Albert and Maria Gehrke were among the first settlers to the area of Rainier, homesteading here in 1890.

Welcome to Rainier, Washington

Rainier grew as a result of trees and trains. The community was located on the original Northern Pacific rail line, as well as the later Milwaukee Road Railroad, and this convenient transportation (at the time) encouraged a series of significant mill operations in the community. The Bob White Lumber Mill opened in 1906 and brought with it prosperous times and growth to Rainier. Later mills such as Linstrom and Handforth Lumber, Des Chutes Lumber, Gruber and Doucherty, and Fir Tree Lumber also brought people and vitality to the area.

A series of devastating fires in the late 1920’s and 1930’s destroyed many of the mill and town buildings and logging operations shifted to Vail after the fires. However, Rainier remained a center for the area’s commerce and education. Rail lines also transitioned away from Rainier over time. The Milwaukee Road Railroad currently experiences little traffic and the former Northern Pacific Prairie Line is now home to the Yelm-Tenino trail.

Yelm-Tenino Trail

The 14-mile long Yelm-Tenino trail (which connects to the 21-mile long Chehalis-Western Trail just west of Rainier) travels through the heart of the Rainier community as well as the surrounding rural lands. This trail offers the opportunity to travel through the prairie filled valleys of South Thurston County and past water bodies such as McIntosh Lake and the Deschutes River.


Existing businesses in Rainier are primarily located along Highway 507 (Binghampton Street) and just off the Yelm-Tenino Trail in the downtown area. Must see stops within the downtown include: the Main Street Cookie Company (a locally-owned artisanal bakery famous for making cookies with real ingredients) and Ginger Street (a shop that combines historic and contemporary items for a shopping experience that is always interesting). Other must see items include: the 14-mile Yelm-Tenino Trail (bring your bicycle) and the unique historic Rainier Schoolhouse - the site of the community’s volunteer library and a local thrift shop.

Yelm - Rainier - Tenino Trail