Your visit to Mount Rainier National Park will probably center around two major hiking areas: Paradise, on the mountain’s south side, and Sunrise, on the eastern side. While the view of Rainier diminishes in the afternoon at Sunrise, the mountain stays beautifully lit all day at Paradise. And thanks to a variety of long and short trails at Paradise, you can easily spend an afternoon or a couple of days hiking here.
Almost all of the trails at Paradise begin at this staircase (above), on which is inscribed a quote from John Muir:
… the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.
He summed it up pretty well. You probably will never find a more beautiful place than Paradise, especially if you’re lucky enough to visit on a sunny, blue-sky day.
I’ll discuss the details of many of the popular trails on the following pages. If you’re looking for a short hike, the quick jaunt to Myrtle Falls may be your best bet. Alta Vista is a lung- and leg-strainer, but gives you a great view of the mountain and everything else in the area. Skyline Trail could take most of a day, but slightly less if you use the Golden Gate shortcut. You might also want to try the Nisqually Glacier Vista Trail, which leaves from the remote parking lot.
There’s a nice Visitor Center at Paradise…
… where you can get information on the hikes, buy lunch, and shop for souvenirs. It also has restrooms and a water bottle filling station (translation: fancy water fountain).
The Paradise Inn is on the other side of the parking lot at Paradise. If you’re not fortunate enough to be staying here, you can still stop here for a more formal lunch or dinner…
… or grab something from the snack bar, then relax in the inn’s huge, comfy lobby.