Day Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park
by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer (The Mountaineers Books)
© Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.
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 traveled this route in the clockwise direction (heading nw), ascending 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
The wildflowers were everywhere along this trail that was covered in snow near the Lakes Trail junction. Along the way, I counted 4 Marmots doing their thing, seemingly unafraid of humans hiking nearby. I also caught a view of Mt. St. Helens off to the south.
The trail was a challenge in spots due to snow cover, but it was definitely enjoyable. It also offered some of the best views of Mt. Rainier in the whole park -- up close and personal!
Besides the Wonderland Trail, this is the Skyline Trail offers the best views. Each hike is different. Two years ago we hiked on 10 ft of snow up to Panorama Point (6800 ft above sea level) and the rest of the trail was not open. This year, the trail had almost no snow and we hiked through the meadows of Paradise. Parts of the trail are steep but if you reach Panorama Point, the view will take your breath away. Mount Adams lies to the left, Mount Hood is in the center, Mount St. Helens to the right, and behind you is Mount Rainier. This is one of the best trails I have hiked in any National Park.
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