Where to Stay at Mount Rainier National Park: Complete Guide

Mount Rainier National Park, home of the 14,000+ foot volcano that is visible for hundreds of miles, spans nearly 400 acres in southwest Washington. It’s a massive park, and it’s made more comlicated by the fact that the Mountain sits right smack dab in the middle of it, with no way to go over, under, or through it.

Why does deciding where to stay near Mount Rainier National Park matter, you ask? Because if you’re anything like us, you don’t want to spend your entire trip exploring the inside of a car.

To illustrate the point, you only need to look at the travel times between different regions of the park. To get between the two most popular areas of the park – Paradise and Sunrise – it takes more than 90 minutes.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to figure out where to stay near Mount Rainier National Park. We’ll go through a quick geography overview, so you can follow along as we talk about it, and then we’ll give you options for staying inside the park (camping and hotels), and then go through options for staying in the communities just outside the park.

Our goal here is that, by the end of this guide, you’ll have found the perfect place to stay for your trip to Mount Rainier.

Sound good to you? Let’s get into it.

Us, enjoying the view at Bench Lake (in Paradise) at Mount Rainier National Park

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

A Quick Primer on Mount Rainier’s Geography

Before we can talk about where you should stay, we need to talk about Mount Rainier’s geography. 

Mount Rainier National Park covers 369 square miles in southwestern Washington, which means it certainly isn’t the biggest national park in the country, but it’s sizable enough that the logistics matter. 

For our purposes here, there are four parts of the park that you should know about. 

  • Paradise: When we think about Rainier, this is what we picture. Located on the southern side of Rainier, Paradise is full of beautiful lush meadows filled to the brim with wildflowers (in the summer), the Skyline Trail (our favorite hike in Mount Rainier National Park), four amazing waterfalls, and a nice collection of alpine lakes. It’s the best region for first-timers, and the place we’d recommend focusing on if you’re planning a day trip to Mount Rainier.

  • Sunrise: While the Skyline Trail is our favorite, Sunrise has the best collection of hikes in the park. It’s on the eastern side of Mount Rainier, and is the highest point you can drive to in the park. At Sunrise, you can hike to a historic fire lookout, a series of rocky outcroppings that are up close and personal with Rainier’s eastern face, or lush wildflower meadows. And they all leave from the same trailhead!

  • Ohanapecosh: More old growth forests, less alpine, but there are some nice shorter hikes to do here, and the biggest campground in the park. The main benefit of Ohanapecosh is that it’s equidistant to both Paradise and Sunrise. 

  • Mowich Lake: Two amazing hikes here on the west side of Rainier (and a lake, hence the name), but not much else. Plus, it’s at the end of an 18 mile potholed gravel road, so it’s less accessible than most of the park. 

Here’s a map to help you visualize.

The biggest issue with Rainier is that the two most interesting and exciting areas – Paradise and Sunrise – are basically on opposite sides of the Mountain, which means that it takes a full 90 minutes to drive between them.  

This is why it matters where you stay when you visit Mount Rainier. 

Where to Stay Near Mount Rainier: The Best Places to Stay to Explore Rainier

Now that we’ve briefly covered the geography of the park, let’s get into where to stay for your trip. 

In terms of organization, we’re going to give you two subsections below.

One will cover staying inside the park, where you’ll find a couple of hotels/lodges, and campgrounds.

The other will cover staying outside the park in a few communities just on the other side of the park’s borders. 

Don’t have time to read the entire guide below? Here’s a quick summary of our recommendations for you. 

  • If you have a longer trip (more than 3 days), we’d strongly recommend splitting your time between the area around Paradise, and the area around Sunrise. It takes around 90 minutes to get between them, so it makes sense to spend a couple of days in each to avoid spending your entire trip in the car. In Paradise, either camp at Cougar Rock Campground (very competitive, book six months in advance), stay inside the park at the Paradise Inn or National Park Inn (both are also very competitive), or stay at one of the hotels in Ashford, or a cozy cabin nearby, just outside the park entrance. Near Sunrise, stay at either White River Campground (first come, first served), Alta Crystal Resort, or a vacation rental near Greenwood, WA.

  • If you have a shorter trip (2 days), we’d base yourself in Ohanapecosh or Packwood, which is roughly equidistant between Paradise and Sunrise. This assumes that you want to see both Paradise and Sunrise in one trip, and will allow you to spend a full day in each region. You can either camp at Ohanapecosh Campground, stay in one of the few hotels in Packwood, or book a cabin in the woods near Packwood. 

