When is the best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park?
The best time to visit Mount Rainier National Park for the most widespread access to hiking trails and glaciers is during the summer months of July-September. The dry, pleasant summers do attract more visitors, so arriving early in the morning or visiting midweek can help you avoid parking woes. If you plan on hiking some of the more popular trails, like Skyline or Wonderland, you'll be in good company with lots of other travellers. Roads in the park begin to close for the season in early fall, cutting off access to most sights, but the Paradise area will remain open for snow activities, weather permitting.
Best for: robust waterfalls and low-elevation hiking
Spring slowly arrives at Mount Rainier at different times each year, but you can expect snow to start melting significantly in the lower elevations between late April-May. During this time, temperatures at the Longmire Wilderness Center average around 10°C. There are lots of great low-elevation hikes to conquer, but don't be surprised if you have to cross some snow and ice on the trails! As the snow melts high on the mountain, rivers and waterfalls will be show-stoppingly robust.
Best for: wildflower and glacier spotting
Summer is the time to visit Mount Rainier if you're looking to explore all that the park has to offer. Skies will be clear and the climate is comfortable, with daily temperatures in the low 20s°C, getting significantly cooler the higher you climb. You'll definitely still see snow in the high-elevation areas in July, especially if you hike to Glacier Vista to see the sprawling Nisqually Glacier. The famous Mount Rainier wildflowers bloom between late July and early August and look especially colourful against a backdrop of the snowy mountain peak.
Best for: fall foliage and fewer crowds
Autumn is a great time to visit Mount Rainier National Park if you're looking to catch some colourful fall leaves. Keep in mind that on the mountain, autumn arrives early, and foliage typically peaks the first week of October. Summer crowds will have thinned, allowing for some beautifully peaceful hikes. By late October, snow has arrived in the park and services and roads start shutting down for winter.
Best for: snowy landscapes and winter sports in Paradise
Mount Rainier receives record-breaking snowfall every year. In fact, Paradise is one of the snowiest places on earth where snowfall is measured regularly, often seeing well over 18 metres per season. Most of the roads to the park will be closed off to vehicle traffic by November, cutting off access to the majority of sites, but Paradise opens every winter for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoe hikes. Conditions are known to change frequently (a bluebird day on the slopes can quickly become a whiteout), so always check with rangers before heading out. Average temperatures at Paradise can hover below -6°C, so proper snow gear and hardy layers are a must.