Skyline Trail, Mt Rainier National Park

In the summer of 2015, David and I traveled to the Wallowas area in the Northeastern Oregon. Due to widespread wildfires in the west that year, the town of Joseph and the surrounding areas were filled with smoke from the fires. We decided make the most of the situation by heading to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington instead.

First glimpse of the majestic Mt Rainier above the forest

First glimpse of the majestic Mt Rainier above the forest

We only had one full day left to spend in Mt Rainier National Park. So I wanted a hike that allowed us to enjoy a full view of Mt Rainier and the nearby mountains without being too strenuous. Skyline Trail seemed to fit the bill. Skyline Trail is a loop trail that starts from and ends at the park’s visitor center at Paradise. It climbs up the southern slope of Mt Rainier. There were many trails that begin near the visitor center area but all the trails were clearly marked. We did the hike clockwise.

We couldn’t have asked for a better weather. The temperature was comfortable with light breeze. The sky was mostly clear showing off the towering Mt Rainier.

The first section of trail from the visitor center at Paradise was paved.

The first section of trail from the visitor center at Paradise was paved.

This photo shows a contrast between a glaciated slope of Mt Rainier and the meadows below.

This photo shows a contrast between a glaciated slope of Mt Rainier and the meadows below.

Looking back toward Tatoosh Range from Skyline Trail

Looking back toward Tatoosh Range from Skyline Trail

Skyline Trail ascends the east side of Nisqually Glacier. From Glacier Vista viewpoint, we could see Mt Rainier and its glaciers, a canyon carved by Nisqually Glacier, the waterfalls formed by melting Wilson Glacier, and the beautiful surrounding mountains. It was an amazing sight.

Nisqually River and lateral moraines from Glacier Vista

Nisqually River and lateral moraines of Nisqually Glacier seen from the Glacier Vista

Waterfalls from melting Wilson Glacier flow onto Nisqually Glacier below. Although tt looks small from here, it's about 300 ft tall.

Waterfalls from melting Wilson Glacier flow onto Nisqually Glacier below. Although it looks small from here, it’s about 300 ft tall.

The landscape is so massive that it's hard to capture its size. For scale, can you see tiny people on the top of the grassy hill?

The landscape is so massive that it’s difficult to capture its size in photograph. For scale, can you see tiny people on the top of the grassy hill?

Evidence that we were really there

Evidence that we were really there … aka. a selfie

Past the Panorama Point we found a lunch spot that was away from other hikers. It happened to be near where this hoary marmot lived and he made his presence known. After lunch we continued hiking down. The view was gorgeous. In fact, there wasn’t a section of the trail that didn’t have nice views.

Hoary marmot with a view at our lunch spot

Hoary marmot with a view at our lunch spot

After lunch we continued down the mountain.

After lunch we continued down the mountain.

Western pasqueflower (Anemone occidentalis)

Western pasqueflower (Anemone occidentalis)

Crossing a creek on the way down

Crossing a creek on the way down

What a beautiful hike. It's a great way to spend a warm day.

What a beautiful hike. It’s a great way to spend a warm day.

This sooty (?) grouse is taking her time crossing the trail in front of us.

This sooty (?) grouse is taking her time crossing the trail in front of us.

A creek above Myrtle Falls

A creek above Myrtle Falls

We completed the hike in about 4 hours 15 minutes, similar to the park’s estimated average hike time of 4 hours 30 minutes. This is the hike that is best to take your time enjoying the views because they are plentiful.

Have you visited Mt Rainier National Park? What were your favorite spots or moments?

  • Date hiked: August 27, 2015
  • Hiking time: 4h 15m
  • Distance: Approx. 5.6 mi round-trip (loop). Depending on where you find a parking spot, add up to 0.6 mi round-trip walk to the trailhead to the total distance.
  • Elevation change: Approx. 1900 ft gain

9 Comments

  1. Gorgeous pictures of a great trail!! And thank you for posting the name of the Western pasqueflower – I’d wondered what those were called! Just thought they looked like something out of Dr. Seuss! Lol

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    1. You’re welcome Ashley. It’s beautiful up there. We were there in late August so wildflowers were mostly done. From mid-July to mid-August is the best time for wildflowers there.

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  2. Your photos are absolutely stunning! This looks like the perfect trail for soaking in Mt. Rainier’s beauty…and wow, talk about perfect weather and clear skies! Paradise was still covered in snow last time we were there, but after reading your post, I’d love to hike this trail with the kids next year. My favorite Mt. Rainier moment was having a snowball fight with the kids (their first snow experience) and my brother and his partner near Paradise. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard!

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    Reply

    1. Thanks. This was definitely one of my favorite hikes. No too long, not too difficult. So many opportunities to pause for views. Most of the hike you’ll have no shade though, so sun protection is essential. There is a toilet at Panorama Point, about half way in. Very convenient.

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