SkyLine Trail, Mt. Rainier National Park Trip Report
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September 28, 2002
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John is an avid hiker, spending a goodly portion of his time up in the hills, or sitting in front of a computer. Either way, most of what finds his eye is green, or blue, - organic, or lcd. John likes this website, hopes you do too, and invites you to write a review of a couple hikes you've done!
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I live in Federal Way, WA and I enjoy getting out into the great outdoors and hiking and would someday like to make it to the top of Mt. Rainier. When I can't get outside, I'm the IS manager at a marketing firm in Kent.
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From Tacoma drive 40 miles south on Highway 7 to Elbe and go east 10 miles on Highway 706 to the Mount Rainier National Park Nisqually Entrance Station. Proceed 20 miles to the upper Paradise parking lot near Paradise Ranger Station. The trailhead is near the rest rooms to the left of the ranger station.
Trail notes Skyline Loop: Get in the mood for altitude. The Skyline Trail above Paradise takes you quickly to nearly 7,000 feet-about as high as you can get in a short hike from the car anywhere in Washington state. The loop trip is spectacular on clear days, with views to the Rainier summit above, wildflowers all around and a view south as far as Mount Hood below. Most people hike the loop clockwise, following the Skyline Trail north past the Alta Vista Nature Trail, then turning directly up the mountain, and passing the short Glacier Vista Loop, which offers prime views of the massive Nisqually Glacier. At about two miles you come to a split. Your direction might be dictated by the season and the weather. If its late in the year or a very warm day, the snowfield blocking the lower route should be well-stomped and fairly easy to traverse. If its early in the season or in the day, when snow is likely to remain hard, take the upper route and detour. That adds about three fourths of a mile to the loop, but youll be glad later. The lower route leads directly to aptly named Panorama Point, where views in all directions are magnificent When the upper and, lower paths meet, the trail turns south below i McClure Rock, leading in about half a mile to a junction with the Golden Gate Trail. For the quickest exit back to Paradise, turn right here for the 1.5 mile walk back to the parking lot Or continue straight toward Mazama Ridge and a 2.5mile return via the first portion of the lakes Trail. This trail is crowded on nice summer days. You might be more pleased with a hike very early in the day or in late afternoon. Carry water and note that no camping is allowed
Trail notes Paradise Glacier: The Paradise Glacier hike provides a high-altitude refuge from the teeming summertime throngs at Paradise. From the parking lot trek up the Skyline Trail described in hike number 25. Beyond Myrtle Falls take a right (east) turn onto the Skyline Trail and then hike 1.3 miles uphill, over the Paradise River, up Mazama Ridge, and beyond the Stevens-Van Trump monument to famous (unsuccessful) 1870 Rainier climbers. Go right at the fork and climb 1.3 miles and 400 vertical feet to the toe of Paradise Glacier, 6,400 feet. The upper portion of the trail is an otherworldly experience. You rise and fall over an ancient moraine in desolate, tundra-like conditions. Depending on weather and snow pack, this upper stretch can be quite difficult, particularly if deep, sloppy snow lingers. (In spring and early summer, this is a popular backcountry ski destination.) Its tempting to wander off in this wide open country, but stick to the trail or to marker posts, whichever is most visible. Hazardous pitfalls await on either side of the trail. This trail became one of the most famous in the United States years ago as a route to the world renowned Paradise Glacier ice caves-massive, wind-carved caverns of deep blue ice that were widely photographed. But in recent years glacial movement has effectively destroyed or closed off the caves. Trekking on the glacier, parts of which are quite thin, can be extremely hazardous. This glacier keeps many secrets, however. From time to time an adventurous climber or telemark skier will return with tales of new ice-cave exploration. Leave it to the risk-takers and enjoy the view of the glacier, which is hard to beat.
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Hard but worth it! Cant wait to do it again!
Reviewed By: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 @ 07:36:32 PM
Review: My husband and I hiked this trail, after we had our first child, back in 1989. It had only been three months, and I did half of it. Of course I was not in shape at that point, and was surprised I could do any of this fantastic trail. We are going to do it again. We have been up there several times since then, but that trail has stuck in my mind, and I really want to do it again. Especially, since I am a runner now, and feel like I am in far better shape than before. I recommend this trail to everyone who wants to have one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.
The scenery is like the kind of mountain pictures they print on post cards! I will say that once you hike this trail you will have dreams of returning until you do!
