Standing 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is an icon in the Pacific Northwest that attracts close to 10,000 climbers each year. Striving for the summit—and, if the odds are in your favor, reaching it—is an immensely rewarding challenge.
The active volcano is the highest peak in Washington State and the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. To get to the top, you’ll need to gain more than 9,000 feet of elevation, hike at least eight miles and travel on crevassed glaciers. A typical summit attempt requires 2–5 days, but it’s well worth the effort.
There are dozens of climbing routes up Mount Rainier, offering a wide range in difficulty and popularity for mountaineers. About half of the climbers attempting to summit reach the top.
If you’re planning to climb Mount Rainier, you must be in excellent physical shape, properly trained and equipped with the correct gear. Weather, route conditions and the effects of altitude will also contribute to the outcome of your summit attempt.
Mount Rainier Weather
Weather changes rapidly on Mount Rainier and rain, snow and frigid temperatures can occur any time of year. Know the forecast and be prepared for changing weather and sudden storms with extra clothing, rain gear and shelter.
Winter at Mount Rainier brings frequent storms with high winds, deep snow and extremely poor visibility. All climbers attempting a winter ascent need to be experienced in winter mountaineering, avalanche forecasting and rescue.
Check the National Weather Service Mount Rainier Recreational Forecast and the Northwest Avalanche Center forecast in the days leading up to your trip. The Mount Rainier Climbing Blog provides the latest route conditions. Mount Rainier’s live webcams are handy for seeing current conditions.
Best Time to Go: The typical climbing season runs from late May to September. July and August are typically the driest and warmest months.
Mount Rainier Permits
When you arrive at Mount Rainier National Park, you will need to pay an entrance fee or show a valid annual pass. To climb the mountain, you will also need the following:
Climbing Pass: Anyone climbing on glaciers, or above 10,000 ft., must purchase a Mount Rainier Climbing Pass, which is valid for the calendar year. You can buy your pass in advance or on the day of your climb.
In the summer, you can get a climbing pass in person at the Climbing Information Center in Paradise; the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise; the White River Wilderness Information Center at the White River Entrance; the Longmire Wilderness Information Center; and the Carbon River Ranger Station. Be sure to check the operating hours of the location you plan to visit. You must have a valid photo ID to purchase a Climbing Pass.
Wilderness Permit: Climbers who plan to camp overnight are also required to get a Wilderness Permit. Mount Rainier limits the number of campers in each wilderness zone, so it’s best to make advanced reservations for your permit. You’ll have to pay a small fee, but you’ll be able to secure your campsite ahead of time. The park starts taking reservations on March 15.
About 30 percent of permits are held to be issued in person on a first-come, first-served basis for free. These permits can be issued on the day your trip starts, or up to one day before your trip starts. If your dates are flexible and/or you are climbing midweek, permits are generally easy to come by even in peak season.
Registration: Your party must register in person for the climb on the day the climb begins (or the day prior).
Permissions: Anyone younger than 18 years old must have written permission of a parent or legal guardian before climbing.
Solo travel above high camps or anywhere on glaciers is not allowed except with written permission from the Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent.
Mount Rainier Maps
The route you’re climbing determines the maps you’ll need. Green Trails maps are sold at REI stores, while USGS maps are sold at Mount Rainier National Park visitor centers, ranger stations and wilderness information centers.
Disappointment Cleaver, Emmons Glacier, Ingraham Direct, Kautz Glacier, and Fuhrer Finger: Green Trails Mount Rainier East #270 or USGS Mount Rainier East and USGS Sunrise.
Tahoma Glacier, Ptarmigan Ridge: Green Trails Mount Rainier West #269 orUSGS Mount Rainier West and USGS Mowich Lake.
Liberty Ridge: Green Trails Mount Rainier East #270 and Green Trails Mount Rainier West #269 or USGS Sunrise, USGS Mowich Lake, USGS Mount Rainier West and USGS Mount Rainier East.
