Here is a great Mount Rainier 1 day itinerary for those with limited time.
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Mount Rainier National Park is a gorgeous, landlocked park in Washington. The majestic Mt. Rainier standing boldly as a centerpiece is easy to find, assuming the fog and clouds haven’t rolled in.
There is so much to see at the park that it can be hard to narrow down which stops to make if you are limited on time. But if you are, here is a fun way to spend 1 day in Mount Rainier National Park.
There is a LOT to see at Mount Rainier NP and it’s impossible to see everything in one day, but you’ll still be able to pack in a lot of great views, hikes, history and education, and waterfalls in about 8-12 hours. So follow along for the highlights that are kid-friendly with just 1 day in Mount Rainier.
Here is what to do in Mount Rainier in one day to make the most of your time in this beautiful park.
Table of Contents
A Note about this 1 day itinerary in Mount Rainier
There are so many great hikes in Mount Rainier that it’s hard to do them all in one day. So here is a great mix that will take you through the main part of the park, covering a lot of ground, but seeing some real treats in just one day.
All of these stops are family-friendly, meaning they are not hard hikes, nor are they long. And I’ve built in some breaks to make sure you refuel.
While other parks in Washington may be larger, Mount Rainier is just as stunning. Make sure to really enjoy each stop and not to rush through the great gift that Mount Rainier offers in terms of beauty. I’ve timed the itinerary around the idea of really enjoying each spot.
And lastly, there aren’t very many places to eat in Mount Rainier, especially if you visit during off season. Make sure to pack snacks, a picnic lunch, and a picnic dinner if you choose to stay later for the sunset!
Stay in Ashford the night before to get the most out of your 1 day in Mount Rainier
Quick Guide to the Mount Rainier 1 Day Itinerary
Just want the itinerary without the details? Here you go!
9:00- Head to Longmire area and explore the museum, stop at the Inn and gift shop.
Walk along the Trail of Shadows to learn about the history of the Longmire area.
11:00- Drive to Narada Falls. Check out the viewpoint and take the hike down to the falls.
Lunch (12:00)- eat a picnic lunch either at Narada Falls or at Paradise (the next stop).
1:00- Hike to Myrtle Falls (from Paradise Parking area).
2:30- Drive up to Reflection Lake and catch the mirror image of Mount Rainer.
3:30- Continue down Steven’s Canyon Road and stop at the Box Canyon to see the deep crevice and colorful grounds.
5:00- End at Grove of Patriarchs at the end of Steven’s Canyon Road to admire the old, giant trees and suspension bridge.
If you can stay a little longer, head back to Paradise (45 minutes from Grove of Patriarchs) or Reflection Lake (about 38 minutes from Grove of Patriarchs) to soak in the sunset. If you don’t have time, exit the park near the Grove of Patriarchs.
Unpack a dinner picnic if you’re staying for the sunset.
Morning of your Mt. Rainier 1 day Itinerary
In order to see the most in one day, you’ll want to head out as early as you’re willing. Stop in town for a breakfast before beginning your adventure (we stayed in Ashford which was incredibly convenient and close to the entrance, though some businesses in the area are seasonal).
Budget tip: We usually hit a grocery store on the way to our destination to make food at our rental. Here are a few ideas of easy meals to make on the road.
Trail of Shadows
Drive in through the Nisqually entrance, and after about 10-15 minutes you will come to the Longmire area. This area is filled with a museum, the National Park Inn at Longmire, a gift shop, and a few trails nearby.
Museum- Stop at the Longmire Museum, which is open year-round with varied hours, to learn a little about the area and the history of the area.
Trail of Shadows- After you get some info about the area, head across the road to the Trail of Shadows. This trail is easy and less than a mile. But it’s packed with info about the history of the area, including some of the springs that John Longmire discovered.
You’ll see the old lodge that was around in the late 1800’s that travelers would stay in on their trek to soaking in the spring water.
Tip: You can stay the night at the National Park Inn right in Longmire! This makes an easy start to the day.
11:00- Narada Falls
You’ll be able to see Narada Falls from the car. But it’s very impressive when you’re even closer.
Park at the Narada Falls rest stop area. Then, jump onto the trail that will take you down toward the bottom of the falls. It’s less than a quarter mile to arrive at the bottom where you’ll have an amazing view of this powerful waterfall.
Tip: there are bathrooms at this stop
Afternoon of Your Mount Rainier 1 Day Itinerary
After you finish Narada Falls, you can sit at one of the picnic tables to enjoy lunch.
