Skip to Content

Camping In Mount Rainier National Park

One of our family’s all-time favorite things to do is to camp inside national parks and camping in Mount Rainier is no exception.

With its blooming meadows, lush forests, and towering 14,000-foot summit, Mount Rainer is almost showing off how awesome it is. But what’s the best way to see this amazing National Park?

Some say visit the Visitor Center, some say backpack the wilderness…some say summit Rainier.

But camping in Mount Rainer may be our favorite.

Exploring Mount Rainier becomes so much more enjoyable when you can get a campground within the Parks Bounds, but it can be a bit challenging though because there are only 3 campgrounds inside Mount Rainier National Park.

And they need to be reserved way in advance (or you have to get there very early to snag one of the few first-come-first-serve sites)

But even though it’s hard, I would seriously consider trying to get a campground here, because it will make less time for hassel and more time so you can fully enjoy the true beauty of this park.

The ultimate guide to camping inside majestic Mount Rainier National Park…no time? You can save this for later and Pin it!

Camping Mt Rainier

Make sure to also check out other blogs on Mount Rainier:

Hiking Pinnacle Peak Mount Rainier NP
No matter where you end up camping in Rainier, you will always have a chance to take in the true gem of this national park

Mount Rainier Campgrounds

There are THREE campgrounds inside Mount Rainier National Park – Cougar Rock, Ohanapecosh, and White River.

A few basic facts about these 3 campgrounds include:

  • All have fire grates, flush toilets, and water.
  • The cost is $20 per night for individual sites (group sites are $60 a night).
  • None of the campgrounds in Mount Rainier have RV hookups for electricity, water, or sewer.
  • There is a dump station at Cougar Rock Campground.
  • Water can be variable throughout the season so it’s a good idea to come prepared with some of your own just in case.
  • No sleeping in your vehicles outside the campgrounds.
  • Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days.
  • Campsites are limited to a maximum of 6 persons (or immediate family) and two tents.
  • Tent pads vary in size and some larger tents may not fit.
Hiking Paradise Mount Rainier NP, Things to do Rainier
Paradise is one of the most beautiful areas in Rainier and you’ll no doubt want to be as close as you can to here

Cougar Rock Campground

Location: 20 minutes from Paradise

Max RV Length: RV: 35 ft., Trailer: 27 ft.
Accepts Reservations: Yes up to 6 months in advance
# of sites: 173 (+5 group sites)
Typically Open: late May to late September

Cougar Rock Campground is the closest campground to Paradise and normally I love camping inside a national park, but here I feel like it’s not as easy.

It’s a 20-minute drive from the campground to Paradise and there are no shuttle buses at Mount Rainier which means if you are in an RV, you have to pack up your site to drive over.

Note that the roads here are narrow so if you have a large rig you may want to bypass this campground

Also, reserving a campsite here can be challenging since sites get booked far in advance for summer and weekends. There are some first come first serve sites, but you need to get there very early and preferably mid-week to secure a site.

Your best bet may be to camp the night before in Ashford and then drive in around 7 am so you can snag a spot when someone leaves that morning.

Highlights of Camping at Cougar Rock:

  • The nightly ranger programs are held at the campground amphitheater every evening at 8:30 p.m. in the summer (8:00 pm in August). If you’ve never attended a Ranger talk at a national park I highly recommend it. The Rangers usually do an outstanding job of making it both informative and entertaining for kids as well as adults.
  • Junior Ranger programs are super fun and educational for 6-11-year-olds and are also held at the campground amphitheater daily at 5:00 pm.
  • You’re camping in a beautiful forest backdrop, but note that the roads here are narrow so if you have a large rig you may want to bypass this campground
  • Great hikes from the campground such as the Wonderland Trail, and Carter and Madcap Falls. You technically could even get to Comet Falls and Mildred Point if you hiked the Wonderland Trail back towards Longmire but it would be a 14+ mile hike and we’re probably the only crazy people who would do such a thing 😉.
  • Close to the Henry M Jackson Visitor Center
Camping Mt Rainier, view
An incredible view of Rainier at sunset when headed down from Paradise to Ohanapecosh

Ohanapecosh Campground

Location: On the east side, halfway between Paradise & Sunrise

Max RV Length: RV: 32 ft., Trailer: 27 ft.
Accepts Reservations: Yes up to 6 months in advance
# of sites: 188 (+2 group sites)
Typically Open: late May to late September

Though it’s hard to pronounce, it is not hard to stay here.

Ohanapecosh may be the most comfortable and easy of the Mount Rainer campgrounds. Covered in shaded forest, you don’t get the amazing Mount Rainier views that the others present, but what you do get is a great place to relax after a busy day of exploring.

Located an hour east along the Stevens Canyon Road where you bank south on Highway 123, this campground is definitely the easiest to access, with none of the winding small roads that Couger Rock and White River require.

