The iconic Mt. Rainier rises 14,417′ above sea-level and punctuates Washington’s beautiful Cascade Range. Located in the National Park of the same name, Mt. Rainier offers tons of opportunities for hiking, climbing, camping and more. While the national park does have several campgrounds, we find that often times the best way to experience the area is to plan on dispersed camping near Mt. Rainier.
To make your trip planning a bit easier, we’ve compiled this handy guide of the best Mt. Rainier dispersed camping.
Mount Rainier Dispersed Camping Guide
- The Basics
- The Best Dispersed Camping Areas Near Mt. Rainier
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The following sections contain all the basic information you need to plan a free, dispersed camping trip near Mt. Rainier. Everything from when to camp, what to bring, and how to get there.
This is the essential info before you head out!
For more information on dispersed camping in Washington check out our complete guide here.
Mt. Rainier Dispersed Camping Essentials
Dispersed camping in near Mt. Rainier carries some additional Leave No Trace responsibilities compared to staying in one of the developed campgrounds in the area.
Please always follow these principles when dispersed camping:
- Plan Ahead & Prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that permits dispersed camping.
- Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
- Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. Other than trash of course!
- Minimize campfire impacts: Never create new fire rings and only have fires if permitted.
- Respect Wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
- Be considerate of Other Visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.
When to Camp Near Mt. Rainier
Camping season in the Cascades is generally during the summer months from May – September. The most popular months for camping near Mt. Rainier are July and August when school is out and the weather is at it’s best. June and September also make excellent months to plan a camping trip as you’ll still enjoy relatively good weather, but without some of the crowds.
During winter you can expect freezing temperatures, snow, and generally inhospitable conditions. For this reason, we don’t recommend a winter camping trip near Mt. Rainier unless you’re properly prepared.
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What to Bring
- Map: A good map is essential to making sure you are on public land, exploring the area, and learning more about your surroundings. We recommend this National Geographic map of Mt. Rainier National Park.
- Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
- Portable water container – A portable water container is essential.
- Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
- Portable toilet – Many of the dispersed camping areas have been heavily impacted by human waste. Bringing a portable toilet ensures you don’t pollute or damage this beautiful place.
Permits and Fees
One of our favorite things about dispersed camping is the lack of need for any permits or fees to be paid. Dispersed camping near Mt. Rainier is no different, and none of the dispersed camping areas in this guide require a permit or have any associated fees.
However, be aware that regulations often change, campsites close, and the Forest Services makes changes to camping rules. As such, it is best to check with the National Forest Ranger District for the area you plan to camp to confirm your plans:
- Gifford Pinchot National Forest
- Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
- Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Dispersed Camping Near Mt. Rainier, Washington
The following guide contains the 5 best dispersed camping areas surrounding Mt. Rainier.
In addition, the map below gives an overview of each dispersed camping areas’ location with a full description included in the following section.
Planning a Washington State road trip? Be sure to check out our other camping guides in the area:
Forest Road 52 Dispersed Camping
Distance to Mt. Rainier: 8 miles from Nisqually Entrance
Water: No, but may be possible to take from the Nisqually River.
One of the most spectacular dispersed camping options near Mt. Rainier is Forest Road 52, just southwest of the national park. Located adjacent to the beautiful Nisqually River there are good sites almost the entire length of the road as it parallels the river.
You’re also just eight miles from the Nisqually Entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park, making this an excellent overnight option. The crowds can get heavy along FR52 during the summer months to be sure to arrive early if you want to secure one of the prime spots.
There are no services along FR52, so please come prepared to be self-sufficient. That includes packing out human waste and all trash and always practicing Leave No Trace principles.
Distance to Mt. Rainier: 2.5 miles from Carbon River Ranger Station
Situated near the northwest corner of Mt. Rainier is the Carbon River dispersed camping area. Campsites sit adjacent to the river on this logging road and there are a wide variety of site conditions. Along the paved portion of the road there are several nice pullouts that offer a bit of privacy. However, the further back you head, the less privacy you can expect.
There have been several reports of significant trash along Carbon River, so please be sure to leave your campsite in better condition than you found it here.
You’re less than five minutes drive from the Carbon River Ranger Station when camping here, and you’ll also be well positioned to visit Mowich Lake, one of the true gems of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Skate Creek Dispersed Camping
Distance to Mt. Rainier: 15 miles from Nisqually Entrance
Skate Creek Road continues where Forest Road 52 leaves off and gives a few more options for those seeking a more remote dispersed camping option. To get here, you’ll head along Forest Road 52 until it turns south and meets FR 5270. There are several campsites here, and for those with 4WD you can head up 5270 to find additional sites.
The crowds are definitely thinner here when compared to FR52, but you’ll also be a bit further from the national park.
As with the other dispersed camping options in this guide there are no services in the area so be prepared to be self sufficient. That is doubly true if you’re planning on heading up FR5270, as you’ll be getting more remote than Skate Creek Road.
FR73/Lost Creek Dispersed Camping
Distance to Mt. Rainier: 20 miles from the White River Entrance
A remote dispersed camping area near Mt. Rainier is the FR73/Lost Creek area northeast of the national park. Located in Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, FR73 has several excellent dispersed campsites along its length. Some of the best sites are tucked back along Lost Creek, providing a good water source and tranquil campsite.
You’ll have fairly easy access to Mt. Rainier here as the White River Entrance is only about 40 minutes away. From there, you can enjoy some of the excellent hiking from the Glacier Basin trailhead.
Be warned that trash has become a serious issue along FR73. PLEASE be sure to pack out all of your own trash and even consider cleaning up anything you find when you arrive. Leaving your campsite in better condition than you found it will help ensure the area remains open to camping.
Bumping River Road Dispersed Camping
Distance to Mt. Rainier: 40 miles from the White River Entrance
Bumping River Road parallels Bumping Lake and provides a few good dispersed campsites near Mt. Rainier. Camping is permitted along almost the entire length of the road, all the way to Bumping Lake itself. For those planning to visit Mt. Rainier National Park, you’ll be best served by grabbing one of the sites earlier on the road as opposed to heading all the way to the lake.
Many of the campsites have small fire rings to denote them, but be sure to check fire regulations before having a campfire.
Most vehicles should be able to reach the campsites here, although it is always best to inquire with the USFS on current road conditions. If you get in a pinch, there is a developed campground at Bumping Lake that has drinking water, although it is best to come prepared to be self-sufficient.
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Have a great trip!
That’s it! We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a great Mt. Rainier dispersed camping trip, and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure!
Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!