The best of Mount Rainer National Park

You’re here because you want all the details on how to find milky turquoise lakes, the best lookout for sunrise, and hikes with breathtaking views in Mount Rainer National Park, right? You’ve come to the right place!

This blog post will give you all insight you need for visiting the Sunrise and Paradise sides of Mount Rainer.

Now when you look at a map it all looks pretty close, but that’s not the case. We stayed in Ashford right outside the Paradise entrance, and it took us about two hours to get to the Sunrise visitors center. This is something to consider when booking your stays, and choosing what hikes you’d like to do.

We stay 3 nights in Ashford and were able to see a good amount of both sides. In this blog post I will go into all that you need to know to plan a dreamy visit to Mount Rainer National Park.

Wanna know where we stayed and our full trip itinerary? click here!


It’s hard to play favorites with the mountains because they are all so magical. However certain sides, and areas, just hit different. Sunrise side was that for me. It felt a bit less crowded, and more rugged.

We started our Sunrise side day at 1am. Woooof I know it’s early, but when you wanna see the sun wakeup, there’s some things you gotta do. And a 1am wake up call was just that.

Here’s how it went.. Alarm goes off at 1am, in the car by 2am, drive 2 hours to Sunrise Visitor center, hike 2.5 miles up to the Mount Fremont Fire lookout and watch the sun and the clouds do a dance, while sitting at the top of a mountain. WORTH IT!

Mount Fremont Lookout via Sourdough Ridge- 5.7 miles, out and back, moderate trail.

Some things to keep in mind if you are planning on doing this hike for sunrise:

  • You will be hiking in the dark. Make sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight
  • Although we didn’t see any, bear spray would be smart to carry for protection
  • Layers! at 4am I was wearing a tank top and leggings, but when we got to the top it was so chilly I put on a fleece, rain jacket, and hat.
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • Leave yourself enough time to be at the top before the sun peaks out
  • Hiking shoes or boots. Some of the trail is quite rocky
  • Check the weather forecast

We did this trail in August and there were quite a few others on the trail, even at 4am.

The best part about doing this hike for sunrise is you can’t see anything but the two feet in from of you going up, so when you’re hiking down it’s a whole new world! We could hardly even see Rainer going up, let alone all the meadows, and beautiful scenery we past by.

We were done with Mount Fremont Lookout by 8am, so we had breakfast at the car and drove about 25 minutes down the road to another amazing hike, the one leading to a milky turquoise lake!

Glacier Basin-

You’ll park in the White River Campground and head towards the Glacier Basin Trail which will lead you to the Emmons Moraine Trail, to the turquoise lake!

4.1 miles, out and back, rated moderate.

This was another dreamy hike, leading to fairytale views. You’ll hike through a dense forest, cross the rapids on a log bridge, walk up the sand switchbacks, and there is your stunning lake views.

To some it may feel a bit more challenging, especially if you choose to wander down to the lake. There isn’t a clear path but you can see many people have created paths down.

Aside from the main attraction.. seeing the bright turquoise lake, the hike there was also wonderful. Many waterfalls and view points along the way.

The campground you walk through to get there, looks like a treat too if you’re in the market.

Tipsoo Lake-

One last stop to wrap up the day of exploring the Sunrise side of Mount Rainer.

Tipsoo Lake Loop- .8 mile, loop, easy. Pretty little spot we used as a cool down for our legs after hiking 8 miles. There are a few longer trails you can walk if you choose.

Big parking lot, and a few spots in the pull offs. Decent view of Mount Rainer from here!


This side of Mount Rainer was only 5 minutes from our Airbnb, so we obviously had to explore it. Even with hiking over 9 miles the day before.

My overall feeling about the Paradise side is it feels a bit more crowded, but still very scenic and worth the visit.

When they designed the roads around Rainer, they did a spectacular job at placing the most convenient pull offs, and scenic viewpoints. On the way up to the Paradise Visitors Center, there is many waterfalls, ridges, and views to be seen along the way.

Refection Lake-

Getting here decently early, while the water is still calm, is the key to catching the reflection of Mount Rainer in the water.

There are a few trails you can wander around the lake. Or you can take Reflection Lake to Narada Falls.

We personally parked in the lot along side Reflection Lake, and wandered the area.

Myrtle Falls-

Myrtle falls is a .8 mile, out and back, easy trail.

There are many other trail heads from the visitors center.

While the area, and the waterfall were gorgeous, the area was far too busy for us. We parked at the Paradise Visitors center mid day, and wandered to Myrtle Falls. If you want to see this area, I would recommend going early in the day or late in the evenings to avoid some of the crowds.

Until next time …

Mount Rainer National Park is one of those places I’m already ready to get back too. There’s so many more lookouts to hike to for sunrise, so many lakes I want to jump in, and so many areas I want to explore.

However, as a first visit I think we did pretty dang good. And I would recommend these hikes for anyone else visiting Rainer for the first time!

Have more time? Here are some hikes we were researching, but didn’t have time for..

  • Tolmie Peak Trail for sunset or sunrise
  • Pinnacle Peak
  • High Rock Lookout
  • Panorama Point from Paradise Inn

Want to check out our full itinerary, with day by day breakdown, click here!

If you are also planning a trip to Olympic National Park, check out my full travel guide here!

Any questions, or if this guide helps to plan your trip, please reach out and tag me on Instagram @brittanymassey 🙂