This campground is not as much of an easy jumping-off point to hikes as the others, but I really do think it makes up for it for its ease of access and comfy sites.

NOTE that certain sites here may be a little hard to back into as this campground is heavily forested.

Highlights of Camping at Ohanapecosh:

  • You can hike to Grove of the Patriarchs and Silver Falls from the campground.
  • Next to a main highway making it easier to access.
  • A small drive to the Henry M Jackson Visitor Center, a great place to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area.
  • A drier area of Mount Rainier that tends to not get as sopped-in.
  • The nightly ranger programs are held at the campground amphitheater every evening at 8:30 p.m. in the summer (8:00 pm in August). If you’ve never attended a Ranger talk at a national park I highly recommend it. The Rangers usually do an outstanding job of making it both informative and entertaining for kids as well as adults.
  • You’re camping in a Deep Old Forest backdrop, but note that the sites here are surrounded by many trees so backing into certain sites can be challenging.
Sunrise meadows, Mount Rainier National Park
White River Campground, which is the closest camping spot to Sunrise, is the place to stay if you want to see the most amazing nature of Mount Rainier

White River Campground

Location: 10 minutes from Sunrise

Max RV Length: RV: 27 ft, trailers: 18 ft
Accepts Reservations: No!!!
# of sites: 112
Typically Open: Late June to late September

Guaranteed the most rugged camping in Mount Rainier National Park, and also the closest to Mount Rainer standing right at the base of the peak.

The reason this campground is the roughest in the park is because the road to get to White River campground is thin and small but more importantly is that White River Campground is available on a first come first serve basis. Visitors are required to physically arrive at the campground to purchase and claim a site.

But I say “most rugged campground” because this campground is also the closest to the vast alpine prairies of Sunrise Mount Rainier.

Lying at the base of White River Valley means it’s in star position to access the Sunrise Visitor Center and the most pretty hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, requiring just a short drive up Sunrise Park Road.

Also The Wonderland Trail (Maybe the best hike in Mount Rainier) is accessed right from the campground, along with Emonns Moraine and Glacier Basin.

Highlights of Camping at Sunrise:

  • Epic hikes: While there are nice hikes from the other two campgrounds, the trails from this campground are way more epic if you like mountains, glaciers, and wildflowers.
  • A more secluded and backcountry feel than the other campgrounds, No Cell Service.
  • Fantastic views from just the campground
  • A short drive from the Sunrise Visitor Center and other Sunrise Hikes.
Walk in campground Mowich Lake, Mount Rainier
Being a walk-in only (AKA tent camping) campground, Mowich Lake is the most pristine and secluded campground in all of Rainier
Photo via contributor on TheDyrt.com

Other Campgrounds

Now that we listed the Big Three Campgrounds in Mount Rainier here are some other awesome ones if yo want a different view of this beautiful park.

Mowich Lake Campground

Located on the far West Side of Mount Rainier, this is THE most secluded campground in all of Mount Rainier, only accessed by state road 165 that dead-ends at the campgrounds.

Mowich Lake offers tent-only camping on a first-come first-serve basis and is open from early July to early October.

This scenic campground is free but only has 10 walk-in sites, has no water, and does not allow fires. But camping beside this crystal-clear lake puts you at the start of some epic hiking.

To get here you’ll have to drive State Highway 165, which is often rough and bumpy but supposedly doable for most vehicles.

Highlights of Camping at Ohanapecosh:

  • Free if you can get one of the ten Tent sites.
  • Accesses hikes not normally accessed by others
  • Tons of amazing hikes accessed right from the campground

National Forest Campgrounds Near Mount Rainer NP

If you can’t get campsites inside Mount Rainier NP, there are great campgrounds just minutes from Mount Rainier’s 3 entrances of Nisqually, Steven’s Canyon, and White River.

Mount Rainier, Kautz Creek Picnic Area
National Forest campgrounds may not be amidst the glacial magic of Sunrise or Paradise, but they are far more quiet and secluded making for a true camping experience

Note that it is over a half-hour drive from Nisqually (which is on the west side) to Paradise, another half-hour to Steven’s Canyon entrance/Ohanapecosh, and at least another half-hour to Sunrise.

If you want to visit Mowich Lake or the Carbon River area, it’s a two-hour drive from both the Nisqually and White River entrances.

All of these National Forest campgrounds run $18-20 per night and most are open from mid-May to late September. You can reserve sites on recreation.gov on a rolling basis up to 6 months in advance.

Big Creek Campground

Max RV Length: RV’s up to 60 ft (Hatchery Loop only)
# of sites: 26

Big Creek Campground is located on the west end of Skate Creek Road and has 29 sites surrounded by lush forest with some sites overlooking the creek.

