Mount Rainier National Park – Paradise, Skyline Trail Loop Hike


What? :

The Skyline Trail Loop Hike is probably the best hike in Mount Rainier National Park is Skyline Trail Loop that start/end at Paradise visitor center.

The park's main visitor center, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, is in Paradise area and is famous for its glorious views and wildflower meadows.

The hike


This is 5.7-mile loop trail considered to be challenging route; with elevation gain of 1800 ft, it takes an average of 4 hours to complete.

On a clear day the views from this hike are amazing, Mount Rainier glacier covered peak, deep canyons, waterfalls, open subalpine meadows landscape, and vast cascade view all the way south to Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens on clear days.


This is a very popular area for hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while hiking the trail.




Where? :

From Tacoma, take Highway 7 S/Mountain Hwy E/Pacific Ave S for 30 miles until you reach Elbe. After Elbe, WA-7 S splits south (right), while you proceed straight onto WA-706. Continue for 15 miles. After entering Mount Rainier National Park through the Nisqually entrance, 706 will turn into Paradise Rd E.

For 16 miles with number of lookouts and road stops until you have finally reached your destination, the Paradise Visitor Center.





Parking is available in several lots including some overflow lots before you reach the visitor center (turn right into the series of parking lots) and some roadside parking past the Paradise Inn.



When? :

The best times to visit this trail are June through September, when the snow in the lower elevation melted, weather is warm and dry, and the wildflowers are blooming.



Vehicle access to Mount Rainier in the winter is only available from the Nisqually Entrance, in the southwest corner of the park on the way to Paradise Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.

Paradise is the primary winter-use area in the park, receiving on average 640 inches (53.6 feet/16.2 meters) of snow a year. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding. The road between Longmire and Paradise is plowed but closes at night during the winter.

You must check road condition prior your visit.




You can find here the large and park main Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, Paradise Ranger Station, and Paradise Inn,


Visitor Center:

At the park main visitor center is day-use facility. Here you'll find special exhibits, films, guided ranger programs, a bookstore, a snack bar, a gift shop, and public restrooms, as well as informational brochures and maps. During winter months the visitor center is open weekends only.


Paradise Inn:

The historic Paradise Inn offers lodging, a dining room, and a gift shop. The Paradise Inn is usually open from mid-May to early-October and is closed in the winter.


The Guide House houses the Paradise Wilderness Information Center, where visitors can obtain climbing permits and hiking and backcountry camping information.

Due note 1: The Paradise Visitor Center is 5,400 feet in elevation. Panorama Point in Paradise can be reached by hiking and is at 6,800 feet in elevation. Snow can linger on trails well into June. Please stay on the trails; the meadows are very fragile and heavily visited.


Due note 2: Bathrooms located in the Paradise parking lot at the visitor center.


Due note 3: There are 3 food options: at Paradise visitor center, camp Deli at the Jackson Visitor Center, Dining Hall at the Paradise Inn and Tatoosh Cafe in the Paradise lobby.


Due note 4: Dogs or bikes aren't allowed on any park trail.


Due note 5: Take enough water with you for a half day hike.


Due note 6: The weather in high elevation can change dramatically over short time, come prepared for cold and warm weather.


Due note 7: This area can be crowded, especially during good weather weekends. There can be challenging to find parking spot, socially mid-day. Try to come early in the morning.


Due note 8: Mount Rainier National Park is huge, and it can take hours of driving to get from one side to another or to find parking places at the popular locations. Plan your visit in the park in advance and know what you want to do and where you want to visit.



My thoughts:

Skyline Trail hike is no doubt one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park.

It have all what you are looking for, amazing mountain view, icebergs, waterfalls, alpine meadows, and high cascade view.

I visit here on a late fall, warm sunny day and enjoy it a lot. This hike is expose to the wind and rain, also clouds and fog coverage can hide the view, so take this into consideration.

This is not a long hike (about 5.5 miles) but the climbing up the mountain can be challenging, take it slow with a lot of rest stops, you will reach the high point and enjoy the panoramic view.



The visit:


The Paradise area is the park most popular area, and for good reason.

Here you can find epic hiking trails, waterfalls and majestic view of Mount Rainier, subalpine meadows landscape, wildflower meadows, and vast cascade view.

