Looking for an amazing Seattle weekend getaway? Find out all the amazing things to do in Mount Rainier National Park with kids in an easy Pacific Northwest vacation. Keep scrolling down for all the info!
This top things to do at Mt Rainier with kids post was written by Seattle family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Thanks to Visit Rainier for hosting my family on this media trip. All opinions are my own.
When you think about your home state, do you realize you haven’t been to some of the most famous spots?
My husband mentioned to me earlier this year that he had never been to Mount Rainier. That flabbergasted me.
I mean, he’s lived in Washington State his whole life. How has he never been to one of the most popular Washington State destinations?!?
Then, I realized I hadn’t been since I was a kid. Who am I to talk?
The mountains rarely pop into my head.
So, I partnered up with Visit Rainier specifically to create a guide for other Seattle-area families to encourage them to bring their kids out for a spectacular Mount Rainier family vacation.
My family consists of my husband, myself, and our two boys (ages 5 years old and 3 years old.) We left on a Friday night and came home Sunday evening.
As of January 2024, you will need to make a reservation to enter Mount Rainier National Park.
Here’s why we came up with for where to stay, the best Mt. Rainier family activities, and yummy things to eat:
The Best Things to do in Mount Rainier with Kids
When I was growing up, my cousins lived in Eatonville, just minutes from Northwest Trek. I remember hopping in the little tram and seeing bison for the first time.
I’m happy to report that the tram is still there and it has expanded to become one of the best family destinations in the Mount Rainier area.
On our tram ride, we saw animals so close to the tram that we could practically touch them! Of course, we didn’t actually touch them!
And we loved walking around the property to see cougars, a black bear, woodland animals, and more. We even saw wolves howling!
One of the coolest new features is the Kids Trek outdoor play area.
There are water features, a sand pit, unique climbing structures, little log cabins, and more! You will have to drag your kids away!
They even have a cafe on site that has really good food at affordable prices! I had a personal caprese pizza and it hit the spot!
It’s definitely an awesome stop for a Mt. Rainier National Park family vacation.
Read my detailed review of Northwest Trek.
MT. RAINIER TRAIN RIDE
We’ve now ridden on the Mt. Rainier Railroad train 3 times. The first time was when our oldest was a toddler and he loved waving at the cars as we choo-chooed along.
The second time was for the Polar Express train ride that takes place around Christmas each year.
But, I have to say I think our 3rd time was the best yet!
We got first-class tickets and sat at a four-top table. They had snacks waiting for us at our seats, which is always a hit with my kids!
Our server came by and took our drink orders. The kids giggled as they ordered their hot chocolate and my husband and I got some coffee.
The kids occupied themselves with crayons and train-themed coloring sheets as the train started heading to Mineral. That’s where their logging museum is.
Once we got to the logging museum, we had an hour to explore on our own. There are a bunch of old trains to look at and kids can even climb inside one and ring the bell!
There are lots of train parts and different machines used for the trains and for logging.
Plus, there’s a cool lumberjack statue in the back!
Our kids were actually most interested in the museum exhibits in the little logging houses.
There were places for kids to get their hands on chainsaws, learn how pistons and gears work, and get to push lots of buttons!
The ride back was nice and relaxing for our family. We had another opportunity to get some hot/cold drinks and it was nice to rest up after exploring so much!
This is definitely one of the top things to do at Mount Rainier with young kids!
Read about the Polar Express at Mt. Rainier.
You never know how kids are going to react to an “educational” stop on a family vacation.
I remember visiting Pioneer Farm when I was 5 or 6 years old with my cousins. It was an incredible place where we learned how to be pioneers.
We went back on a 4th-grade field trip when we learned about the settlers in Washington State and I still had good memories.
That was a while ago and I hadn’t really thought about Pioneer Farm since.
So, when we rolled up at the end of September, I wasn’t sure what to expect or if my kids would like it or not.
Let me tell you: they LOVED it! Seriously. They practically had to kick us out.
When you arrive, you’ll hang out until the next tour started. The tours last 90 minutes and have stops at a bunch of the historic log cabins on the property.
There’s a mix of history and hands-on experiences.
My kids really didn’t know anything about pioneer life before we got there. And I was worried that the lack of technology might be a deal breaker for them.
We walked through a couple of cabins that were NOT hands-on. They were set up like it was like back in the 1800s.
