If you Google the word paradise you are immediately met with images of tropical beaches, links to the John Milton book “Paradise Lost”, descriptions about the Garden of Eden and potential afterlife destinations in general.
My results page also includes links to Paradise Bowling alley in Tacoma – I would never cheat on Tower Lanes, Google! – as well as plenty of links to Mt. Rainier.
And for good reason.
When we first moved to Tacoma in the summer of 2014, we wanted to go visit Rainier as soon as possible. And if you are going to drive up onto the side of the great mountain, you might as well visit a place called Paradise.
Driving through the old growth forest and winding your way up the hill to Longmire – which is a beautiful area of the park near the Nisqually entrance, which we plan to explore in the future – and eventually crossing over the Nisqually Glacier Bridge, you start to see why someone would refer to this area as Paradise.
But it gets better. Oh, does it ever get better.
I’ve never seen a more majestic parking lot than the one for the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. Hundreds of tourists stumble around slack jawed in awe of the sight before them.
Mt. Rainier in all her glory towers above the treeline and alpine meadows, strewn with wildflowers. Add in the historic inn built in 1916 and you have all the makings of a scene as beautiful as any in our country.
The site is the most visited in the national park, and parking can be limited, so for best results I’d encourage you to hit the road early.
There are myriad hiking trails to choose from, ranging from easy to supremely difficult. There are paved trails, giving everyone access to this amazing area – or if you want to try and summit the mountain, you can do so from Paradise as well (though you need permits, and gear, etc.).
The visitor center, which was built in 2008 replacing an old one, offers displays about the history of the area and the mountain itself. There is also a gift shop and a restaurant in the National Park Inn. Be sure and visit all the buildings to enjoy the history of each structure.
But most of all, take some time to stand at the base of the stairs leading to the vast trail network and reflect on John Muir’s words that are carved into the base of them:
“… the most luxurious and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.” John Muir, 1889
Muir, the famous conservationist who helped establish Yosemite National Park in California, was a frequent visitor to Mt. Rainier, and particularly Paradise and for good reason.
The area got its name when park pioneer James Longmire’s daughter-in-law, Martha, proclaimed when seeing the mile-high area for the first time, “Oh, what a paradise.”
Apter words have rarely been spoken.
– Craig Craker