If you want to focus on one particular region of the park for your trip, which we’d recommend if you have two days or less, here’s where to stay.

Note that we’re going to focus on Paradise and Sunrise, which are the two regions you should really be choosing between because they have the most going on.  

Where to Stay Inside Mount Rainier National Park

Inside the park, you only have a few options. We’ll split them between hotels and lodges, which only exist in Paradise, and campgrounds, which are found in each region. 

If you’re not interested in camping and you want to stay near either Sunrise or Ohanapecosh, you’ll have to stay outside the park, which will add some travel time each day. 

Hotels and Lodges Inside the Park

If you want to stay inside the park, which is definitely going to be the best experience in terms of travel time to and from your lodging to trailheads, you essentially only have two options in Mount Rainier National Park. 

As is the case with most lodging inside national parks around the country, the park lodging at Mount Rainier National Park leaves something to be desired in terms of style and maintenance, especially when you consider the price you’re paying. 

We’d suggest looking at it a little differently. Instead of paying for all the modern amenities, you’re paying for the ambiance and convenience of having all the beauty that Rainier has to offer right outside your front door.

And, crucially, the ability to sleep an extra half hour and still make it to the trailhead earlier than most. 

If you’re looking for something a little more stylish and comfortable, we have options below this section in Ashford, Packwood, and along Highway 410 near Enumclaw / Crystal Mountain for you. 

The Paradise Inn

Built more than a century ago in 1916, the Paradise Inn is easily the best place to stay in Mount Rainier National Park in terms of location alone.

Sitting in the main parking lot at Paradise, it’s walkable to the trailheads for several of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, and by car it’s a few minutes away from just about everything else Paradise has to offer. 

It’s a place to immerse yourself in the natural landscapes that are right outside the front door, since you won’t find TV or internet in any of the 121 rooms here. Which, to be honest, we’re kind of into. 

The interior of the Paradise Inn

We haven’t managed to stay here just yet – you do need to book well in advance (we’re talking a year in advance) – but it’s on our list. It’s a historic lodge, which means you’re not going to find modern amenities and style, you’re going to find wood framing and uber rustic decor. 

One thing to note: The Paradise Inn is closed in the winter and spring, which means if you’re visiting between November and May (give or take a week or two on either end, depending on the year), the National Park Inn is going to be your only option inside the park. 

The National Park Inn

Unlike the other option above, the National Park Inn in Mount Rainier National Park is open year round, which means it’s a good home base for off-season adventures. 

However, it’s also the place that probably needs the most TLC, which is nearly impossible when it’s constantly at full capacity. 

In terms of location, it’s also not as good as the Paradise Inn. It’s down in Longmire, which is a 25 minute / 11 mile drive from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at the main parking lot in Paradise.

However, one advantage of this location is that you’ll have the three waterfalls – Comet, Christine, and Narada – on the way to or from that main parking lot, whereas you’d have to make a separate trip from the Paradise Inn. 

It’s fairly small, with just 25 rooms in the entire lodge, and there are various layouts and configurations to choose from. Mainly, you’ll find rooms with one or two beds, and rooms that have private or shared bathrooms. 

Once again, no TV, internet, or phones here at the National Park Inn, so bring a good book that you can spend some quality time with after a day of hiking!

Campgrounds Inside the Park

Rainier peeking through at Cougar Rock Campground

For the purposes of most visitors to Rainier, there are essentially three campgrounds in the park that serve the three most visited areas – Paradise, Sunrise, and Ohanapecosh. Conveniently, there’s one campground in each area!

Keep in mind, as we mentioned above, the park is huge.

It takes forever to drive from one side of the Mountain to the other – for example, from Sunrise to Paradise takes about an hour and a half along a single lane road that often becomes clogged with traffic from 10:00am to 3:00pm. 

For that reason, we’d suggest EITHER focusing on one specific region if you only have a day or two (read our guide to planning a day in Mount Rainier National Park for more on how to spend one day, and where to spend it), OR breaking up your time and staying in both Paradise and Sunrise if you can snag camping spots in both. 

If you want to avoid setting up and tearing down camp multiple times, then you should stay in Ohanapecosh, which is about 45 minutes away from both of the other parts of the park.

It’s also a lovely setting in an old growth forest. 

With that preamble about campsite strategy out of the way, here are the three main campgrounds in Mount Rainier National Park. 

