Paradise found: Part I

Mount Rainier reflected in the windows of the Jackson Visitor Center.
Mount Rainier reflected in the windows of the Jackson Visitor Center. (Craig Craker)

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.

Mount Rainier looms above hikers making their way up the Skyline Trail.
Mount Rainier looms above hikers making their way up the Skyline Trail. (Veronica Craker)

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.

The second you exit your vehicle in the Paradise Historic District parking lot you are greeted with an overwhelming site.
The second you exit your vehicle in the Paradise Historic District parking lot you are greeted with an overwhelming site. (Craig Craker)

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.

The views of Mount Rainier are stunning in their immediacy when you are at Paradise.
The views of Mount Rainier are stunning in their immediacy when you are at Paradise. (Craig Craker)

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.

The National Park Inn with the Tatoosh Range in the background is an iconic shot.
The National Park Inn with the Tatoosh Range in the background is an iconic shot. (Craig Craker)

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.

The main trails around the Jackson Visitor Center are paved, but if you want to get away from the tourists you will have to hoof it up the dirt and gravel trails.
The main trails around the Jackson Visitor Center are paved, but if you want to get away from the tourists you will have to hoof it up the dirt and gravel trails. (Veronica Craker)

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

The Longmire area of Mt. Rainier National Park is the first main stop you come to when coming in the Nisqually Entrance.
The Longmire area of Mt. Rainier National Park is the first main stop you come to when coming in the Nisqually Entrance. (Craig Craker)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rachel says:

    We haven’t made it to Paradise yet. We’ve gone to Sunrise, which is stunning, and we will go to Paradise sometime in the next month. I can’t wait!

    Like

    1. It really is beautiful. Being up there never gets old!

      Like

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