Golden Gate Trail, at Paradise

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Once you’ve arrived at Myrtle Falls, you’ll probably be tempted to continue exploring the Paradise area.  You have a couple of options, but the most direct route to a high viewpoint is the Golden Gate Trail, which slices right through the middle of Paradise’s wildflower meadows.

The Golden Gate Trail is a shortcut to the middle of the Skyline Trail, which loops around Paradise.  As you hike up the Golden Gate Trail, you’ll have a constant view of Mount Rainier…

… and if you’re here in late summer, you’ll see a stunning display of wildflowers, too.

The downside to the Golden Gate Trail is its elevation gain.  It’s uphill the entire mile, from Myrtle Falls to the Skyline Trail junction.  Stop often, and take in your surroundings.

Before you get to the toughest part of the climb (several switchbacks take you directly up the side of this hill), you’ll cross the Paradise River, which is only a small creek at this point.

There’s a small waterfall here, and a pile of rocks…

… where you’re likely to spot a Marmot or two.  These creatures are friendly, and don’t seem to be bothered by the humans who take pictures.

Beyond the creek, the toughest part of the climb begins.  Look closely at the upper-left corner of the photo above.  This is where the Paradise River cascades down the hillside.  One of the trail’s switchbacks…

… will bring you fairly close to the waterfall.

Looking back, to the south, you’ll have a nice view of the little piece of Paradise through which you just hiked.  In the distance, the Tatoosh Mountains look dark and foreboding, thanks to their jagged peaks and the position of the sun, which never shines on their north side.

Just when you think you’ve reached the top of the Golden Gate Trail, you discover you haven’t.  Another switchback is hidden from view, until you reach this clearing.  More climbing, up some natural stairs, is necessary to get to the end.

Along the way, you’re likely to see some unmelted snow.  There’s even more of it ahead.

The Golden Gate Trail ends at a rather un-scenic point.  Make a left onto the Skyline Trail and walk a bit further, to this viewpoint, where a couple of flat rocks provide a place to sit and rest.

At this spot, you have a good view of the Nisqually Glacier’s icefall.  It’s like a frozen waterfall, where the glacier slides slowly down the hillside.

You could continue up this trail, about 1.4 miles further, to Panorama Point, where you’d have an unparalleled view of everything in the Paradise area.  Unfortunately, it was too late in the day for me to extend my hike…

… so I headed back downhill, where once again, Rainier was in perfect view.

As I hiked, I stopped to enjoy the crowded fields of Lupine…

… and make friends with a couple more marmots, who were scampering across the trail.  Their burrows are in the rocks along the edge of the trail.

I wonder if those teeth help them whistle?

After annoying this guy for a few minutes, he finally scampered away, and I finished up my hike, headed back to Myrtle Falls, then down to the Paradise parking area.

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