A review from our tenting trip to Ohanapecosh Campground in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. Check out our campground info, how and when to make reservations, and tips on picking the best campsite.
A few summers ago, we traveled to Washington State for a road trip to the national parks. Mount Rainier was the first stop on our trip. I did not have very high expectations for our visit. We live in Colorado and see a lot of tall mountains. I didn’t think that Mount Rainier would be any different, but it ended up being one of our favorite stops on our trip.
The dramatic elevation changes from the base of the volcano to the summit are breathtaking. We only spent three days here, but had a great time and stayed at a great campground.
Camping in Mount Rainier National Park
There are four campgrounds in Mount Rainier National Park. One in each region of the park. The park makes a giant square around Mount Rainier, with Mount Rainier located in the middle. There is a loop road that you can take around the entire volcano that runs both inside the national park and outside the park. There is also a 93-mile hiking trail (The Wonderland Trail) that circles Mount Rainier if that is more your style.
Generally, you can separate the park out in directional regions, the southeast corner (Ohanapecosh), the southwest corner (Longmire area and Paradise Visitor Center), the northeast corner (Sunrise Visitor Center), and the northwest corner (Mowich). We stayed at the Ohanapecosh Campground on the southeast side of the park.
Ohanapecosh is on the southeast side of Mount Rainier outside of the Stevens Canyon Entrance on the Ohanapecosh River. We arrived at the campground from Yakima, Washington (about an hour and a half away). The campground is just under 3 hours from Seattle.
From the campground, it is a 45-minute (23-mile) drive to the Paradise Visitor Center. We went to the visitor center every day and didn’t mind the drive. There is a lot to look at on the drive and we stopped by several lakes and lookouts on the way.
There are also a lot of great hikes in this part of the park. If you are looking for something more central, you might want to consider staying at Cougar Rock.
There can be dramatic elevation and weather changes as you travel around the park. Make sure you are staying hydrated and be prepared for different weather throughout the day. The Ohanapecosh Campground sits at 1,914 feet elevation, while the Paradise Visitor Center is at 5,400 feet. It might be humid and warm at the campground, but could be in the 30s or 40s in the morning at Paradise.
There are no sewer or electric hookups in any of the Mount Rainier campgrounds, so you’ll need to have tanks and your own source of power if you are in a camper. There is not a dump station in Ohanapecosh, but there is one in the Cougar Rock campground. Generators are allowed in all loops, except Loop E, with designated hours. We were in loop F, but because of the spaciousness of the sites, we didn’t even notice other people’s generators running
The campground has bathrooms with flush toilets, but no showers. None of the campgrounds have showers. The bathrooms were adequate, but nothing special.
The campground had a small store with a limited number of supplies. Even though Mount Rainier isn’t that far from major cities, there are not a lot of grocery stores, gas stations, or restaurants around. Make sure you stock up before heading into the park and plan on cooking food while you stay here.
The campground did have firewood and offered a very convenient drive around service for firewood where they delivered it to your campsite.
There are some good walks and short hikes near the campground you can check out. The Grove of the Patriarchs is a short drive away and the Ohanapecosh Hot Spring Trail leaves from the campground.
Campground Sites & Reservations
It’s a bit easier to make a reservation at this campground since it’s not as central as the other two campgrounds. Ohanapecosh is the largest campground in the park with 188 sites. Even though the campground is large, it doesn’t feel crowded. The sites are spaced out nicely through six different loops.
There isn’t a large visitor center in this area and it’s further away from stores and shops, so this part of the park doesn’t feel as busy as some of the other visitor areas. The campground has large sites along the Ohanapecosh River, a few small creeks, and many sites sit among the 300-foot Douglas fir trees.
I made a reservation about two months before we went on our summer trip and there were only a few sites left. You can make a reservation on the Recreation.gov website up to six-months ahead of time.
We stayed on site 18 in Loop F because it looked nice. Once we arrived, we realized it was one of the best sites in the campground. The site was large for just our one tent, and it was along the creek. We set up the tent right in the middle of the Douglas fir tree grove that was sharing our site. The site had a large stone picnic table, a fire ring, and a bear box.
If you are staying in a tent and want some seclusion, I recommend the walk-in sites. Otherwise, loops E, F, G, and H are the most spread out and in a quieter section of the campground.
Overall, I recommend this campground if you are staying in Mount Rainier. It was a great spot to return to every day after exploring in the park. Because of the lower elevation, it is also a bit warmer than some of the higher elevation areas, so it wasn’t as cold at night when we were sleeping.
Now that you have a place to stay, you’ll need some things to do in the park. Check out my post on things to do in Mount Rainier. Has anyone else stayed at this campground or any of the other campgrounds in Mount Rainier?