17 BEST Places to See Mount Rainier (Non-Hikers Too!)

Searching for the best views of Mount Rainier?

I’ve lived within eyesight of this magnificent mountain for nearly three decades and have spent countless weekends exploring the trails at Mount Rainier National Park. 

In this article, I share seventeen best places to see Mount Rainier inside and outside the park, including spots that don’t require hiking!

I’ve packed this list with helpful tips, including where to get the best Mount Rainier views when you’re short on time and places where Mount Rainier is visible from Seattle.

Get your camera ready, and let’s go!

Me taking a selfie on a hiking trail at Paradise, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier
Me at Mount Rainier after a day of mountaineering school

Best Place to See Mount Rainier

1. Ferry Ride 

No hiking required

Mount Rainier views from Puget Sound waters

If you don’t have time to go to the national park, I highly recommend taking a ferry across the Puget Sound to see “the mountain,” as Rainier is referred to by locals.

This relaxed boat ride with panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the Seattle skyline holds the #1 spot because it’s a year-round option accessible for all ages and capabilities.

You can take the ferry even if you don’t have a car. When you walk on, you pay only one way, leaving Seattle.

Living on the Kitsap Peninsula, ferry rides are my favorite way to travel.

I prefer the Bainbridge ferry because it’s a thirty-minute ride compared to sixty minutes on the Bremerton ferry. But both routes offer excellent views of Mount Rainier.

Best Views Inside Mount Rainier National Park

The two main visitor areas inside the park are Paradise and Sunrise. I’m partial to Paradise because it’s the starting point for one of my all-time favorite Rainier adventures – the hike to Camp Muir.

I’m not alone in this opinion! Paradise receives more visitors yearly than Sunrise, not just because Sunrise is open only during the summer.

The truth is that you can’t go wrong with either destination. Use the Nisqually Entrance for Paradise and the White River Entrance for Sunrise.

⚠️ NEW IN 2024! The park requires a Timed Entry Reservation from the end of May through September 2nd. For release dates and more information, visit the park’s website.

2. Muir Steps (Paradise)

No hiking required

idyllic alpine scenery at Mount Rainier National Park

You don’t have to travel beyond the Muir steps near the Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise to get spectacular views of the mountain. 

These steps are located between the visitor center and the ranger station.

On my two attempts to summit Rainier with a guide, the Muir steps are where we started our adventure.

3. Skyline Trail (Paradise)

  • Hike length: 5.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,768 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
glaciated mountain views and wildflowers on a blue sky day

The first time I started up the Skyline Trail, I’m not ashamed to say that I immediately started huffing and puffing. The elevation gain at the start is no joke, so go slow if you need to.

If you only have time for one hike on your visit to Mount Rainier, this is it! 

You’ll get fantastic mountain views from many different points and don’t have to do the entire trail. With so many intersecting trails, grab a map from the visitor center or use an app like AllTrails to make your way down confidently. 

From Glacier Vista off the Skyline Trail, you’ll get a close-up perspective of the Nisqually Glacier.

4. Edith Creek / Myrtle Falls Viewpoint (Paradise)

  • Hike length: .7 mile
  • Elevation gain: 154 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
water flowing through Edith Creek surrounded by a lush green landscape, with Myrtle Falls in the distance

You can hike a short distance from the Paradise parking lot to Edith Creek and Myrtle Falls as a stand-alone activity. Or, take the Skyline Trail clockwise to see this stunning view towards the end of your hike.

With this postcard-pretty spot being so accessible, expect a crowd here during peak season.

The landscape varies depending on the time of year. I love visiting Rainier when the wildflowers are in bloom. But the fall colors here are brilliant.

5. Inspiration Point (Paradise)

No hiking required

Inspiration Point panoramic overlook, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier
Photo credit NPS

This appropriately named viewpoint sits elevated along the Stevens Canyon Road, allowing you to see panoramic views of Mount Rainier, the Paradise River valley, and the Tatoosh Range.  

If you’re short on time and want to capture fantastic photos of the mountain, Inspiration Point is for you.

Pull off the road and park. You’ll get breathtaking views of the national park and beyond without hiking. 

This is a terrific stop no matter the time of day, but I love the way the sun lights up the valley late afternoon. 

6. Reflection Lakes (Paradise)

No hiking required, but hiking is available.

a haze of fog covers a still lake with trees and a mountain in the backdrop

Conditions must be just right to capture a perfect reflection of Rainier on the water. 

