Words simply cannot describe the magic and the beauty of Mount Rainier in the summer with wildflowers in bloom. It’s simply the most magical national park ever! I should be loyal to Yosemite, which I’ve visited multiple times as a Bay Area native, but being a wildflower and pretty scenery lover, I have a special love for Mount Rainier in the summer. The combination of wildflower-filled meadows and spectacular views of snow capped mountains everywhere you look is truly like a paradise!
Here are my picks for the best places to see wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park. My picks are also very accessible and are great even for those with limited time, with kids, or those who can’t do more strenuous hikes. You will not be disappointed with even a short trip here!
All photos taken by me and my husband Ken!
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The Best Spots to See Wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park
1. Reflection Lakes
My top pick for the best place to see wildflowers at Mount Rainier is Reflection Lakes. It’s also my pick for the best place to visit in the park overall! It may not have the largest concentration of wildflowers, but because of the stunning views of Mt Rainier behind the lake, the crystal clear lake reflections (when the waters are still), and the magical morning mists, this is my favorite spot overall. I remember so clearly the first time I saw this view and feeling as if I had walked into a magical other-worldly place that few people are lucky enough to experience.
Both mornings and sunsets here are breathtaking, but I have a preference for mornings because I just love the morning mists from the lakes, and because there tends to be less mosquitoes and less people in the mornings! Ken and I came here multiple times during our trip.
There’s street parking right in front of the lake, so it’s super accessible with no hiking involved. Make sure to walk over to the smaller lake to the east of the main lake also. There are many photo opportunities at these lakes, and the meadow in between has wildflowers also!
2. Skyline Loop Trail to Myrtle Falls
This popular trail starting at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center is filled with stunning mountain views and fields of wildflowers next to the paved trail. Prepare for your jaws to drop almost as soon as you start the hike! The hike to Myrtle Falls is easy and paved, approximately 1 mile from the Visitor Center. The park handout says it takes 30 minutes, but if you stop often to take lots of pictures like I did, you could easily spend a lot more time there. We did this hike every evening after dinner when we stayed 3 nights at Paradise Inn, which is right next to the trail!
The entire Skyline Loop Trail is 5.5 miles (4.5 hrs round trip) and features amazing mountain-top views, but for an easy and pleasant wildflower hike with amazing mountain scenery, this short hike to Myrtle Falls is hard to beat.
The trail starts at the Visitor Center. There’s a large parking lot there, but please note that the lot tends to fill up on weekends.
3. Paradise Meadows Trails West of the Visitor’s Center
My third pick is an area that’s sort of a hidden gem since it’s not nearly as crowded as the other places, but it had the most wildflowers of all the places we visited in the park! The group of linked Paradise Meadows Trails west of the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center feature subalpine meadows full of wildflowers, views of Mount Rainier and Nisqually Glacier, and tons of wildlife.
These trails start just to the left (west) of the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, starting with the Avalance Lily Trail (named after the flower that is among the first to bloom along the edges of melting snow). The beginning part of this trail is somewhat steep, but levels out after that. From there you can choose either the Nisqually Vista Trail or the Deadhorse Creek Trail, which eventually connect with the Skyline Loop Trail. The 1.5 mile Nisqually Vista Trail offers viewpoints overlooking the Nisqually Glacier and Mount Rainier in addition to wildflower meadows. The park website has a description and map of these trails here.
My favorite part of this area is along the Deadhorse Creek trail, where we happened upon a fairytale-like forested area with meadows filled with wildflowers along a gurgling creek with Mount Rainier in the background. We were serenaded by birds and saw a number of critters darting by. It was so magical, I wished we could’ve stayed there all day! (Stay tuned – I will try to upload a video clip of the area!)
4. Tipsoo Lake
Tipsoo Lake is another very scenic place for wildflowers, lake views and mountain views. It’s a one-hour drive from the Reflection Lakes and Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center area. You’ll be rewarded with a very pretty lakeside setting with views of snow-capped Mt Rainier in the background. If you’re limited in time, the loop around the lake and the surrounding area are very close to the parking lot, easy, and have paths surrounded by wildflowers in the summer. If you have more time, the 3.5-mile Naches Peak Loop takes around 2 hours and offers wonderful views from higher up. We’ve seen some stunning sunsets pictures here and we hope to come back to take some ourselves!
5. The Sunrise Area
The Sunrise area is another popular destination for park visitors, especially for those looking for stunning views from high up. It’s located in the northeastern part of the park and is about 1.5 hrs from the Paradise area. Since it’s 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the Paradise area, the views and terrain here are quite different and the hikes tend to be longer and more strenuous. I would recommend visiting this area after you have visited the attractions in the Paradise area and Lake Tipsoo.
The wildflowers in the Sunrise area tend to peak a week or two before the wildflowers in the Paradise area. When we visited at the end of July, we actually didn’t see many wildflowers during our short hike, although we did see some stunning mountain views.
Popular hikes in the area include the 2.5-mile Emmons Vista Trail with mountain and glacier views, the popular 2.5-mile Sourdough Ridge trail, the longer 7.7-mile Berkeley Park trail, which some consider to be the best spot for flowers in the park, and 5.6-mile Fremont Lookout trail with the Instagram popular two-story frame cabin.
When Do Wildflowers Bloom at Mount Rainier National Park?
In general, wildflower season at Mount Rainier National Park is from late July to mid-August. But since wildflowers are not completely predictable (they are wild after all!), it’s best to be flexible with your schedule and expectations. You can check the park’s wildflower status page on their website for updates before you start your trip. And since the season only lasts a few weeks, you can expect some crowds also eager to not miss out!