Then, we moved on to a larger, newer building that was built specifically for Pioneer Farm and housed tons of hands-on activities.
There was a table of dough for kids to knead and cut, wool they could roll into yarn, coffee beans to grind, dress up clothes, wooden games, corn to smash into cornmeal, cream they could churn into butter, and so much more!
After that, we headed to the barn to meet some animals. There was a cow available for kids to try their hand at milking. And a gentle horse available for little rides around the property.
And the tour ended with learning about tools and getting to try out blacksmithing.
It was amazing!
EXPLORE MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
Of course, one of the best things to do in Mt. Rainier National Park with kids is actually exploring the mountain!
It’s fabulous and definitely one of the best National Parks in the West!
The Mount Rainier National Park is too huge to explore every inch, and surely not in one weekend.
So, here’s what we did in 3.5 hours with our 5-year-old and 3-year-old:
This is one of the first places you can stop after you enter Mount Rainier National Park.
It’s a wooden suspension bridge that you can drive across. Or you can park, and get out to walk around it.
When we went, there weren’t any other cars so we could take our time.
You’ll definitely want to park and get out for this waterfall. It will feel like you are seeing it as you drive by, but that’s just part of the waterfall.
Park your car and walk down the little trail from the parking lot.
You’ll get an incredible view from the scenic lookout point and the path is not too difficult, even for little ones.
This is a much longer walk to the viewpoint but is definitely worth the steps! My 3-year-old walked all the way down just holding my hand.
This waterfall is massive and there’s a large scenic viewpoint.
What’s also cool is that you can walk across the bridge on the top of the waterfall.
If you’d like to learn more about Mount Rainier through hands-on exhibits, this is a great place to start! It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best West Coast national parks.
Downstairs, they have a theatre where you can watch some films, a 3D map of the area, and staff on hand to answer questions.
Upstairs, you’ll find a gift shop and lots of dioramas and interactive exhibits for adults and kids.
And there are some binoculars set up so you can see the mountain without braving the elements!
As you walk up the stairs with the John Muir quote (outside of the Mount Rainier Visitor Center) hang a right and head up the hill to Myrtle Falls.
On a clear day, you’ll get a gorgeous shot of the mountain.
However, it’s still gorgeous on a cloudy day!
The path is paved and wide enough to let other people pass you if your family is a bit slower.
We also stopped at a picnic area for a potty break. But it would be a great spot in the summer to sit and enjoy lunch in the park.
And there really were tons and tons of other scenic viewpoints and trails we could have stopped at.
Be sure to take a look at the map they give you as you enter the park so you can see the different driving loops and things to see along the way.
Check out this kid friendly Mt Rainier Weekend Itinerary.
How to Get to Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier is a bit away from the freeway and you’ll have to drive through a few towns to get there.
FROM SEATTLE, WA
The drive from Seattle to Mount Rainier takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s about 64 miles from Seattle.
You’ll head South on I-5 until you get to Tukwila.
Then, take 405 North and take the exit for WA-167 South toward Auburn.
After about 20 miles, you’ll take WA-410 East toward Sumner/Yakima. Then, you’ll turn right onto S Prarie Rd E, left onto WA-162 East, right onto Lower Burnett Rd E, and right onto WA-165 South.
FROM PORTLAND, OR
The drive from Portland to Mount Rainier takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s about 138 miles from Portland.
You’ll head North on I-5 until you get to Exit 68 for US-12 East toward Morton/Yakima.
Stay on US-12 East for 31 miles. Then, turn left onto 2nd Street and continue onto WA-7 North.
Finally, turn right onto WA-706 and head into Mount Rainier National Park.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Mount Rainier?
If you think you’ll visit Mount Rainier more than once in the year, your best bet is to buy an Annual Pass. It’s $55 and covers one vehicle and all the passengers for a full year.
Otherwise, the single-vehicle fee is $30 and is good for 7 consecutive days.
Learn all about the different Mount Rainier passes.
We visited on September 28, which was a free public day.
Mount Rainier Weather
Something you should keep in mind that Mount Rainier weather can be crazy. It can be unseasonably warm or cold, so it’s always best to check the weather right before you go.
Typically, the weather in April-June has a high in the 40s-50s and a low in the 7-14 degree range.