Snow must be thawed, which usually happens by the middle of July. The water has to be calm, and the mountain has to “be out.” (Local speak for a clear view unimpeded by clouds and fog.) 

Your Mount Rainier itinerary is incomplete without a stop at Reflection Lakes. Even if the water’s not still for that ideal photo, the scenery is world-class.

Stevens Canyon Road is generally open from June through September. I highly recommend coming here in the fall if the road is still open to see the surrounding landscape ablaze with fiery colors!

7. Sunrise Point Lookout (Sunrise)

No hiking required

a scenic mountain overlook and parking lot along the road to Sunrise Visitor Center
Photo credit NPS

This scenic overlook is located on a bend on Sunrise Road on the way to Sunrise Visitor Center and is designed to enhance panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range. 

Sunrise Point Lookout is another excellent place to stop if you don’t have much time. It’s easily accessible with a large pull-out parking area.

You won’t regret waking up early to catch a sunrise here when the mountain is out. It’s called Sunrise for good reason!

8. Sunrise Nature Trail (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 370 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Sunrise Day Lodge and parking lot amidst evergreen trees and a mountainous backdrop

This short trail offers incredible in-your-face views of Mount Rainier. The grade is steep at the beginning – a nice warm-up for experienced hikers – but you only need to hike about half a mile for your reward. 

This is a great one for kids and seniors.

At the time of writing this, this hiking trail is not marked on the Sunrise Area Trails map on the National Park website, but it’s the one shaped like a lasso next to the word ‘Sunrise.’ 

I use AllTrails and the map is available here.

9. Sunrise Rim Trail / Emmons Vista (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1100 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
an active volcano covered with snow surrounded by evergreen trees

This trail is a step up in difficulty from the Sunrise Nature Trail. If you’ve only got 2 – 3 hours while visiting Sunrise and you want to hike, this is the best one to do because of the variety of landscapes you’ll see.

Sunrise Rim Trail offers stunning views of the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the contiguous United States. 

But you get even better views if you branch off the trail to head to the Emmons Vista Overlook. From here, you can learn about the glacier and observe its ice formations.

If you don’t have time for the Sunrise Rim Trail, you only need to hike .3 miles to get to the Emmons Vista Overlook from the visitor center.

10. Burroughs Mountain (Second Burroughs) (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1345 feet
  • Difficulty: Hard
the highest peak in Washington State surrounded by hills and mountains

This trail offers incredible vantage points of the mountain’s summit through tundra-like, alpine terrain. Do this hike if you’re capable! 

You can extend your adventure in two ways. 

The first is to continue to Third Burroughs, which I do not recommend to day hikers who aren’t carrying the “ten essentials.” Or, you can head back to Sunrise on the Burroughs Loop Trail instead of returning the way you came.

This is my favorite hike for astounding views of Mount Rainier. Second and Third Burroughs offer close-up views of the summit, three different glaciers, and massive crevasses.

11. Tipsoo Lake (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: .7 mile
  • Elevation gain: 19 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
the glow of pink early morning light seen from Tipsoo Lake with trees reflected in the water

Tipsoo Lake is a popular destination for photographers. Its high elevation and delightful alpine scenery make it an exceptional spot for viewing the mountain.

This is another great choice for groups with children or seniors. Early mornings are the best time to visit to see Rainier lit up with a pretty crimson pink and catch the mountain’s reflection in the water if it’s calm.

You need only 15 – 20 minutes here. Walking around the lake is more of a stroll than a hike.

12. Naches Peak Loop (Sunrise)

  • Hike length: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 659 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
a hiking trail leads the way into alpine scenery and wildflower meadows with a mountainous backdrop

If you’re a seasoned hiker, this is an easy, scenic hike that offers some of the best views of the mountain in the entire park.  

This hike is a local favorite, so arrive early during peak season to ensure that you get a parking spot. 

Hike this trail clockwise. Approaching it this way means you get fantastic views of Mount Rainier during the last half of the hike without having to turn around to see it.

Best Views of Mt Rainier Outside the Park

13. High Rock Lookout

  • Hike length: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1330 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
High Rock Lookout above the clouds, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier

High Rock Lookout Trail is a gem for viewing Mount Rainier, offering one of the most dramatic perspectives of the mountain I’ve ever seen. 

It’s only about a mile-and-half of hiking to get to the top, where you’ll stand 5,685 feet above sea level on a rock cliff. 

But beware, this one has hazards. There are steep drop-offs from the trail and the top of the rock. Skip this adventure if you’re scared of heights!