Before you head for Mount Rainier, make sure to check the current park alerts & conditions at the park’s website. As of July 9, 2021, all park visitor centers are closed while all roads are open and some grab-and-go food options are available.
What Type of Wildflowers Are at Mount Rainier?
There are hundreds of species of wildflowers at Mount Rainier in the summer! Some of the species we saw were: pink Rosy Spirea (see featured top pic and first Reflection Lakes pic below) and purple-pink Elephant’s Head at Reflection Lakes; magenta Paintbrush, yellow Broadleaf Arnica, and white American Bistort along the Skyline Trail and other Paradise area meadows; and purple Lupines, scarlet Paintbrush and white daisies at Tipsoo Lake.
The park website has a useful section on identifying wildflowers by color.
Mount Rainier Travel Tips
Check Current Conditions
Before you head for Mount Rainier, make sure to check the current park alerts & conditions at the park’s website. As of July 9, 2021, all park visitor centers are closed while all roads are open and some grab-and-go food options are available. The park website also has a useful page on the wildflowers bloom status and what’s currently in bloom.
Summer weather at Mount Rainier can be hard to predict. The park is known for fog that can sometimes stay around and hide mountain views all day! Or it can start off cool in the morning but become too hot for hiking by late morning, which we did experience during our trip. Be ready with both warm and cool weather clothing as it can get quite cool in the evenings. I was happy to have brought a puffer jacket for evening walks. It’s best to be flexible and have a backup plan in case of unexpected weather. Fortunately, there’s plenty of quick and easy ways to enjoy wildflowers at the park!
Beware the Mosquitoes!!
It really is a paradise at Mount Rainier in the summer, but apparently it’s also a paradise for mosquitoes! I 100% got more mosquito bites here than anywhere else in my entire life. The key is to apply mosquito repellent OFTEN. You should probably reapply every time you go near a body of water, such as Reflection Lakes or Tipsoo Lake. Even with repellent though, you won’t be able to keep them all away, so make sure to bring (lots of) anti-itch cream! Wearing long-sleeved tops or jackets and long pants will help, although we managed to get some bites anyway!
Visit During the Weekday if Possible
Mount Rainier is very popular during the summers, especially on weekends. Everyone wants to visit Paradise it seems! Visiting during the weekdays is definitely better, otherwise you may encounter a long line at the entrance and full parking lots at visitor centers!
No Cell Service
There is extremely limited cellular phone service throughout the park, so be prepared to not have signal while you’re inside the park. Wifi is available at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center but since visitor centers are closed for Summer 2021, wifi availability is unclear.
Stay at the Paradise Inn!
I highly recommend staying at Paradise Inn inside the Park. It’s only a few minutes from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and the location right next to the Paradise trails can’t be beat! It’s only a few minutes drive to Reflection Lakes and several waterfalls. In addition, their restaurant is quite good, much better than the grab and go options at the Visitor Center. For Summer 2021, only hotel guests are allowed to dine at the restaurant. Please check their website for information about their current limited dining hours. Another bonus is their parking lot for guests, which is so convenient when the Visitor Center parking lot fills up!
Booking a room at the hotel can be hard, but check back for cancellations 1-2 weeks before your trip. That’s how we managed to book a room for 3 nights!
Mount Rainier Packing Tips
Aside from your usual hiking gear, I recommend bringing the following items!
- Mosquito repellent. (see mosquito warning above) I recently started using Repel insect repellent made with lemon eucalyptus oil and it’s been effective for me, but I recommend bringing more than one type with you to see what works best!
- Anti-itch cream. Lots of it. I recommend one tube per person. I’ve never been so grateful for Benadryl gel, even if I had to reapply every 3 hours…
- Sunscreen and hat. I bring multiple of each!
- Warm layers for cool evenings. My thin wool zip top from Smartwool was perfect for early evening walks. (The color I’m wearing in the picture above is Nostalgia Rose Heather but it’s only available in limited sizes now.) I added a puffer jacket as it got cooler.
- Roomy and lightweight backpack. If you’re out for the day, make sure to bring enough water and food to avoid having to hunt for food in the middle of a wildflower meadow! Don’t forget to bring the insect repellant and anti-itch cream! I love my rugged and lightweight Fjallraven Kanken Big backpack for all my daytrips. I add a camera insert for my Nikon D750 (newer model D780 here) instead of using a camera backpack.
- Car window mesh screens. If you’re resting in the car and want to leave your window open for air but don’t want to let the mosquitoes in, a slip-over mesh screen is so useful!
- A plug-in electric cooler for road trips. You probably won’t need one while you’re inside the park, but for a longer road trip, you might want to consider a plug-in electric cooler for your car. We use one for all of our summer road trips to keep food and drinks cold so that we don’t have to stop and look for food in between destinations. We were also able to bring home some yummy chocolates and cheese from Oregon that would’ve otherwise melted or spoiled!
Hi, I’m Pansy!
Hello, thanks for stopping by! I’m Pansy, California-based travel + lifestyle blogger, photographer and lover of ALL the pretty flowers! If you browse through my blog, you may notice that most of my travels, DIY and photography center around flowers and nature! 🌸🌼🌿
In addition to this blog, I also create journals & activity books. More info on my website at Fleurette Press!
I hope you found this post useful, and I hope you have a wonderful day!