Skyline Trail at Paradise
Hike description: As summer comes to an end (Thursday morning officially here in the South Sound), it signals the coming conclusion of the season for hiking higher elevation trails.
It’s a good time to sneak in a hike such as the Skyline Trail at Paradise on Mount Rainier. The trail is one of the most popular in the park, but the crowds traditionally shrink in September.
Skyline Trail is a stunning, close up experience with Rainier. Climb upward from the first step on the John Muir stairs. The first portion of the hike is on Paradise’s paved trails. The paths are paved to minimize the impact of the crowds on the fragile meadows. It’s important to stick to these paths at all times. Not only does wandering off trail damage the vegetation, but hikers can be fined.
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On the Skyline, you’re likely to cross paths with climbers starting or finishing their attempts at reaching the 14,411-foot summit. You’re also likely to see wildlife such as chipmunks and marmots, or perhaps deer or bears. Some of these animals will approach you hoping for food. Park officials warn visitors to never feed the animals because it conditions them to associate humans with food.
Don’t miss the Nisqually Glacier overlook, and allow time to enjoy Panorama Point, which lives up to its name with a nice view of Mount Rainier as well as the Tatoosh Range and beyond.
As you begin descending, the second part of the loop includes views of Myrtle and Sluiskin falls and the Stevens-Van Trump Historical Monument. This monument is a stone bench honoring the first known people to climb Mount Rainier, Gen. Hazard Stevens and Philemon Beecher Van Trump.
There are several options for extending or modifying a trip on the Skyline Trail, so grab a map before setting out.
Directions: Follow state Route 7 to Elbe, then continue toward Mount Rainier’s Nisqually Entrance via state Route 706. Enter the park and continue up the road to Paradise. The trail starts at the staircase near the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.
Difficulty rating: 4 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 6.
Elevation gain: 1,400 feet.
Best time of the year: July-early October.
Map: Green Trails 270S: Paradise
Pass: Entry fee is $25 per vehicle and is good for seven days.
Also: Check trail and weather conditions before attempting this hike. The Jackson visitor center is open daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m. through Oct. 2. It is open daily until 6 p.m. Oct. 3-10, then weekends starting Oct. 15. Dogs are not permitted in Mount Rainier National Park. Traditional geocaches are not permitted in the park, but there are virtual caches in the area. Visit geocaching.com for more information.