If you have only one day to spend at Mount Rainier Paradise must be your main destination.



There are few nearby locations that worth the visit:

·       Narada Falls

·       Inspiration Point

·       Reflection Lake

·       Louise Lake



There are several short hiking options starting near the visitor center, many are paved trails and shorter than the Skyline Trail.

In my description I will cover only the Skyline Trail (5.5 mile) loop hike.


·       Nisqually Vista Trail (1.2 mile) - Views of the Nisqually Glacier. Suitable for families with strollers.

·       Skyline Trail to Myrtle Falls (1 mile) - Paved and wheelchair accessible with assistance.

·       Deadhorse Creek Trail & Morraine Trail (2.5 mile) - Glacier and wildflower views.

·       Alta Vista Trail (1.7 mile) - Wildflowers and views of the Paradise area.





The Skyline Trail hike:


The Skyline Trail is the main route for hiking starting at Paradise, providing hikers a unique opportunity to experience the breathtaking beauty of Mount Rainier Park.

In peak season your hike will pass views of cascading waterfalls, mighty glaciers, subalpine meadows brimming with colorful splashes of seasonal flowers.


You can hike it in both directions, I hiked it counterclockwise.


The hike start at the visitor center, because I park my car at the lower spill off parking lots, I hiked up Deadhorse Creek trail and connect to Skyline Trail half mile from the trailhead.


Start following Skyline Trail up the steps near the visitor center, here the trail climb the hill near the visitor center.

After crossing the small forest, you can keep follow the trail or use the parallel trails on the ridgelines. All parallel trails are heading up in the same direction, the landscape is open, and you can’t get lost.

When looking up you can see Mount Rainier towering above you and when looking down left you can see the deep canyon of Nisqually River.


The trail climb sharply up the ridge above the creek, and you can find many viewing and resting spots along this climb.

After 1.5 miles from the starting point the trail turn right along the mountain slop, after additional 0.4 miles you will reach Panorama Point (1.9 miles mile point).

Panorama Point provides stunning views of the Paradise valley, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and even, on a clear day, Mount Hood (Oregon). This is an excellent place to take a break.

Panorama Point has a pit toilet that is open in the summer mounts.


Here, and in the next hike section, you can look for marmots or even mountain goats. I manage to see both in this section of the hike.

The mountain goats where gazing and resting on the mountain slops far away, on the other way the marmots were resting in the sun not so far from the hikers.



From Panorama Point the trail keep climbing up the ridge for additional 300 ft, reaching height of 7,000 ft, this is the trail highest point, about 2.3 miles from the visitor center.

From this viewing point the trail start descending in the direction to another ridge.

After hiking about mile down you will reach a trail junction.

From this point you can take a shortcut trail leading down in the direction of the visitor center, the main Skyline Trail loop hike keep heading south on the ridge.

After 3.8 miles from the starting point, you will reach a Paradise River creek crossing.


Keep walking and the trail turn right (south), after short relatively flat section it descend into Paradise River valley, starting to head in the direction of the visitor center.


Here the trail cross few streams and after short climb you will reach Myrtle Falls bridge crossing, 5.2 miles from the hike starting point.

The falls are located about 0.5 mile away from the visitor center.

The best view of the falls is from a short off trail leading to the base of the waterfall. Even if it crowded make sure you will walk down to the waterfall viewpoint with the classical waterfall and mountain view.


From here all the way to the visitor center the trail is paved.

Many people hike only this trail to the waterfall, do expect to see here a lot more people.

Short walk on the paved trail and you will reach your hike starting point, Paradise Inn parking and the visitor center.


Overall, this is a 5.7-mile loop with Elevation gain of 1,768 ft. it took me 4 hours to complete this hike.



Recommended drive out from Paradise visitor center:

After leaving the Visitor Center, you can drive back down the mountain to the west, towards Longmire. Or, you can take the short scenic route on Paradise Road, one-way road leading out.

The road meets Stevens Canyon Road leading to the east (close in winter), turn right and you will reconnect with Paradise Valley Road leading to the west (Longmire) or even back up to the visitor center. Along this short drive you can see the lower part of Myrtle Falls, beautiful valley views, and large meadows.

When driving here I saw a bear right near the road, see my detailed blog with many more pictures.







Additional Pictures: