Sitting at an elevation of 6,400-feet in the parkland meadows of Yakima Park, Sunrise is Mount Rainier’s highest visitor center. With close-up views of the massive Emmons Glacier, and hundreds of acres of meadows bursting with wildflowers, Sunrise rivals the more popular Paradise when it comes to scenic splendor. Situated in the park’s drier northeastern corner thanks to Mount Rainier’s rain-shadow effect, Sunrise as the name suggests is also one of the first places in the park to capture morning’s early light.
However, owing to its lofty elevation, Sunrise is buried in snow for most of the year, limiting its opening. Typically, park officials open the 16 mile paved road leading to Sunrise from SR 410 from late June until early October, with the visitor center open from early July to early September.
There is no lodging at Sunrise like at Paradise, but Rainier Guest Services operates a snack bar serving hot meals and a gift shop at its day lodge at Sunrise. The National Park Service maintains an excellent visitor center here too, complete with exhibits on Rainier’s geology and the park’s natural and cultural history. The center also offers book sales and free ranger hosted programs and guided walks. At the center you can also use one of several mounted telescopes to take in close-up views of Rainier’s impressive glaciers.
Park visitors not planning to hike or camp should consider a trip to Sunrise, the highest point in the park you can drive to. The road leading to Sunrise ranks among the most beautiful drives in the country. En route be sure to pull over at Sunrise Point, where you can feast on sweeping alpine views that include five volcanoes; Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Adams and Mount Hood in Oregon. Also consider perhaps arriving at Sunrise Point in the wee hours of the morning for one of the finest sunrise showings to be seen anywhere in the nation!