The campground has picnic tables, pit toilets, and drinking water all at an affordable $18 per night. It’s open from mid-May to mid-September. If you can’t reserve a site at Cougar Rock it might be a good idea to reserve one here instead.

Skate Creek Road

Skate Creek Road, also known as Forest Road 52, offers free dispersed camping and is usually closed in the winter. It’s a paved road but not really maintained so there are slumps and potholes along it. Skate Creek is also accessible from Packwood, which is on the east side of MRNP near Ohanapecosh.

La Wis Wis Campground

Max RV Length: RV’s up to 60 ft (Hatchery Loop only)
# of sites: 115

La Wis Wis is a great option if Ohanapecosh is full. There are a few sites that sit overlooking the river and while most of the sites at La Wis Wis are better suited for tents and car or truck campers, the Hatchery Loop can fit larger RVs up to 60 feet.

This is a great base camp for visiting Mont Rainer NP or just for enjoying some hiking and fishing in the area. There is drinking water, flush toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings here but no electricity.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, located just on the other side of Highway 123 by the Steven’s Canyon entrance, has many great free dispersed camping opportunities. From what I’ve read, it’s doable with any size rig but it is a steep one-lane gravel road so use your discretion. Check out the iOverlander app for more beta.

Silver Springs Campground

Max RV Length: RV’s up to 45 feet
# of sites: 55

Silver Springs is a great campground just 1 mile from the White River entrance to Mount Rainier. This is a good option to use as a base camp for exploring the Sunrise area. There is drinking water, flush and vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings here but no electricity.

The Dalles Campground

Max RV Length: RV’s up to 40 feet
# of sites: 55

The Dalles Campground is just a few miles north of Silver Springs Campground and only 7 miles from the White River entrance to Mount Rainier NP. From the campground you can hike the John Muir Nature Trail or, on the west end of the campground, check out the “Big Tree,” a 700-year-old Douglas fir that measures 9.5 feet in diameter. There is drinking water, vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings here but no electricity.

Lodgepole Campground

Max RV Length: RV’s up to 100 feet
# of sites: 37

While the location here isn’t ideal, sometimes it’s better for peace of mind to just reserve a campsite ahead of time so you know you’ll have a place to sleep. If all the other campgrounds are reserved, you may want to book here. It’s only about a half hour to Sunrise or Ohanapecosh areas from here and the sites are spacious for RVs. Plus you’re close to Boulder Cave National Recreation Trail and the famous PCT.


Full-Service Campgrounds near Mount Rainier NP

Sometimes you just want a campground with hot showers and laundry. I feel ya! When we are on long road trips I get emotional when I pull into a campground that has amenities. It feels luxurious! Here are two great options for when you too want to feel comfortable while enjoying nature.

Mounthaven Resort

If you’re looking for more luxury-style camping near Ashford, which is the west side of the park, Mounthavenn might be the perfect base camp for you. Staying here puts you only a half mile from the Nisqually entrance and besides having full hookups, they also have free hot showers and coin-operated laundry.

The only downside is that there are only 30 sites (and only 16 are RV spots) here and they fill up fast in the summer. This is also a great place to stay if you are not camping as they offer family-friendly cabins and 3 vacation rentals. RV sites start at $55 per night.

Packwood RV

This is a great campground if you are arriving or leaving Mount Rainier from the southeast. Packwood is a bigger town than Ashford so you can find more services over on this side.


Finding Accommodations near Mount Rainier

If camping isn’t your thing, there are quite a few options for hotels and lodges in Ashford, which is minutes from the southwest entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, or splurge and stay at Paradise Inn at the heart of the national park.

Seattle is also only a two-hour drive away and Tacoma is only an hour and a half away where there are plenty of great options. Click here to see our blog on Lodging Options Near Mount Rainier (coming soon).

Booking.com

Tips for WiFi

We have T-Mobile as our cell service provider which means we rarely get a signal in any national park except for when I’m standing at the summit of a high mountain. The visitor centers in Mount Rainier do have wifi but they are slow so don’t expect to do much more than texting and sending/receiving email. There is also free wifi in the Ashford visitor center.

Camping Games

Oftentimes, camping is a perfect opportunity to bond with friends and family and there’s no better way to connect a good old game around the campfire. These are some of our favorite games to play as a family when we’re out wandering where the wifi is weak:

Pack List for Camping in Mount Rainier

Since you will be off-grid with little access to supplies be sure to pack thoroughly (and minimally) pack everything you will need for your stay in Mount Rainier National Park. Need help knowing what to pack? Save time with these two blogs:


If you have any questions about camping in Rainier, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section below! We’d be happy to help!

Headed to Rainier? Don’t forget to check our other related blogs.

Mount Rainier Resources:

Share this or Pin it:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.