5 Scenic Hiking Trails In Mount Rainier National Park

From dawn to dusk, the beauty of Mount Rainier endures.

Visit these five scenic hiking trails to make the most of your time in the Evergreen State.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier. Photo: Photo by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

It’s early morning in the Cascade Range; the sky is dark and the clouds are ablaze. Flaming fog flickers in the fiery firmament as the morning mist erupts in a celestial conflagration. The glowing horizon illuminates Mount Rainier, a lone white peak backlit by the iridescent inferno. Only four mountains in the continental United States—Whitney, Elbert, Massive and Harvard—are taller than this active volcano, which stands at an impressive 14,410 feet.

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the stunning splendor of Mount Rainier. Take the 1.3-mile Snow Lake Trail to see the icy summit’s likeness depicted in the clear, glassy water. For a slightly longer walk, try the Tipsoo Lake Loop, a moderate 3.6-mile path with beautiful views of the turquoise water. If you’re ready for a backcountry adventure, carve out a few hours to conquer the Tolmie Peak Trail, a strenuous 5.6-mile trek with phenomenal views of towering trees encircling Mowich Lake, a hidden aquamarine gem.

Skyline Trail

Washington State
Trillium Lake. Photo: Photo by Sean Estergaard on Unsplash

The late morning sun casts a golden sheen on the light green grass that lines Skyline Trail, a 5.5-mile loop with scenic views of Mount Rainier. Soak in the beauty of vibrant wildflowers as you slowly make your way up to Panorama Point, one of several landmarks along this moderate hike. You will gain 1700 feet in elevation as you climb, so get ready for a steep trek as you walk along this paved path that curves through rolling hillsides.

One of the trail’s classic attractions is Nisqually Glacier, a massive ice-and-rock formation on Rainier’s southwestern face. Zigzagging patches of creamy snow coat its sprawling charcoal face, creating a mosaic of dark stone and white frost. If you are hiking Skyline Trail on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of summits as far away as Oregon’s Mount Hood, a towering stratovolcano overlooking Trillium Lake. In the summer, bring sunscreen to block the rays and crampons to navigate the snow so you’re comfortable from head to toe on your hike.

Paradise

Paradise
Paradise. Photo: Photo by Planet Earth on Facebook

It’s a sunny afternoon in Paradise , a hidden gem nestled in the southwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park. As tempting as it may be to step off the trail and pick a free bouquet of the vibrant yellow and purple wildflowers that cover the slopes of this peaceful dale, stick to the designated paths to avoid eroding the soil and damaging the vegetation. Just one mile away from Paradise, the stunning Narada Falls cataract crashes onto dark rocks, kicking up white spray that serves as a backdrop for the faint rainbow that dances just out of reach. The rainbow’s elusive arc spans the foaming pool, a hazy band of color glowing against the creamy canvas of the cascade.

After visiting Narada Falls, head to Paradise Inn, a historic gray chalet that’s been in business since July 1917. Although a century has passed since its founding, the rustic lodge stays true to the simplicity of its early days as none of the rooms have Wi-Fi access, television or air conditioning. When packing for your trip, keep in mind that the rooms are remarkably small and there is little space to store luggage. What the inn lacks in size it makes up for in culinary wizardry—chefs whip up delicious bourbon buffalo meatloaf in the dining room and fresh pastries at the Tatoosh Café to satisfy your savory and sweet cravings.

Ohanapecosh

Silver Falls
Silver Falls. Photo: Photo by Mount Rainier National Park on Facebook

The sun is setting and the trees are just beginning to cast long shadows over Silver Falls, a churning cascade whose blue-white foam gushes into the Ohanapecosh River on its mad rush towards Gifford Pinchot National Forest. For the best views of the crashing cataract, take the 3-mile Silver Falls Loop Trail, a moderately strenuous hike that leads to a stunning overlook. Stand above the raging falls and peer down into the monstrous basin, a yawning cavern that receives the roiling whitewater and sends it downriver in a frenzy of froth.

If you only have time for a quick jaunt, try the 0.5-mile trail at Box Canyon, an easy loop that meanders alongside the forest with a lovely view of the river far below. This walk is ideal if you are ready to pull over and stretch your legs for a few minutes before you continue driving. If you would rather gaze on the beauty of nature from afar, stop at Inspiration Point and snap the classic shot of cloud-wreathed Mount Rainier standing guard over the wooded valley.

Longmire

Mount Rainier At Night
Mount Rainier At Night. Photo: Photo by Mount Rainier National Park on Facebook

Sparkling stars stud the pitch-black sky as twilight descends on Longmire, a national historic district and visitor services center east of Mount Rainier’s Nisqually entrance. The darkness swirls around Longmire’s Comet Falls, seeping into the crevices of the cascade and concealing the creamy cataract under a coal-black cloak.

The dusk gives the 0.75-mile Trail of the Shadows an ebony hue, veiling the red alder and cedar trees along the path in an inky shroud as the day comes to a close and the world slows to a crawl. In the distance, tiny points of light gleam in the heavens like glittering diamonds set in a velvet case. The forest is still, safe in the shadow of the mighty mountain. And it is night.

Experience all that Mount Rainier has to offer when you visit these five scenic attractions.

Hannah Larson

Contributing Editor

A southern California native, Hannah is a traveler and thrill seeker whose love of writing is matched only by her passion for adventure. From ziplining alongside Niagara Falls to paddleboarding in Lake Itasca, she is always on the lookout for exciting experiences in beautiful places. Her favorite national parks include the Great Smokies, Sequoia and Glacier because of the spectacular mountain views.

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