For more information, including campground details and seasonal updates, check out the NPS website here

Cougar Rock Campground (Paradise)
One of the great campsites in the D Loop at Cougar Rock Campground
  • Location: Paradise (20 minutes from visitor center)
  • # of Sites: 173
  • Reserve in Advance? Yes, up to 6 months in advance
  • Site Fees: $20 a night
  • Season: Late May – September

We’ve stayed at Cougar Rock Campground twice now, and it’s a really nice campground about 20 minutes away from the main parking lot at Paradise (and a lot closer to attractions like Comet Falls and Christine Falls).

There are 179 sites here, and the vast majority need to be reserved in advance. 

This is the most popular campground in the park, which means that these sites are EXTREMELY competitive, especially for summer weekends.

For a good chance at getting a spot, you’ll need to be diligent about either getting on the morning of the day when they become available, or checking back multiple times a week to snag any cancellations. 

There are a few sites available for walk ups, but don’t expect to get them on a summer weekend. 

There are flush toilets, water fill spigots, and each site has a tent pad, table, and firepit. Some sites have room for RVs, but it depends on the site. 

On our last visit, we did a walk through the campground to figure out the best campsites for our next trip and determined that the best campsites are in the D loop. In particular, we liked D11, D12, and D13, along with sites D20 through D26. 

You can make reservations at Cougar Rock on Recreation.gov.

White River Campground (Sunrise)
The view from White River Campground around sunset
Post-hike refreshments at camp
  • Location: Sunrise (20 minutes from Sunrise Visitor Center)
  • # of Sites: 88
  • Reserve in Advance? No, first come, first served
  • Site Fees: $20 a night
  • Season: Late June – September

White River Campground, which is at the base of the road that leads up to Sunrise (in a great location, we might add) is a little different from the other two main campgrounds in the park, because it is entirely first come, first served.

That means that you cannot make reservations to camp here. 

Instead, you need to show up and hope that there’s an empty site available for you to grab. Which, as you can imagine given the relatively small number of sites at this campground, is a little dicey on summer weekends. 

To get a site here, your best bet is to either show up early in the morning (we arrived at 8:30am to get a spot on a summer Thursday), or come on Tuesday or Wednesday, which are the least busy days. 

It’s $20 a night, and you need to find an open site and fill out an envelope and pay for your site when you have one. YOU WILL NEED CASH TO RESERVE YOUR SITE. 

An alternative option outside the park: We’ve also stayed at Silver Springs Campground, a US Forest Service campground just outside the park on Highway 410 that you can reserve in advance. It’s a really nice campground, and the location is pretty convenient. 

Ohanapecosh Campground (Ohanapecosh)
  • Location: Ohanapecosh (45 minutes from Paradise and Sunrise)
  • # of Sites: 188
  • Reserve in Advance? Yes, up to 6 months in advance
  • Site Fees: $20 a night
  • Season: Late May – September

Located in the southeast corner of the park near Packwood, Ohanapecosh looks and feels very different than the other parts of the park.

Here, you’ll be immersed in an old-growth forest, and the views of Rainier’s glaciated peak are limited. 

The campground is a good base for exploring the park because it’s roughly equidistant between Sunrise and Paradise, which makes it ideal if you’re looking to stay in one place for your entire trip and avoid packing up and setting up camp multiple times (which is understandable). 

There are 179 sites here, and the vast majority need to be reserved in advance. They are released in mid-December on a six month rolling basis (e.g. if you want a campsite on July 1, you’d need to reserve on January 1st). 

These sites are EXTREMELY competitive, especially for summer weekends.

For a good chance at getting a spot, you’ll need to be diligent about either getting on the morning of the day when they become available, or checking back multiple times a week to snag any cancellations. 

There are a few sites available for walk ups, but don’t expect to get them on a summer weekend. 

There are flush toilets, water fill spigots, and each site has a tent pad, table, and firepit. Some sites have room for RVs, but it depends on the site. 

You can make reservations at Cougar Rock on Recreation.gov.

Where to Stay Outside the Park

When it comes to finding a place to stay outside the park, there are good options near each of the three regions we’re talking about. 

For Paradise, it’s Ashford, which is the closest town to the Nisqually entrance at around 35 minutes away from the main parking area at Paradise. 

For Ohanapecosh, it’s Packwood, which is the best home base for exploring the whole park because it’s about 45 minutes away from both Paradise and Sunrise (and much closer to Ohanapecosh). 

