Largest and most spectacular of Mt. Rainier's accessible waterfalls. Comet Falls is 320 ft. high. Elevation gain 2000 ft., mileage 4.75 miles RT.
Paradise Meadows (Skyline Trail).
Five-mile RT trail (1400-ft. elev. gain) through wildflower meadows, which is partially paved. The trail ascends through subalpine meadows, past timberline, to Glacier Vista, and has incredible views of the Nisqually Glacier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens. At 6800-foot Panorama Point, the spine of the Cascade Range spreads away to the north and south and Nisqually Glacier grumbles its way down the slope of the mountain. The Nisqually Vista Trail is only 1.25 miles in the same sort of habitat, but has equally dramatic views of Mr. Rainier and Nisqually Glacier.
Naches Peak Loop.
Trail loops from Tipsoo Lake to Naches Peak and back by way of Chinook Pass and offers fine views of the eastern flank of Mt. Rainier and its intervening ridges (Governors Ridge, Cowlitz Chimneys, and Little Tahoma). Trail is 4.25 RT miles with 650-ft. elev. gain.
This is a long trip (8.75 miles RT, elev. gain 1100) but it offers the most reliable mountain goat viewing within the park. It also has nice wildflower meadows.
Sunrise Area (Emmons Vista).
This short hike (< 1 mile) offers wonderful views of Mt. Rainier, Emmons Glacier and White River Valley. Continue one mile further to Silver Forest, a stand of silvered firs, and more views of Mt. Rainier.
Mt. Fremont Lookout.
Mt. Fremont lookout occupies the westernmost point of the Sourdough Mountains, with expansive and impressive views of Mt. Rainier, Berkeley Park, and Grand Park. The trail is 4.75 miles RT with 800 ft. elev. gain.
The parking lot is at 2500 feet. There are 2 trails to the lake. The lower or "pipeline" trail is very level, about 4 miles long, and hikers, horses, mountain bikes and motor bikes are allowed. The "upper" trail leads you through heavy forest with a few openings for views, and is a little more than 4 miles. It is open only to hikers and horses. The lake is spectacular and has a great view of Mt. Rainier.
About 9 miles from Packwood toward Yakima. This viewpoint offers a spectacular view of Mt. Rainier and columns of andesite rock which are several hundred feet in height. You can hear the Clear Fork of the Cowlitz River at the bottom of the canyon.
Horse riding and rentals are available at Little Cayuse Ranch at 360-494-6608.
Nisqually Vista Trail.
This short hike (1.2 miles) features excellent views of Mt. Rainier and Nisqually Glacier as well as the chance to take in the landscape, plants and animals of the high-country meadows.
Mt. St. Helens (about 1 1/2 hours away by car on paved Forest Roads).
Ape Cave Geologic Site is thought to be the longest lava tube in the Western Hemisphere. The 12,810-foot tunnel was found within a massive lava flow that oozed from the volcano almost 2000 years ago. Flowing downhill, the stream of lava cooled and formed a hard crust atop the hot lava. In time, the lava drained and left an intricate, winding lava cave behind. The cave was first explored in 1946 by the St. Helens Apes, the local Boy Scout troop for whom the cave is named. Cave temperature is about 42 degrees and several light sources are required.
There are also scenic views along the way and probably hiking trails as well.
Visitors to Mt. St. Helens pay $8 each for a 3-day pass.
Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad
Steam-powered train that makes a 14-mile trip through the forest and across high bridges to Mineral Lake. Located in Elbe on Rt. 706. Four-hour dinner train Friday through Sunday. Phone: 888-783-2611; dinner train: 888-773-4637.
Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center
Several exhibits and audio-visual shows. Located in Paradise. Snack bar and gift shop. Phone: 360-569-2211 x2328.
Emphasizes the natural history of the park with rock, flora, and fauna exhibits. Phone: 360-569-2211 x. 3314.
Ohanapecosh Visitor Center
Near a grove of giant, ancient cedar trees. Has history and nature exhibits. Phone: 360-494-2229.
Sunrise Visitor Center
Has geological displays and at 6400 feet is the closest you can drive to the peak.