Waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park
There are few things that we’re just suckers for: lighthouses, bathrobes, and waterfalls. When you’re heading to the mountains to go hiking, you can only count on getting one of those boxes checked off, and it’s waterfalls. Mt Rainier National Park is an easy day trip or multi-day camping destination for any type of traveler, and with this comes several great waterfalls right at your fingertips. We have been with and without kids and have some ideas of how to get the most from your waterfall walks and hikes. Mt Rainier National Park has made it easy to experience the beautiful glacial cascades, so why not? The waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park are one of the treasures of the pacific northwest and they’re not to be missed.
A quick reminder about the waterfalls of Mt Rainier National park, or anywhere ever: waterfalls and their grandeur are dependent on the weather. Whether the weather is hot weather or wet weather will determine whether or not there are falls… in any sort of weather. The best time to see falls in almost any destination is spring, as there’s usually a fair amount of rain AND there’s snow melt. In Mt Rainier National Park this is exceptionally true. For a full list from the National Park Service, view it here, but note that a lot of these aren’t accessible.
We’ve put together what we consider the must-see waterfalls that are the most easily accessible in the park. You know us and we like to give out travel tips for out to be most efficient for family travel, because wasted time when you’re traveling with kids is just a bummer. Knowing that, we’re totally not covering the gazillion options for seeing the waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park… and that’s okay.
What you'll find...
The Waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park
We start with this beautiful waterfall because it’s got a lot to offer, from a view, a hike, an overlook…
You can get an impression of Narada Falls from the parking area above it. It has a beautiful creek feeding it and there are restrooms if you need. Beyond this though, it’s work doing the ¼ mile stroll down to the view point. This is NOT an easy trail despite how short it is. The trail to the viewpoint is super duper steep and the path is uneven. It’s a beast. It’s a tiny beast, but a beast nonetheless.
Tip: small kids or kids prone to tripping NEED to hold hands or be carried on this short trail. I feel like I’m being the overly cautious parent, but yeah, it’s just a tough trail and it would be such a bummer to fall and get hurt to start your day…
Narada Falls is one of the best of all the waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park for so many reasons. We most appreciate and value the mist from the falls. If you’re there at the right time of day, you always get a rainbow. I guess that’s true of any waterfall, but when you’re there with kids it makes it more magical and give them some value for doing the ridiculous walk down the long, steep hill.
Narada Falls can also be approached from a much longer hike that begins way down the Nisqually River across from the Cougar Rock campground. To start, you must first cross a series of log bridges over the raging glacial river, and that part alone is…exhilarating. We love this hike because it’s nicely split between hiking in the woods, along streams and through low growing lush hillsides. It’s a fairly easy hike that can definitely be done with kids. And the hike ends at Narada Falls, so if you’re not feeling like hiking back down, have somebody pick you up at the top.
We love a good elevation gain, especially when there’s a great reason for it. This hike definitely gives you the exercise you’re looking for from the start. It also blasts you with beauty and cool mists at the top of the first ascent. Log bridges and mossy streams guide you the rest of the way.
Along the trail you’ll encounter plenty of streams and small waterfalls that, you can tell, are the life-blood of Mt Rainier National Park. They are teaming with life, most visibly the moss and trees growing on the banks.
Tip: take breaks in the shady spots on the trail, as they’re all beautiful and the trail is long enough and on a hot day it’s scorching enough that you’ll regret bypassing cool resting spots.
Once you’ve gone through oodles of forests, crossed several streams and then traversed some hillsides where you felt the sun was going to burn your skin off, you finally come around the corner to a breathtaking view of Comet Falls. From there it’s an easy walk down to the base of the falls. It’s the most wonderful place in Mt Rainier National Park to sit and watch nature do its thing.
Tip: if you’d like another challenge, continue onto Van Trump Meadows. You’ll get another awesome elevation gain, you’ll move into the stubby alpine forests and your views will change from mossy creeks to sweeping views of the Nisqually Valley and Tatoosh Range.
And since you’re doing this trail, you’ll also get to see Bloucher Falls. It’s a treat when you consider the many factors that make waterfalls beautiful. It has the crystal clear water, the multi level cascade, the moss and greenery and lots of places to sit and appreciate it. It used to be more hidden, but after a few season of really high water levels, the area around the falls got cleared out, leaving it a bit scarred, but beautiful.
Tip: if you’re not up for going all the way to Comet Falls, Bloucher falls is only 1.5 miles in on the trail and is an easier, shorter hike. It does drop 120 feet across its three levels, so it’s not going to disappoint.
This is, hands down, the most picturesque of all the waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park. Why? Not only does crystal clear water cascade down several rocky levels, but the viewpoint is below the falls… with a perfect National Park Service rustic stone bridge in front of it. You can appreciate Christine Falls from the road or you can take two minutes to walk down to the viewpoint. It’s not an accessible viewpoint, so know that strollers and wheelchairs can’t make it.
This is a beautiful spot, but not one to linger at. It’s worth taking a five minute sit, but it’s not picnicable. And if you want to catch the upper falls that’s not visible from the viewpoint, there is a trail across the road that you can take. It’s a beautiful little gorge. Worth checking out.
Tip: make this stop early in the day to get the best light for a picture. If you’re doing a family picture or just trying to capture the falls, morning light is the best for catching the falls when they’re glistening at their finest.
Finally, a walk that you can take a stroller on. From the Paradise Inn or visitor’s center it’s a ten minute walk, maybe fifteen, up to the top of Myrtle Falls. This is one of the more mellow waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park, but it’s one of the most beautiful. Why? Um, just look:
As you can see, it’s the only waterfall that has Mt Rainier perfectly positioned behind it. That’s why we saved it for last. It’s the perfect waterfall. You cannot bring a stroller down the hill to the viewpoint for the falls, but you can easily appreciate the beautiful feeder creek with the Mt Rainier looking directly over the stream. It’s just so perfect.
Tip: you can easily bring a picnic to this viewpoint. You can sit and watch the falls if you like, but it’s a bit busy with tourists. The better spot for a picnic is next to the creek just above the falls. There are a few benches, but bring a little picnic blanket instead. It’s worth toting up there for the most beautiful sit you can have in all of Washington state.
And if you’re looking for the prettiest waterfall in Mt Rainier National Park with the easiest hike and the best return on your time-investment, check out our post on Silver Falls in the Ohanapecosh area. Really amazing.
This summer we’ll be exploring the eastern waterfalls of Mt Rainier National Park, so we’ll be sure to share our tips about those too. If you know of some must-see waterfalls around the Pacific Northwest that are ideal for family travel, let us know. Leave a comment or drop us a line so we can go explore!
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”