Scenic Camping and Hiking at White River Campground

Mt Rainier with wildflowers at Sunrise Visitor Center

White River Campground is a first-come-first-served campground near the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park. Many visitors overlook the beauty found in this eastern section of the park for the more popular area around Paradise. However, if you don’t take time to explore the area surrounding Sunrise and White River Campground, you will be missing out!

During the summer Cougar Rock Campground and Ohanepecosh Campground fill up due to their online reservation system. Whenever this has been the case, I have always been able to find a site at White River Campground. I think it helps that it has no online reservation system and is strictly a first-come-first-serve system.

While camping at White River Campground, you can hike from the campground to see the largest glacier in the lower 48 States. Fall asleep to the sound of the roaring river. And wake up to the most beautiful views of Mount Rainier. Visit Sunrise Visitor Center, the highest point in the park you can drive to.  You do not want to miss the fantastic views and hiking trails here!

Getting to White River Campground

Drive east on WA Highway 410. It is approximately 1 hour from Enumclaw to White River Campground. Follow Chinook Pass Highway/Highway 410 until you see the road fork to the right for Sunrise Rd/White River Rd. You will turn right here and follow the road to the entrance station for Mount Rainier National Park. Pay the Mt Rainier National Park entrance fee and continue for another 5 miles before making a left at the entrance sign for White River Campground.

Finding a Campsite

Campsite with tents at White River Campground
We reserved two sites side by side for our group.

Follow the road into the campground, and you will pass the pay station parking on your right. I recommend you stop here and pick up the pay envelope that you need to complete your campsite reservation. Then continue driving thru Loop A, B, C, and D to find an available spot. 

Tip: Loop A, C and D all have restrooms with flushing toilets and sinks. Loop B has a pit toilet supplied with hand sanitizer.

Once you have found the campsite you want, fill out the envelope with the necessary information, then tear off the tab and attach to your site number to reserve the spot while you go pay. You will take your envelope with payment (cash or check) and submit it at the pay station, by dropping it in the pay slot. A ranger will come by later in the day to add a tab to your campsite number showing the date you have reserved your spot thru. 

Things to Do at White River Campground

Emmons Moraine Glacier at Mount Rainier
Viewpoint for the Emmons Moraine Glacier at the end of the Emmons Moraine Trail.

There are lots of things to do at White River Campground and one of them is the hike to see the Emmons Moraine Glacier.  Mount Rainier is home to many different glaciers, but this one is the largest. In fact, it is the largest glacier in the lower 48 states! Pretty impressive, huh?

Getting to the Trailhead

You will find the trailhead for the Glacier Basin Trail in Loop D. Your hike to Emmons Moraine starts here. This easy hike is about 3 miles total out and back. It has a steady uphill climb, but it never gets very steep. The 6 year old in our group practically ran the whole way there and back. It takes 1-2 hours total to complete the hike. 

Glacier Basin Trail to Emmons Moraine Trail

Follow the Glacier Basin Trail as it winds its way thru the beautiful wooded forest with views of White River below. You will pass small streams and waterfalls forging paths down the mountainside. After about 1 mile the Emmons Moraine trail will split from the Glacier Basin Trail and you will make a left to continue to the viewpoint for the glacier. 

log bridge crossing White River

Hiker crossing the log bridge that takes you to the viewpoint for Emmons Moraine.

Continuing on the Emmons Moraine Trail

As you turn left  you will walk down to the river and cross a log bridge before climbing back up the hillside where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the Emmons Moraine Glacier. You will also have beautiful views of the turquoise lake created by the glacier run off and glacial silt. It is quite the stunning view. Feel free to wander further up the trail for closer views of the glacier before turning around to make the hike back to camp.
Hiker looking down at the glacial ponds formed from Emmons Moraine Glacier

The glacial pond formed from Emmons Moraine.

Optional Side Hikes from Emmons Moraine Trail

If you prefer to do a longer hike, you can always take the trail down to the glacial lake (although it’s a bit of a scramble, so proceed with caution) or you can return to the junction for the Glacier Basin Trail and hike to Glacier Basin Camp which is another 2.2 miles from the junction. This adds a total of 4.4 miles to the Emmons Moraine hike, making it about a 7.5 mile hike by the time you return to camp.

Additional Hikes and Things to Do at White River Campground

If you want additional hikes to do from White River Campground, you can hike a portion of the Wonderland Trail starting at  Loop C near the old patrol cabin. This trail will take you up to Sunrise. It is about a 3-mile hike from White River Campground to Sunrise Visitor Center.

From the day-use parking lot, you can follow a trail down to the river. Kids and adults alike will enjoy looking for unique rocks and perhaps tossing one or two into the river for fun. It is also a great place to spot views of Rainier and the Emmons Moraine glacier.

In the summer the rangers will often lead evening talks at the community campfire just off the main road in the park (the road that goes by the different loops). You will find the bulletin board here too, which should list any upcoming programs.

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” ~John Muir

Visit Sunrise Visitor Center

Mt Rainier at Sunrise Visitor Center
Views of Rainier at Sunrise Visitor Center

Don’t miss a visit to Sunrise Visitor Center while staying at White River Campground. The visitor center is another 11 miles up the road from the campground. Follow the road out of the campground and make a left at the junction to get back on Sunrise Rd. Continue to the top where you will find the Sunrise Visitor Center Complex and parking. 

There are so many beautiful hikes to do here. There are easy nature hikes that will only take an hour or less to longer multi-hour hikes. Stop by the ranger station and ask them for some recommended trails based on your preferences. Some easier ones I recommend are the: Sourdough Ridge Nature Trail, Shadow Lake, and the Sunrise Rim loop.

Tips for Camping at White River Campground

  • There is no electricity in the restrooms. So bring a flashlight or LED lantern for those nighttime trips to the bathroom.
  • There is also no soap in the restrooms, so make sure to pack some from home.
  • White River Campground is at a much higher elevation, which means it can get a lot colder here at night, so pack layers and extra blankets.
  • The campground host drives thru the campground loops each night selling firewood. Make sure to have cash. As of 2019, it was $7/bundle.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out this Eastern section of Mount Rainier, don’t miss it!  You will be amazed by the beauty you find here.  And if you want another stunning hike only a 25-minute drive from the campground, you will find the Naches Peak Loop Trail. I highly recommend it!

Happy Camping & Happy Trails!

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