Hiking Mount Rainier National Park
by Heidi Schneider & Mary Skjelset (Falcon Guides)
© Heidi Schneider & Mary Skjelset/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
A great day on Rainier is had here. A bit crowded when we went but not overly so. Everyone having a great day in the sun.
The trials in Paradise can be quite crowded. Early morning is best as by the afternoon the trails are packed especially those closest to the parking/visitor center. We arrived mid-morning when there was still ample parking and a reasonable amount of hikers on the trails. Note that all of the trails within 1+ miles of the Paradise Visitor center seem to be paved. We ascended via the Dead Horse Creek trail before joining the Skyline trail. Although it was not as steep as the Skyline trial it is still all up hill until you reach Pebble Creek so expect to put in some effort. We lucked into a cloudless blue sky and wildflowers in full bloom so the views were spectacular and the scents heavenly. We chose to take the Glacier Vista option and had great views of both glaciers and glacier fed waterfalls. Taking the High Skyline options afforded views of the Muir snowfield up to base camp as well as gorgeous views of Mt Rainier and the surrounding peaks and valleys. At least one section of Low Skyline was snowed over, considered dangerous and will probably remain so until the new snow comes. The descent towards Paradise Glacier and beyond the Trump/Stevens bench was one of my favorite parts, possibly because it was downhill but also because it was the least crowded with great wildflowers, meadows and views of the Tatoosh range. As we descended the final section towards Myrtle falls the traffic increased dramatically and by the time we hit the foot bridge over the falls it was a crush. Had it not been for the paved trails and the hoards of people I probably would have rated this loop as 5 stars, but keep in mind that I had idealic weather, copious flowers, a good lunch and no snow on the trail to impede my progress.
Fantastic views, awesome scenery. Part of the hike is on snow, take sunscreen and trekking poles. Only complaint is that there are a LOT of visitors, parking lot fills up early. Once you pass the 1 mile mark, however, crowd thins significantly and the trail becomes much less crowded. Trails and intersections are well marked, but are somewhat confusing. At times, the trail disappears under the snow. Take a good map - the map included here at trails.com is very good (better than the topo map I took). Overall, super hike.
We had about a foot of snow on the ground, making for a fairly difficult day. The trail was supposed to be the only one marked, but we, and 3 other couples got lost. Not fun, but majestic up to that point.
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