Mount Rainier Packing List
The following list is designed for a non-guided trip on Mount Rainier. If you’re part of a guided group, check with the guide company to see what items they provide.
Included in this list are the Ten Essential Systems you should have on every backcountry trip: navigation; sun protection; insulation; illumination; first-aid supplies; fire; repair kit and tools; nutrition; hydration; emergency shelter.
Hardware quantities may vary depending on route.
- Rope (dry core and sheath; 8mm-10.5mm in diameter x 30m or longer; length depends on party size)
- Climbing helmet
- Climbing pack (65–75 liters)
- Sleeping bag comfortable to 0°F–30°F (dependent upon season, weather forecast and personal preference)
- Sleeping pad
- Mountaineering tent or backpacking tent
- Snow stakes or bag anchors for tent
- Mountaineering harness (with adjustable leg loops)
- Chest harness made from webbing (optional)
- Mountaineering boots (crampon-compatible)
- Crampons (12-point steel or aluminum)
- Ice axe (with leash)
- Belay/rappel device
- Pulleys (2)
- Carabiners (4 locking; 4 nonlocking)
- Webbing sling (30cm)
- Perlon accessory cord (24 ft. of 6mm; or pre-made Prusik slings)
- Cordelettes (2)
- Snow picket
- Ice screws (1–2; optional depending on route)
- Backpacking stove
- Cooking pot (2 liter)
- Pot lifter
- LED headlamp and extra batteries (100 lumens or brighter)
- Wands for marking the route (minimum of 20; optional)
- Photocopy of route description (from guidebook)
- Map case or plastic bag for map and route description
- Wicking, quick-dry boxers or briefs (1–2 pairs)
- Wicking, quick-dry sports bra (for women)
- Midweight wool or synthetic socks (2 pairs)
- Lightweight long underwear top
- Lightweight long underwear bottoms
- Midweight long underwear top
- Fleece or soft-shell jacket
- Midweight puffy jacket with hood
- Soft-shell pants
- Waterproof/breathable rain jacket
- Waterproof/breathable rain pants
- Hiking shorts (wicking, quick-dry; optional)
- Winter hat (wool or fleece)
- Neck gaiter, balaclava, Buff or bandana
- Sun-shielding hat or cap
- Liner gloves
- Midweight waterproof gloves
- Heavy-insulated gloves or mittens
- Change of clothes to leave in car
- Altimeter watch
- Glacier glasses
- Goggles (optional; weather dependent)
- Two-way radios (optional)
- Cell phone in a waterproof case (optional)
- Personal locator beacon or satellite messenger (optional)
- GPS (optional)
- Helmet camera (or regular camera; optional)
- Plastic bowl
- Drinking mug
- Fork and spoon
- 1-liter water bottles (2 or 1 + hydration reservoir)
- 2-liter hydration reservoir (optional)
- Toilet paper
- Blue bags for transporting human waste
- Handwarmer packets
- Water treatment device (filter, purifier, tablets, etc.)
- Ear plugs (optional)
- Toothbrush (travel size)
- Toothpaste (travel size)
- Sunscreen (2 fl. oz. of SPF 30 or higher)
- Lip balm (SPF 30 or higher)
- First-aid kit
- Large garbage bags for lining pack (2; optional; white recommended)
- Mount Rainier Climbing Pass
- Mount Rainier Wilderness Permit
- National Parks pass
- Photo ID
Quantity varies depending on route and length of trip.
- Breakfast (oatmeal, granola, freeze-dried breakfast, etc.)
- Lunch (bagels, summer sausage, cheese, smoked salmon, leftover pizza, etc.)
- Dinner (pasta, couscous, rice, freeze-dried dinner, etc.)
- Snacks (cookies, GORP, jerky, Snickers, dried fruit, etc.)
- Energy gels
- Energy bars
- Electrolyte replacement drink mix