Amazing views, great workout
Reviewed By: Jake Witucki on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 @ 12:10:03 PM
Did this hike while on a camping trip at Cougar Rock. We couldn't have asked for a better weather - clear sunny skies, and temperature of about 75.
We started on the 'finish' end of this one. From the trailhead, we started out east through the valley before heading up to the glacier trails. Some wonderful scenery, including waterfalls and meadows. After the glacier trailhead 'off-ramp', there's some nice undulation that gives you a bit of a break. It there are elevated meadows with small water deposits just before getting to Panorama point. Words can't describe the views. They're absolutely astounding and you'll have to experience it yourself. Shortly after Panorama Point, we began a steep decent down a series switchbacks. I can't imagine starting the trail on this side (as is the norm).
I remember Skyline being deceptively difficult, but that might just have been my inexperience. If hiking in the summer, you may want to carry extra water and food to refuel about halfway along. A camera is a must, but it won't due your memories justice.
Without a doubt, one of the best experiences I've ever had outdoors.
A lot of work but worth it
Reviewed By: Milt on Monday, July 20, 2009 @ 08:18:55 PM
I hiked this trail on a Monday (7/20/09). Got to Paradise around 9am. The parking lot was 25% full which was great. I hiked the trail clockwise following a team of people heading out to Camp Muir. I needed a practice run on the moutain to see how I would do at altitiude, since I will be trying to climb the mountain next month.
The first 1/2 mile was lumpy asphalt and uphill. It then turned into a well maintained gravel path. Still a lot of hiking. The Glacier Vista turnoff was totally covered in snow, so that was a no go. The trail continued on to Panorama Point, which is one of the best 360 degree view in the park. It was clear enough to just make out Mt. Adams throught the haze. If your tired feet decide to head back to Paradise on the Skyline trail, make the u-turn at Panorama Point. Don't miss out on this view.
The lower Skyline trail was covered in snow, so I had to take the high road on the upper Skyline trail. Warning: this section is a real ankle breaker. Lots of sharp, loose rocks that want to twist your shoes right off your feet, plus slippery sections of snow covered trail. I took it slow and steady and managed to make it through. There is a toilet in a stone building right around there if nature calls. The Pebble Creek/Camp Muir Trail turnoff was mostly covered in snow. You could see Muir climbers as little ants halfway up the mountain. After that, the trail started to head downward. For the next mile or so, the trail was more snow than gravel path. I had to follow the dirty snow and the little trail flags to keep on the right path. I fell over several times in the snow. Treking/ski poles are a must through this section, otherwise you'll be slipping and sliding all over the place. The next mile was less snow, but it now became a dusty, muddy, rocky mess. The attacking bugs were not much fun either. The last mile was well traveled and more crowded. At least 4-5 creek and fall crossings to take pictures of.
I got back to the Paradise parking lot at 2pm. That's a 5 hour hike. Without the snow, probably a 4 hour hike. The parking lot was full and people were hovering around me like vultures waiting for me to leave my prime spot. Other notes: The flowers were in bloom and just about everywhere. The number of people on the trail in the morning was small and evenly spaced out. Bring suntan lotion! I slathered on some 45SPF and still got quite the tan. I packed 2 liters of water and almost went through it all. I had to use my ski poles about 40% of the time on the trail.
Fabulous Day Out
Reviewed By: Jim,Arlene,Chris & Danielle on Monday, September 1, 2008 @ 04:11:44 PM
We were visiting from New Jersey with family outside of Seattle, WA. The Mt. Rainer - Skyline Trail hike was strongly recommended - so we ventured out on 08/22/08 in the early morning - before the crowds. We left from the Vistor Center and went clockwise up the trail. All I could say was that it was SPECTACULAR !!!!! The climb, at times, got a bit tough but if you take a break often (a great excuse to take in the views and to take some pictures), it is doable. Bring a lunch and spend some time at Panarama Point (elevation of 6,800 feet) taking in the beauty. Venture up past Panarama Point to complete the day.
Skyline in August
Reviewed By: Glen and Cathy on Friday, August 22, 2008 @ 09:15:07 PM
We hiked Skyline trail today and it was absolutely gorgeous. Clear skies all day, the view of Mt. Ranier and the Nisqually Glacier were amazing. We parked at the Fourth Crossing lot and took that trail to reach Skyline. It was much less crowded down by Fourth Crossing, compared with the Paradise Visitor Center, The Fourth Crossing trail and the Skyline Loop was in full bloom with wildflowers all along the path. After reaching Skyline, we went around the loop counter-clockwise. A local friend recommended counter-clockwise because we would hit the steep paved path near Paradise on our descent instead of during the initial climb. I think it was good advice. The paved slope by Paradise has no switchbacks and would be a grueling and monotonous climb.
