We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Mount Rainier or North Cascades

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
171 posts
186 reviews
Save Topic
Mount Rainier or North Cascades

I'd like to hear some opinions about Mount Rainier vs North Cascades National Parks. Which of the 2 do people find more scenic in August? I only have time for 1 and I'm trying to decide which it should be.

Thanks

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
9,782 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

Theyare both beautiful and in some ways very different. Rainier is far far easier to visit and has far more acommodationsnear the Park (do not wait too long to make them). On the downside it gets far more crowded do in part to its proximity to Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. Both are scenic and it would kind be like asking which of your kids you like best.

Seattle, Wa
Level Contributor
4,768 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

Glaciermeadow gave good advice. To add to that, Mt Rainier gives you the more typical national park experience, with inside the park lodges, visitors centers, scenic drives and very easy walks as well as more challenging hikes. You really can't go wrong here--even on a quick visit you'll see some tremendous beauty. I've been to Rainier countless times and it never fails to be a jaw dropping experience. August will be quite busy, though there are always spots away from the madding crowds.

NC, on the other hand, is quite undeveloped and hosts far fewer people (popular hikes on weekends will still be busy, though). It's better suited to hikers, though plenty of people drive the NC Hwy and just stop at the overlooks and do the few short easy hikes, and find this very worthwhile.

Mukilteo, Washington
Level Contributor
746 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

The question is what do YOU want to do. They're both magnificently scenic, but North Cascades is primarily a wilderness and a backpacker's paradise. Mt. Rainier is much more accessible with lots of short nature hikes.

So, if you're looking for a wilderness backpacking experience - North Cascades. If you're looking for day hikes through alpine meadows - Mt. Rainier.

Oregon
Level Contributor
8,735 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

I just don't think N Cascades NP is a great place to go unless you want to hike. The NP designation does not make it a place to go. Mt Baker is more comparable to Mt Rainier. except it has two mountains at end of road Baker and Shuksan Has some good short hikes,

Olympic NP and Glacier Peak Wilderness more comparable to NCNP.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
171 posts
186 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

I'm most interested in moderate few hour long hikes (not overnight backpacking trips) so you're saying that Mount Rainier is a better choice for me. Am I correct in assuming that even though the park may be crowded, once I hit the moderate trails they will not be a factor? I know this has been the case with the other parks I've gone to, but I noticed that Mount Rainier has relatively few roads-dies this mean that more people are hiking the trails?

Thanks

Mukilteo, Washington
Level Contributor
746 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

For the hikes you describe, Mt Rainier is the best choice. Although 95% of Mt Rainier National Park is designated wilderness, that doesn't mean the areas along the roads aren't crowded - in summer they will be. Its proximity to Seattle guarantees heavy usage.

But if ;you hike just a mile or so from the road, the crowds drop of dramatically.

Seattle, Wa
Level Contributor
4,768 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

The moderate trails at Paradise will still be fairly crowded in August. You'll also need to start early or late to even get a parking spot at Paradise. The hikes at Sunrise, they'll be a less crowded. Crowds are worse on weekends of course. If you do a hike that doesn't start at one of these visitor center areas, you'll find even fewer people.

There are plenty of moderate hikes in the North Cascades; most are outside the park boundary but no less scenic, while some are inside the park. If avoiding crowds is a priority, and a 7 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 2000' or so is fine for you, then the North Cascades might be better for you. Heather Pass-Maple Pass is a stellar hike outside the park, and Cascade Pass is one inside the park, that will knock your socks off and that fit those criteria. They're some of the most popular hikes in the region and so weekends will still be busy, but nothing like you'd find at Paradise. But if 7 miles and 2000' is too much, stick to Rainier.

But really, this is a win-win situation for you. Either one is great.

Edited: 29 April 2014, 18:05
Newtown, PA
Level Contributor
3,537 posts
412 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

Although we found Rainier to be awe-inspiring, I agree with phirl on Mt Baker. I think that area is underrated and surprised it's not mentioned more on the Washington forums. So glad we spent a day there last summer. We loved Rainier and the North Cascades, but I would also put Mt Baker up there as a "must do" destination. The scenery was spectacular, here's some pics from our day at Mt Baker.

https:/…

Oregon
Level Contributor
8,735 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

Relayer, nice photos of Mt Baker. I had sort of forgotten some of that.

Seattle, Wa
Level Contributor
4,768 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Mount Rainier or North Cascades

I agree the area is gorgeous and very worthwhile (and your photos are beautiful). In the fall when the shrubs are red it's to die for. I think I don't mention it more to general tourists on this site because a) even in normal snow years, trails up there don't melt out until August b) the only thing to do is hike (though you certainly don't have to walk very far, since the scenery starts at the parking lot) and c) so many folks post here with really tight itineraries and it's just out of the way for then.

Get answers to your questions about Mount Rainier National...