
You don’t need a permit for day hikes, but wilderness permits are required for all overnight hikes and can be obtained from the park’s visitor centers.
Yes, but reaching the summit requires technical climbing skills, proper equipment, and a climbing permit. It’s a serious undertaking and should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers.
Cell service is extremely limited in the park. Don’t rely on your phone for navigation or emergencies. If you’re going to be within a couple of miles of each other, these walkie talkies are amazing for communicating on the trail.
According to the National Parks Service, “pets are NOT allowed on trails, in wilderness and/or off trail areas, inside buildings, in amphitheaters, on roads closed for winter, or on snow (service animals excepted)” If you have a pet and are planning to hike, it’s best to leave them at home. Leaving your pet in the car for extended periods of time is not a safe option for them.