Washington is a beautiful state filled with so much natural beauty to see and so many amazing activities to do. And Mount Rainier National Park is absolutely a highlight in both of those areas. If you’re spending any time in Washington’s biggest city, then a day trip to Mount Rainier from Seattle is an easy and TOTALLY worthwhile trip to make. So, if you’re already spending a day in Seattle, or simply only have a day to spend at this incredible park, this is how I recommend you spend one day in Mount Rainier National Park.
And for reference, before we get started, Mount Rainier has five main areas of the park, and this 1 day Mount Rainier itinerary is specific to the Sunrise area. I chose this area to visit because of its many incredible hikes, sunrise and sunset opportunities, and simply iconic views.
The Short Version
- If you can make it for sunrise, go to Sunrise Point for INCREDIBLE views
- Hike around Tipsoo Lake for that iconic view of the lake, mountains, and volcano
- Check out the hexagonal columns formed by lava along the drive
- Pull over at Emmons Vista Overlooks for glacier views and hike any trail nearby if you want
- Explore the Sunrise Point area and stroll along Silver Forest Trail
- Sunset hike to the fire tower at the end Mount Fremont Trail
Prefer An Organized Tour?
Don’t have a car? Love the information that comes with a tour guide? There are a million reasons to join a tour. Check out some of these if that’s your speed:
The Long Version of 1 Day at Mount Rainier
Need a little more detail around why I recommend this one day itinerary for Mount Rainier? I don’t blame you. Let’s get crackin’!
Sunrise at Sunrise Point
We weren’t able to make it for sunrise but if we had been able to we 10,000% would have gone here for the incredible views as the sun rises. It’s a beautiful spot as is, but sunrise would have been incredible.
We explored not at sunrise, and it was still beautiful.
Tipsoo Lake is super gorgeous, and has a very easy trail – Tipsoo Lake Loop – that goes around it. There’s a little lot here with quite a few spots to park your car and start the trail. However, what’s magical about this is lake specifically is what a Ranger had us do. The Park Ranger saw me carrying my camera and pointed us to the opposite side of the lake and told us to walk up onto the road where cars were driving, because that was the best spot for photos in the entire park. And boy, was she right! This picture alone was worth the day trip to Mount Rainier from Seattle in my opinion! It is super worth the stop, and if you’re visiting the Sunrise area of the park then it’s absolutely a must for your one day in Mount Rainier.
Hexagonal Lava Columns
These are sort of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roadside stop but I’m a sucker for weird rocks so definitely had to include them. The only other place I’ve seen columns like this in person was during my day in Northern Ireland when I visited Giants Causeway. But you might also recognize them if you’ve been to Iceland or other volcanic destinations!
OKAY anyway, I love these. They’re weird, they’re cool, they’re fun, they’re easy to get to. Definitely worth a quick stop during your one day at Mount Rainier National Park.
Emmons Vista Overlooks
This is another super easy roadside stop on the drive up to the Sunrise parking area with an incredible lookout. I was particularly excited because you can see so much from here, including the Cascade Mountain Range and Emmons Glacier! This was the first glacier I’ve ever seen, so I was particularly jazzed.
There’s also a number of hiking trails that start here if you want to kill a little bit more time exploring.
Silver Forest Trail
I thoroughly enjoyed this trail before we geared up for the harder sunset hike. Silver Forest Trail was easy and showed off even closer views of some alpine lakes and the glacier. It was also almost entirely empty; we maybe saw five other people in a couple hours on the trail, and I think this trail would be good for everyone.
Mount Fremont Trail for Sunset
This is a pretty Instagram-famous hike at this point and for good reason. The fire lookout at the end of the trail is the perfect vantage point to see sunset hit the mountains around. I, however, did not get to experience the beautiful sunset that Mount Fremont Trail is known for. We hiked the entire trail and then basically about 20 minutes from the end, the weather shifted and it became a cloudy, foggy mystery world. Whomp whomp. I will DEFINITELY be returning to experience it at its glory though.
Something I never do is post someone else’s photography on my blog, but I’ll share some photos of the trail as I experienced it, and then a photo from a fellow travel blogger so you can see what I SHOULD have seen.
And below is a photo of a true beautiful Mount Fremont fire tower sunset from the incredibly talented Cherise Masukawa. You can find her as Chereneo on Instagram, and also be sure to check out her blog here. She’s so talented, traveling to amazing destinations constantly, and so worth your follow.
So gorgeous, right?! Definitely have to go back here for this proper sunset view! Check out these other pics on Instagram that will tell you why this hike is a must!
So there you have it, how to spend one day in Mount Rainier national park, within the Sunrise area. As always if you have any questions definitely shoot me a message. Make sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok, and take a look at my Insta story highlights of my time in the park. Good luck planning your 1 day Mount Rainier itinerary, friends!