Or, drive up to Paradise and enjoy lunch with views and fresh air from here. Summer months will also provide colorful views of wildflowers. While there are wildflowers in various areas around the park, Paradise is a great area to see many within the nearby meadows.
1:00- Myrtle Falls
Now that you are recharged from a relaxing lunch break, continue on to a beautiful waterfall!
When you spend just one day in Mount Rainier, you must stop at Myrtle Falls.
Head to the Paradise area of the park (if you didn’t picnic here already). Enjoy walking through the visitor center, gathering any extra info you need or even eating lunch here at the Inn (though the restaurant doesn’t have great reviews.)
After you settle, hop on the hiking trail toward the very back of the lot, back by the inn. This Skyline Trail will take you up to Myrtle Falls.
The walk there isn’t hard, though there is an uphill grade. It’s paved and incredibly colorful with all the foliage and flowers around.
It’s only about 1/4 mile to get to Myrtle Falls, which feels quite spoiled as the payoff is incredible.
We especially loved the view of Mount Rainier at the top of the trail and spent a while photographing the bold mountain backdrop.
Tip: Paradise Inn is a convenient location to stay. It’ll put you right in the middle of the beauty of Mount Rainier. It’ll also make this Mount Rainier 1 day itinerary very effective since you are already there when you wake up. However, the Inn is only open seasonally.
A cloudy day won’t give you a great reflection
2:30- Reflection Lake
Some of the most beautiful lakes are in the mountains, with clean, alpine waters that send a refreshing chill.
This is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places you’ll see during the Mount Rainier 1 day itinerary.
Reflection Lake is named for soaking in the mirror image of Mount Rainier just beyond. On a clear day, you can see a crisp reflection of the mountain and its peak in the waters of Reflection Lake.
Either just view it from the pull over spot, or get out of the car and walk down closer. Take a deep breath of the fresh air and enjoy the view. Then, break out the camera for some incredible photographs.
Tip: Reflection Lake is located along Steven’s Canyon road, which is closed in the winter months.
3:30- Box Canyon
Drive along Steven’s Canyon Road to the east. You’ll eventually come to the Box Canyon pull over. This is a really easy, but really awesome place to get out and walk.
The box canyon area is a paved trail that leads you through incredibly green covered ground with colorful flowers.
It sits right along the Wonderland Trail, and we often mused over the name, thinking it was named such because it feels like you’ve fallen into Alice in Wonderland.
We’ve seen a popular box canyon in Colorado that we could walk in. You can’t walk in this one, and is falls far below the viewpoint. Make sure to look over the bridge into the deep crevice formed from the Cowlitz River. You can enjoy the overlook and walk along the path to enjoy the area.
5:30- Grove of Patriarchs
As your last stop on your Mount Rainier 1 day itinerary, you’ll stop in a world of giants.
On the eastern side of the park as you near the end of Steven’s Canyon Road, you’ll come to a parking area for the Grove of the Patriarchs trail.
This trail is beautiful, nestled in the shade of tall, old trees that stand tall and proud. The forest floor all around is alive and bustling with growth.
The coolest part that the kids will love is the suspension bridge that takes you across the Ohanapecosh River.
Within the Grove of Patriarchs, you’ll encounter Douglas firs, Cedarwoods, and other trees that reach ages of around 1,000 years old.
Evening at Mount Rainier National Park
You can eat at the Paradise restaurant (again, mixed reviews on this) or plan ahead by packing a dinner to-go. Keep sandwiches or pasta salad in a cooler for a refreshing but satiating dinner while you wait for the sun to settle.
8:00- Catch a Sunset at Mount Rainier
What better way to end one day in Mount Rainier than to say good night at the park?
If you are able to stay into the evening, then head back the Paradise where you can catch amazing sunsets. This happens after 8:00 throughout the summer, giving you plenty of time to explore during the day without feeling rushed to make the sunset.
Reflection Lake is another great place to catch the sunset at Mount Rainier. If you sit in front of the lake, the sun will be to the left, casting a glow on Mount Rainier right in front of you.
Mount Rainier 1 Day Itinerary wrap up
This itinerary of one day in Mount Rainier offers a blend of educational experiences like hiking the Trail of shadows, scenic hikes up to Myrtle Falls, and fun outdoor activities among the trees and lakes. Your family will enjoy a memorable day in the breathtaking beauty during this Mount Rainier 1 day itinerary.
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