Olympic National Park VS Mount Rainier

Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier are both in the state of Washington. However, there are a few differences between the two

  • Mount Rainier is much closer to downtown Seattle than Olympic National Park
  • Olympic National Park is much bigger and therefore has more ecological diversity inside
  • Mount Rainier has more challenging terrain and offers a more scenic driving route
  • Olympic National Park has a more diverse wildlife range 

To get a detailed idea, keep reading till the end. 

Olympic National Park VS Mount Rainier: Quick Comparison

The table below shows a quick comparison between Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier. 

FactorsOlympic National ParkMount Rainier
LocationOlympic PeninsulaSoutheast Pierce County, Northeast Lewis County
Best Time to VisitJuly to SeptemberJuly to September
WildlifeGray Whales, Sea Lion, Bird SpeciesBlack Bear, Mountain Goat, Eagle
Things to doHiking, Photography, Scenic DrivingHiking, Photography, Scenic Driving

Olympic National Park VS Mount Rainier: Detailed Comparison

Location

Both Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier are located in Washington.

entrance of olympic national park

Olympic is on the Olympic Peninsula and Mount Rainier is in southeast Pierce County and northeast Lewis County about 60 miles southeast of Seattle and 40 miles southeast of Tacoma. 

Best Time to Visit

Olympic and Mount Rainier National Park are excellent during summer to early fall i.e. July to September. This is when the weather is the most pleasant. However, it can also get a bit crowdy. 

The best time to explore Olympic National Park is during the summer to early fall, specifically from July to September. During these months, the weather is typically warm, and most roads and facilities are open for visitors. This period also offers a full range of programs, ensuring you can make the most of your visit with various activities and experiences.

Whereas for Mount Rainier National Park, plan your trip during the summer months from July to September. This is when the weather is nice and dry, and most of the park’s facilities and hiking trails are open for exploration. It’s an excellent time to take in the beauty of wildflowers, marvel at glaciers, and experience the optimal conditions for hiking.

Getting There

You can go to Olympic and Mount Rainier by driving. From Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, drive through the highway to get there. You can also take a ferry and then drive to the parks.

To reach the Olympic National Park, you have a lot of transport options. By car, use I-5 or quieter state roads, then check the park’s Getting Around page for travel details on the Olympic Peninsula

Washington State Ferries connect from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, and Port Townsend. Buses, like the Olympic Peninsula Transit, offer another option

If flying, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) is a common choice, with a 2.5- to 3-hour drive to Port Angeles.

Canadians can ferry from British Columbia to Victoria, BC, and cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca to reach the park.

Picture shows flower and fauna of olympic national park while comparing it against Mount Rainier National Park
Source: Visit Rainier

To get to Mount Rainier National Park, you can drive. There are four main entrances, with Nisqually being the most popular. Entrance fees are $30, and valid for seven days. 

If flying, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the closest, about 82 miles by car, while Portland International Airport is an option at about 138 miles. Public buses are limited, making traveling by car the most convenient way to access different park entrances and areas.

Bonus: Check out this discussion on Vail Ski Resort

Wildlife

Both Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are renowned for their rich variety of wildlife.

At Olympic National Park, you can come across a range of wildlife, from marine mammals like gray whales, sea lions, and harbor seals to various bird species. The park’s diverse ecosystems, including ancient rainforests, rugged coastlines, and alpine meadows, offer a special chance to observe a wide variety of animals.

In contrast, Mount Rainier National Park is the habitat for mammals like black bears, mountain goats, and marmots, along with bird species like eagles and hawks. The park’s ecosystems, which vary with elevation, provide a home to diverse wildlife. Additionally, it’s famous for wildflower meadows and offers extensive hiking trails to explore.

Things to do – Mount Rainier National Park & Olympic Prk

Both Olympic and Mount Rainier offer you fun activities from hiking to taking a scenic drive. 

In Olympic National Park, you can engage in various fun activities. Wildlife viewing is a highlight, with diverse marine mammals, birds, and terrestrial animals offering abundant opportunities for observation.

The picture shows a jungle view Mount Rainier national park
Source: Lonely Planet

Hiking enthusiasts can explore trails through ancient rainforests, rugged coastlines, and alpine meadows, while scenic drives around the Paradise area provide stunning landscapes and mountain views. Photography enthusiasts will find year-round opportunities to capture the park’s diverse landscapes, wildlife, and vibrant compositions.

Mount Rainier National Park offers equally enjoyable activities. You can hike through the higher elevation trails that offer challenging yet rewarding experiences with glacier views and alpine scenery

Wildlife viewing includes encounters with black bears, mountain goats, and eagles, providing a glimpse into the park’s diverse fauna. If you are a photography enthusiast, the picturesque setting, with old-growth forests and a glacier-capped active volcano, makes Mount Rainier a haven.

Which One to Choose Between Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier?

Just as difficult as choosing between Copper Mountain and Keystone, it can be hard to go for anyone between Olympic and Mount Rainier National Park. 

If you like a mix of rainforests, rugged coastlines, and alpine meadows, and want to see mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, hot springs, and the ocean all in one park, Olympic National Park is the perfect choice for you.

If you enjoy challenging hikes with glacier views and alpine scenery, then Mount Rainier National Park is the ideal pick. Additionally, if you’re looking for a family-friendly destination with plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, Mount Rainier National Park is a great fit. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, both Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier are great choices for a nice time in the mountains of Washington. Hopefully, through our guide, you can select the best option for you.

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