For Sunrise, the options are limited to one hotel, a small selection of cabins, and a few campgrounds along Highway 410 outside the park. From there, it’s 45 minutes to the Sunrise Visitor Center. 

Packwood: The Best Central Location Outside the Park

The reason we say that Packwood is the best central location for exploring the park is because it offers a place to stay that is within an hour of both Sunrise and Paradise.

Instead of staying in, say, Ashford, and driving 90 minutes or more to get to Sunrise, you can drive 45 minutes or so to both Paradise AND Sunrise. 

Plus, Packwood is probably the coolest town of the towns that border the park. There’s a brewery, a cafe, a highly rated burger spot, and a few other places to get food, including a few small markets. 

In terms of location, it’s about 15 minutes away from the southeast entrance to the park. 

If you’re ONLY planning on visiting Paradise on your trip, we’d opt for staying in Ashford instead, which is closer to that side of the park. However, if you’re visiting both Paradise and Sunrise OR you’re visiting Sunrise, Packwood is a good home base. 

Places to Stay in Packwood

In terms of places to stay, there is actually a good selection to choose from in Packwood, split between a few hotels in town, and a slough of vacation rentals and cozy cabins outside of town. 

In general, it’s going to be more cost-effective for couples and groups of 1-2 to stay in a hotel, while it usually works out to be a better deal for groups of four or more to stay in a vacation rental.

Plus, we do enjoy being able to cook breakfast and dinner for ourselves, which kitchens in a vacation rental give you the ability to do. 

Hotels in Packwood

There are a few well-rated hotels in Packwood. 

The closest of the hotels we’d recommend to the park entrance is Packwood Lodge and Cabins, which as you might expect based on the name has a selection of hotel-style rooms and cabins to choose from just 5-10 minutes from the park entrance.

The cabins here have full kitchens – and would be a good choice if you’re planning on cooking meals for yourself – while the lodge rooms have a mini fridge and microwave.

Rooms are nothing particularly special in terms of decor, but they do have options with a single king bed, or two double beds. Amenities include free WiFi, an onsite restaurant, and the cabins have barbecues. 

If you want to be able to walk to the amenities in Packwood, stay at the Cowlitz River Lodge, which is right in town.

It’s rustic, with exposed wood beams and slightly outdated (though plenty comfortable) rooms. Rooms come with a refrigerator and microwave for your morning oatmeal and keeping your packed lunches cool.

They have a couple of different room layouts – a single king or queen, two queens, or FOUR queens (what they call a “Family” room). 

Another nearby option – owned by the same group as the Cowlitz River Lodge, is the Crest Trail Lodge.

It’s just south of town (and further away from the park entrance), which is a slightly worse location.

Pretty much everything we said above applies here too – rooms are affordable and slightly outdated, and have mini fridges and microwaves. 

Vacation Rentals in Packwood

Whether you have a big group or prefer to have a little more space to spread out and relax, there are some really good vacation rental options in and around Packwood to choose from. 

For couples, we’d look at this cozy one bedroom cabin right outside of Packwood, which has plenty of space for two (or a family of four, thanks to the futon). 

For bigger groups, you have TONS of options around Packwood. 

We like this beautiful A-Frame (sleeps 7) with high ceilings, lots of natural light, and a nice deck for enjoying a cold beer (or cider!) after your day of exploring. 

This two bedroom cabin (sleeps 6) would also be on our list, with its beautiful kitchen, nice outdoor area with a barbecue and string lights (Alysha is a sucker for string lights), and your own private hot tub. 

If you’re looking for something more hip and modern, we like this stunning studio (with two queen beds) and this spacious cabin with five queen beds, perfect for a bigger group, which are both run by the same people. They’re also closer to the park entrance than most of the other options. 

Ashford: The Best Place to Stay to Explore Paradise

The Nisqually Entrance at Mount Rainier National Park in Ashford

If your trip is going to focus exclusively on Paradise – which is what we’d recommend for first timers with limited time (think 1-2 days), then Ashford is the best home base. Especially if you’re coming from the Seattle area. 

It’s the town immediately outside the Nisqually Entrance on the southwestern side of Mount Rainier, and it arguably has the best selection of places to stay out of any of the areas right outside of the park. 

The downside is that it’s really only convenient for visiting Paradise – Sunrise and Ohanapecosh are both more than an hour away, if not more. 