Typically, the weather in June-August has a high in the low-mid 60s and a low in the mid-teens.
From September-November, the weather has a high in the 40s-50s and a low in the 5-14 degree range.
We were here on September 28 and it snowed in the afternoon! Bundle up!
From November-March, the weather has a high in the low-mid 30s and a low in the 1-3 degree range. Brrrr!
Where to Stay in Mount Rainier
This means you are just steps away from an awesome cafe, a mountaineering store, and a restaurant.
We really liked staying at this VRBO house and we’ll definitely consider it for our next trip. It’s 3 bedrooms with the master suite on the other side of the house.
Plus, there’s a full kitchen with a microwave, stove, and fridge. And a large living room with a wood stove.
Better still, there are 2 bathrooms! Check the latest rates and availability.
WHITTAKER’S MOTEL & HISTORIC BUNKHOUSE
Whittaker’s Bunkhouse is a great option for families staying in Ashford.
The Bunkhouse was built in 1912 to house loggers and mill workers in the Ashford Valley.
Renovated in 1990 by Lou and Ingrid Whittaker, Whittaker’s Motel & Historic Bunkhouse offers lodging in 18 cozy rooms with private baths.
They have large rooms, small rooms, a cottage and a bunkhouse (in case you like shared accommodations.)
Their on-site cafe is really delicious and the decorations are amazing! I mean, even the lighting fixtures are unique! Check the latest rates and availability.
STONE CREEK LODGE
This is one of the cutest Mt. Rainier cabins for families! They actually have several family cabins in addition to ones geared for couples.
They do these cool community bonfires at night where guests are invited to gather and roast marshmallows while talking about their adventures.
What’s really awesome is that it’s just steps away from the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.
Read my full Stone Creek Lodge review HERE.
We came to Paradise Village specifically to check out their new bakery/cafe. I’m a sucker for a good bakery!
We ended up arriving close to dinner, so we headed into their restaurant first.
The whole place is run by a Ukrainian family and they serve a mix of authentic Ukrainian food as well as American food.
Holy moly was their food tasty! And then we hit the bakery and it was phenomenal!
So, if you like good food, I’d suggest staying at the Paradise Village in Ashford. They renovated their rooms in 2018 and they look super clean and modern.
Plus, they have family rooms and cabins available. Check the latest rates and availability.
PARADISE INN AT MOUNT RAINIER
If you think you’ll be spending most of your time exploring the mountain itself, you might consider staying at Paradise Inn.
It’s a gorgeous mountain resort right next to the Mount Rainier Visitor Center in Paradise.
You’ll feel like you’re staying at a lodge that would be featured in a Hallmark Christmas movie. Yes, it’s that magical!
Built in 1916, it’s been designated as one of the “Great Lodges of the West.”
This historic guest lodge sits in the shadow of Mount Rainier surrounded by mountain meadows lush with wildflowers in the Spring, and snow in the Winter. Check the latest rates and availability.
What to Pack for Mount Rainier with Kids
I felt really unprepared and had the kids in sneakers and rainboots when we explored Mount Rainier. The trails were a bit mucky and slippery.
I wore some UGG boots that didn’t have a lot of support and they started to feel uncomfortable climbing the trails.
That’s why I’m suggesting you make sure your family is outfitted in really sturdy hiking boots if you plan on doing light to moderate hiking at Mount Rainier.
And this is a detailed guide to the best kids hiking shoes.
Because the weather is usually pretty chilly here, I’d suggest that everyone where warm coats.
If you’re heading there in a warmer month, I’d recommend these jackets that can easily be stuffed into a backpack if you get too warm.
Otherwise, I’d get something really warm like this North Face coat.
You’ll definitely want to make sure your kids are wearing warm hats. My kids don’t usually like to wear hats, but they were so cold they wouldn’t get out of the car without wearing one!
We are a huge Hydro Flask family. They are these amazing insulated bottles that keep liquids hot or cold.
On this trip, my husband brought this Hydro Flask with him and it was perfect for hydrating after so much walking.
One thing on my DON’T bring list would be a stroller. Even on the paved paths, I didn’t see a single stroller.
Realistically, you won’t want to push anything up the steep inclines.
Mount Rainier is an amazing, kid-friendly weekend getaway in Washington State. You’ll have a fun time exploring year-round!