Mount Rainier in all its glory.
Summer hikes for mini mountaineers
Visiting iconic Mount Rainier should be on every Washington family’s summer bucket list. But have you put it off because it seems too hard to explore with kids? We’ve got good news for you! There are plenty of short, easy trails with stunning alpine views that can be hiked and walked with wee ones, even those in strollers on some of the trails. Gawk at 1,000-year-old trees, play at Tipsoo Lake, explore a homestead cabin, see hot springs, and experience the glory of wildflowers and crisp alpine air. We’ve included a couple of longer hikes for families with older kids, too. These are all summer hikes, so check to be sure the area you want to visit is open before heading out.
Know before you go
A well-laid plan will make the trip more enjoyable for the entire family.
- You’ll need to pay admission to enter Mount Rainier National Park for these hikes, or visit on a fee-free day, or, if you have a fourth grader, show your Every Kid Outdoors pass.
- Always remember to bring along the 10 essentials on any hike and check hiker trip reports on the Washington Trails Association website to assess current trail conditions for your intended destination.
- Dogs aren’t allowed in Mount Rainier National Park, so leave your fur baby at home.
- Pack snacks and adequate amounts of water or even a picnic for the family (consult a list of designated picnic areas).
- Help preserve the meadows by staying on the trails (even though it is tempting to go off trail for photo ops) and by not picking the wildflowers.
- Beautiful, updated Paradise Inn is open, and visitor center restrooms are open as well.
- During peak times and days, there can be a long line to get into the park — and to a restroom. The last public restroom for 17 miles before you reach the facilities inside the park is at the rest stop on State Route 7 in Elbe. If you have little ones (or even big kids), stop there just in case!
- Meilee Anderson, a marketing consultant with the website Visit Rainier, advises, “Remember peak visiting hours in the summer when crowds are highest is 10 a.m.–2 p.m. If you arrive during those hours, remember to ‘pack your patience’ when waiting to get into the park or when looking for a parking space. It’s always smart to have a backup plan in case you arrive and find a full parking lot, a long line or big crowds.”
First trail: Nisqually Vista