Places to Stay in Ashford

In Ashford, similar to Packwood, you have a nice selection of both hotels and lodges and vacation rentals, which are sometimes a better choice for bigger groups and people who want access to a kitchen. Fear not – we’re going to give you options for both!

Hotels and Lodges in Ashford

There are a bunch of different options in Ashford, but we’re going to narrow it down to three that we think are a cut above the rest based on our research. 

First is the best of the bunch, at least in our opinion, the Mountain Meadows Inn.

The Mountain Meadows Inn is a charming bed and breakfast about five minutes away from the Nisqually Entrance, and the thing we like about them is that they have a wide variety of different room types.

It’s a big chalet that is broken up into smaller rooms, each with a private entrance and private bathroom, and each room has a microwave, fridge, and toaster (though no full kitchens).

Second is the Paradise Village Hotel, which was recently completely renovated and offers a more modern place to stay than just about any other option in this guide.

First of all, they have a wood-fired hot tub, which we think is pretty fun.

Second, the rooms are beautiful, split between hotel rooms and cabins.

There’s an onsite restaurant (it’s fairly pricey, but the Ukrainian perogies and borscht look interesting to us), and rooms have microwaves and mini fridges. 

Last is the Nisqually Lodge, which is both affordable and comfortable, but not the most stylish or modern place to stay in Ashford.

You’ll get comfortable beds and mini fridges and microwaves in each room, and they have different room configurations that can accommodate different group sizes. 

If you’re into the idea of staying in a yurt in the woods, then you should definitely look at Stormking Cabins in Ashford!

It’s a little more pricey, but it’s a cool place to stay for a splurge or special occasion. Each yurt has a private deck and hot tub, and there’s an onsite spa. 

Vacation Rentals in Ashford

There are tons of vacation rental options in and around Ashford which will give you more space and privacy than the hotels in town.

Often, it’s more cost-effective to stay in a vacation rental with a bigger group (four or more), or if you want access to a kitchen to cook your own meals (which we usually do because Matt has to eat strictly gluten free).

For couples (or groups of two), look at this small one bedroom cabin that has a private hot tub with a view, or this highly rated riverfront cabin with a nice deck overlooking the river, perfect for refueling with beer, wine, or cider after a day of hiking at Paradise.

For groups, we’d look at this two bedroom cabin (sleeps 8) with a nice outdoor hot tub, a wood burning stove, and plenty of space for a big group, or this spacious family-friendly cabin (sleeps 8-10) with a nice outdoor area, including a hot tub. 

Crystal Mountain / Highway 410: An Alternative for Exploring Sunrise

Look, we love Sunrise – it has the best collection of hiking trails in the park. Whether you’re looking for wildflowers or great views of Rainier, Sunrise has something for you. 

However, the problem with Sunrise is that if you’re not camping, there’s very few convenient places to stay in the area.

If you’re planning on spending your entire trip exploring Sunrise and you’re looking for a good place to stay, we’d suggest the stretch of Highway 410 between Enumclaw and the turn off to Sunrise (near the tiny town of Greenwater). 

Staying here puts you about 45 minutes away from the Sunrise Visitor Center, and just 30 minutes from Tipsoo Lake (a great sunrise location and home to the amazing Naches Peak Loop Trail).

However, it’s not a great place to stay to explore Ohanapecosh and Paradise, which are both at least an hour away. 

Places to Stay near Crystal Mountain / Along Highway 410

In general, this area is a little tougher than the other two above if you’re looking for a conveniently located hotel. There’s exactly one. 

However, this area really shines when it comes to vacation rentals.

There are a bunch of cozy wood cabins along Highway 410 just north of the park that mainly serve as ski cabins in the winter, but thanks to vacation rental platforms, they’re now doing double duty as summer cabins for Rainier. 

If you’re looking for a quiet, convenient place to stay about 45 minutes away from the Sunrise Visitor Center, that’s where we’d look. 

The only hotel in the vicinity (unless you include the hotels at Crystal Mountain, which are too far away in our opinion) is Alta Crystal Resort, which is right off of 410 as you make your way towards the park.

It’s a nice resort, with hotel-style rooms and cabins, a pool, and rooms with full kitchens (which we love). The downside is that it’s not particularly cheap, which means it’s probably not great for groups and families. But as a couple, we’d absolutely consider staying here. 

Your only other option in this area is to rent a cabin. There are options for groups of two, like this adorable red caboose, and plenty of bigger cabins that sleep anywhere from four to eight people. 

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