Longmire, just inside the Nisqually Entrance, is the park's oldest developed area and the site of the historic hotel, which opened in 1899. Here you'll find the old Mount Rainier National Park Headquarters, now the National Park Inn, a year-round lodge and restaurant. There's also a museum, a general store, a wilderness information center, and a post office. Although it sounds as if this must be a small city, it is actually quite compact and rarely very crowded. Other important features of the area are the Trail of the Shadows, Historic District Walking Trail, and a Transportation Exhibit.
Paradise, in the south-central portion of the park, is a subalpine meadow and one of the most popular areas for visitors. Nearby you'll find the Jackson Visitor Center, the park's main visitor center, a gracefully curving stone and concrete structure that houses a snack bar and the only public showers in the park. Interesting exhibits on geology, glaciers, and the local flora and fauna are here. Paradise is also the site of the Paradise Inn, a historic mountain lodge. On busy days in the summer, there is a free shuttle from Ashford to Paradise; check the website for the current schedule.
Ohanapecosh, off Wash. 123 in the park's southeast corner, offers scenic views of the Ohanapecosh River near a visitor center. Inside, look for exhibits focused primarily on the old-growth forest ecosystem that surrounds this area. The 188-site Ohanapecosh Campground is here, as are several good, short hikes.
At 6,400 feet, Sunrise, in the northeast part, is the highest point to which you can drive in the park. This is the second most popular spot in the park. You'll find displays and naturalist-led walks, a snack bar and restaurant, and interpretive programs on the subalpine and alpine ecosystems. You can look at the glaciers up close with free telescopes. The visitor center is open daily from July through mid-September, when the roadway is open.
The Carbon River area, in the northwest corner, provides access to the most heavily forested area in the park. The jury is still out as to whether the terrain is actually lowland forest or temperate rainforest. The road here is currently closed to vehicle traffic until a reconstruction opens a small segment (most of it will become a hiking route), but trails lead into the backcountry and connect with the Wonderland Trail. A separate road (Wash. 165) reaches the Mowich Lake area, open to the lake in summer only.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.