14. Crystal Mountain Gondola

No hiking required

While Crystal Mountain is technically part of the national park, I’ve always considered it a destination in its own right as someone who’s lived in Washington for nearly thirty decades and attended ski school here.

It’s a mountain best known for skiing and, now, also its gondola ride, the only one in Washington State.

Soak in panoramic views of Rainier once you reach the top. There are chairs and picnic tables available for you to sit and enjoy the Pacific Northwest scene before your eyes.

Where to See Mt Rainier from Seattle

15. Kerry Park

No hiking required

Seattle skyline at dusk with Mount Rainier in the backdrop

Kerry Park in the Queen Anne neighborhood is the place to go for the best city view of Mount Rainier. 

The park is small, but you get an unobstructed mountain view on a clear day. Its elevated position offers a sweeping view of the Seattle skyline and Rainier towering in the distance. 

This is the park I direct visiting family members and friends to go to when what’s desired is that quintessential Seattle photograph. It doesn’t get any more iconic than this!

16. Seward Park

No hiking required

a serene view of Lake Washington and Seward Park, one of the best places to see Mount Rainier on a clear day

Located on Lake Washington, Seward Park is a fantastic place to see scenic views of Mount Rainier across the lake. 

The park is delightful, with old-growth trees, a children’s park area, a loop for walking or jogging, and more. 

But what makes this city park unique is the opportunity to sit on a bench, stare across the water, and see Mount Rainier dominating the skyline.

17. UW’s Rainier Vista 

No hiking required

students walk along a wide pathway surrounded by evergreen trees
Photo credit University of Washington

The University of Washington’s Rainier Vista showcases exactly what its name indicates: a striking, direct view of Mount Rainier hovering in the distance. Its wow factor is ten out of ten when the cherry blossom trees bloom.

When I was a student here, this highly trafficked entrance and walkway was a common place I’d meet up with friends.

Photographers come here to capture Rainier framed by greenery and university architecture.

Tips for Seeing Mount Rainier Inside the Park

On my first trip to the national park one Saturday in late July, we arrived at 8:15 am and got a parking spot at Paradise in the lower lot. I watched the lot quickly fill up while we got our backpacks on and was grateful we arrived when we did!

Things are different in 2024. The National Park Service is piloting a Timed Entry Reservation system, which they believe will help travelers secure parking and avoid long lines at the entrances during the peak travel months. 

Here are some quick tips if you’re traveling during the summer months:

  • Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds. 
  • You do not need a reservation before 7 am and after 3 pm. If you don’t have a reservation, arrive by 6:30 am in case there is a line at the entrance. Earlier is even better!
  • Arriving in the afternoon is fine because there’s daylight past 8 pm. 
  • Plan to stay for golden hour, the last hour of daylight, for breathtaking landscape photos.
alpine landscape with rocks, evergreen trees, and a mountainous backdrop

Mount Rainier Views FAQs

🏔️ Can You See Mount Rainier Without Hiking?

Yes! You can see Mount Rainier without hiking from spots inside the national park, including the Muir Steps, Reflection Lakes, and Inspiration Point, all within the Paradise area. In the Sunrise area of the park, mountain views are available without hiking from the Sunrise Point Lookout.

Another option for excellent Rainier views is to take the Crystal Mountain Gondola. 

🏙️ Is Mt Rainier Visible from Seattle?

Mount Rainier is visible from Seattle from several places: Kerry Park, Seward Park, Discovery Park, Myrtle Edwards Park, Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Space Needle, UW’s Rainier Vista, and many more.

My favorite place to see Mount Rainier from Seattle for epic views is Kerry Park because you also get to see the Seattle skyline.

🚘 What is the Best Road to See Mount Rainier?

The Chinook Scenic Byway (State Route 410) is the best road to see Mount Rainier. This route is seasonal, typically open from June through September. Mount Rainier views over the route’s highest point at Chinook Pass are stunning! Here’s where you’ll see Tipsoo Lake.

Continue to Stevens Canyon Road after the SR123 junction for more spectacular views of Rainier.

A group of hikers in summer attire leaving the Paradise parking lot, walking a trail flanked by lush green trees and underbrush.

Wrap-Up: Best Places to See Mount Rainier

As a local, I never tire of seeing how Rainier dominates the landscape in Washington State. 

I’ve enjoyed sharing my seventeen favorite places to see the mountain! Use this article to help you plan your must-visit destinations to see Mount Rainier inside and outside the national park.