When you are standing in the parking lot in the Paradise Historic District in Mt. Rainier National Park, you have many choices about where you can hike.
You can go see glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, heck the top of the mountain itself.
So, what do you do?
I think in some ways it depends on the time of year you are there. If it is wildflower season, you should head up the Skyline Trail toward Myrtle Falls and beyond. If you want to see a glacier, then definitely head up the Nisqually Vista trail (we hiked this one in July 2014 and never saw the glacier or the mountain, as it was foggy the entire time). If it is a good workout you are after, head up the Alta Vista trail for a steep ascent and some stunning views of Rainier and the Tatoosh Range.
You can also hike to Reflection Lakes from here, as well as the Muir Base Camp and even all the way to the top of the mountain.
Since we were hunting wildflowers, we loaded Catarina into her handy-dandy pack on my back and headed uphill toward Myrtle Falls.
We also went this way our last visit, and while it was beautiful, we really couldn’t wait to see it since Rainier wasn’t shrouded in clouds.
There is an iconic photo you can take from the bridge over Myrtle Creek and above Myrtle Falls. The shot we got when Rainier was hidden, was beautiful – but I much prefer this one with Rainier sitting there in all her glory.
At this point in the hike, the paved trail stops and so do the tourists. If you want to enjoy some solitude and really enjoy the stunning quality of Paradise, then I’d encourage you to keep going.
The path winds through the broad meadow, with vast grass expanses to both your left and right. When we were there the Cascade Lupine flowers were in bloom, providing a blue carpet appearance to the grass. The trail quickly begins to climb up a long staircase, eventually reaching a ridge. We actually stopped here as Veronica and I were dead from carrying Catarina. In hindsight, we should’ve had her walk at this point as there was no danger – it would’ve saved our backs and shoulders and we could’ve continued further up the hill.
Despite only going less than 2 miles, we gained enough separation from the crowds to really enjoy the solitude and get a sense of just how huge the mountain is, as well as sweeping views of the Tatoosh Mountain Range in the distance.
If you don’t have to carry a small child in a pack on your back, I’d encourage you to keep going up the hill. The Golden Gate trail is one of the most popular in the park and we plan on reaching the Golden Gate – wherever that is – of it next time, with or without our daughter (hopefully our babysitter wants to work all day later this summer).
No matter which trail you choose to go up at Paradise, though, you are unlikely to feel letdown when it comes to views.