RV Camping in Mount Rainier National Park
Wet, wild and wonderfully green, Mount Rainier National Park possesses an environment that supports four different life zones. This spectacular dormant volcano rises 14,411 feet and is said to actually create its own weather! At its majestic summit, 34 square miles of glaciers spread like spokes—reaching toward the valleys below.
Black bears and cougars roam her hemlock and Alaska Yellow Cedar forests. Old-growth Douglas fir, 500 to 1,000 years old, grace her lowland mountain sides. From temperate rainforest at Carbon River, to her swift clear rivers at Ohanapecosh, Mount Rainier National Park is nature’s splendor, a park beyond compare.
About the Park
Though surrounded the Mount Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest on the north, the William O. Douglas and Norse Peak Wilderness areas, part of the beautiful 2.2 million acre Wenatchee National Forest, on the east, and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the south and west, Mount Rainier is easily accessible. The 378 square mile park is located in southwestern Washington, about 80-90 driving miles southeast of Seattle. It is some 70 miles northwest of Yakima and about 135 miles north of Portland, Oregon. Three interconnected entrances serve the park plus the isolated the Carbon River and Mowich Lake entrances in the northwestern corner.
Highway 706 runs from the Nisqually Entrance, at Mount Rainier’s southwestern corner, through the Longmire and Paradise sections and joins Highway 123 east of the Stevens Canyon Entrance. Highway 123 enters the park at its southeastern corner, passes through the Ohanapecosh section and joins Highway 410 west of the Chinook Pass (the park’s eastern access point). Highway 410 also enters the park at its northeastern corner. The White River Entrance road leads from Highway 410 to the Sunrise section of Mount Rainier. These Park Highways are narrow and mountainous but are well-maintained and excellent roadways.
There are five developed sections or areas within the park: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise and Carbon River. Each has its own distinctive beauty, a visitors center, camping, wildlife, and many other facilities. Other than these developed sections, Mount Rainier National Park is an awesome open wilderness.
There are 25 named glaciers and 50 smaller ones, numerous waterfalls, rivers, snowfields and dazzling fields of wildflowers (July and August). The park is open year round. With most park roads closed between October and May, due to winter snows, and crowds of tourists during the summer months, late spring and early fall are the best times to enjoy Mount Rainier. It is celebrating its 100th year birthday in 1999 and many park activities have been planned.
Park Attractions and Activities
Mount Rainier’s scenic beauty is, of course, her main attraction. The 100 plus miles of good park highways serve as breath-taking scenic drives. There are many well-placed pullouts and fantastic vistas along the way. Deer and Elk often grace the landscape. Short Nature Trails lead to wonderful views of Mount Rainier, hot springs, meadows, waterfalls and much more.
There is a hike for everyone on the park’s 240 miles of trails. On the Longmire section, an easy and lovely stroll to Carter Falls is only a two-mile round trip. In the Ohanapecosh Area, the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail is an easy 1.3-mile walk, while Crystal Lakes Trail is moderately difficult and covers six miles. For backcountry hiking, the 93-mile Wonderland Trail circles Mount Rainier and takes 10 to 14 days to complete.
Permits are required for any backcountry camping-backpacking (more than day hikes) and camping is restricted to certain locations with restrictions/prohibitions on campfires outside designated backcountry areas.
Mountain climbing is very popular at Mount Rainier with some extremely difficult climbs. Biking in the park is limited, but there are some good rides. With over 700 species of plants and 50 species of mammals, wildlife watchers and photography enthusiasts are well rewarded. Fishing at Mount Rainier is, however, a challenge as rivers and streams are not stocked.
Park Campgrounds and Facilities
Mount Rainier National Park provides six campgrounds with nearly 600 sites. Cougar Rock Campground near Longmire and Ohanapecosh Campground. Both have a dump station, restrooms, and water only. We camped at Ohanapecosh Campground in our 27-foot travel trailer, found water near our site and loved the area.
There are a number of trailside campgrounds for wilderness camping. Backcountry camping is also available using “leave no trace” camping ethics.
Area Private RV Parks and Campgrounds
Full-service private RV parks that are near Mount Rainier entrances are limited. West of the Nisqually Entrance, there is the Mounthaven Cabins, Trailer and RV Park in Ashford, Washington. In Packwood, a few miles south of the Ohanapecosh section, the Packwood RV Park (no website) offers some full-hookup sites.
Area Attractions and Activities
The surrounding Wenatchee National Forest offers over 100 campgrounds, 2,500 miles of trails and 5,000 miles of forest roads. This gorgeous forest has outdoors enjoyment for all tastes. About eight miles south of Ohanapecosh, the small town of Packwood has groceries, a Post Office, gift shops and lodging. The town of Ashford, in the Nisqually River Valley, and the Elbe offer a variety of outdoor activities, a scenic railroad, and good restaurants.
Many other links to nearby attractions and accommodations are listed on the National Park Service website and on GORP’s Nearby Sites Page. The raw, rugged beauty of this area is simply overwhelming! Mount Rainier National Park is a unique American treasure—a place that fires the soul and instills fond and lasting memories.