We are not regular high-altitude hikers, and even the less steep counter-clockwise climb was tough. But the views were worth it. Have a camera and take lots of pictures (as a bonus, this gives you an excuse to rest). Even in August, there were several packed snowfields to cross, so consider using trek poles or some some hiking boots. I wore cross-country athletic shoes, which were fine for everything except the packed snow.
It took us 7 hours for the whole loop, but that included at least an hour of gazing at the mountains, glaciers, wildflowers and marmots. And we stopped for many pictures. Sunscreen is a must, and take lots of water. In August on a sunny day, I never needed more that two layers of t-shirts and khakis. There was a short stretch where mosquitoes were a nuisance, so consider repellent.
Reviewed By: Dale on Sunday, August 21, 2005 @ 01:07:23 PM
I did this spectacular hike on July 9, 2003. Yes, there was still quite a bit of snow all around, making the hike a little more strenuous, but the scenery was absolutely beautiful. I began hiking at 3:30 PM and finished around 7:30 PM. The paved trail ends after a half mile, but the remainder is pretty-well groomed - not too rocky. I saw a marmot near Nisqually Glacier View, around 6400 feet. The Skyline Trail rises from 5400 feet at Paradise to about 6900 feet at Panorama Point, and to 7100 feet on the "High" Skyline Trail which I was "forced" to take because the "Low" Skyline Trail was closed (too much snow). Panorama Point is incredible - I could see the Tatoosh Range, with Mt. Adams looming behind, along with Mount St. Helens and even Mt. Hood in Oregon. Behind this view rises Mt. Rainier, 7500 feet higher! Mt. Rainier is visible almost along the entire hike, seemingly close enough to touch. The Golden Gate Trail, which connects to the Skyline Trail, is a shortcut back to the Paradise parking lot. For me this trail was the hardest part of the hike, because of the endless switchbacks down from 7000 feet (approximate). I recommend the Skyline Trail to everyone - hike either early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the best photos! Most people can probably do this 5-6 mile hike in 3-4 hours.
Reviewed By: Geoff on Friday, August 5, 2005 @ 05:25:54 AM
While visiting Seattle from the east-coast I took the advice of several outdoorsy friends and headed down to Rainier early on the morning of 30 July. Let me wax pretentiously pseudo-lyrical, if you'll bear with me....
Driving in the wee hours of the morning through the foggy gloom my mood was subdued. But once inside the Park boundaries as pre-dawn light and altitude broke the the clouds, my senses sharpened with glimpses of blue sky and peaks.
Once I left the parking lot, what a day it was. Blue blue blue sky. Just a hint of breeze - comfortably cooling. The air was palpable but not stifling - as though I was floating through a breathable mass of light water - buoyed higher and higher through meadows of wildflowers, butterflies and alpine scents. Each cleansing breathe moved my mind away from the trivial and simplified my presence on the mountain and on the planet. When I beleved I was touching the edge of nirvana, the sounds of glacial cascades and calls of floating, fluttering birds (larks?) pushed me closer.
Reaching Panorama Point I was "on top of the world ma". The sun had crept over the ranges to the east and begun to cast shadows and highlights across the snowfields and ridges of the lower slopes. Far to the south, Adams and Hood poked into the sky; picture perfect geometric geomorphic cones. St Helens to the right an amorphous tribute to the cycle of destructive creation. Crags in the middle distance struggle among the clouds to reach the loftier heights of the big peaks. Together with Rainier itself and the ranges to the east, the crags shape the wall around the garden. Nature has achieved a paradise which man could only dream to emulate.
"Paradise" - take the time to check your dictionary for an etymology before you visit. Whoever named it, truly appreciated the concept. But just remember to take a look at St Helens and remember where you're standing. I'm glad I had the privilege of experiencing paradise. One day either I or the mountain will be gone (I expect the former is more likely to occur first) but that moment in time will remain.
But I strongly recommend making the effort to get there extra early for I believe this experience would not have occurred had it been shared with the rest of humanity.....
Reviewed By: Jacque on Monday, August 30, 2004 @ 09:20:47 PM
Review: My son (age 11) and I did this hike today. We climbed the trail in the clockwise direction and enjoyed great vistas throughout. Adams, Hood and St. Helens all easily viewed from Panorama Point. The snow field just after was challenging for me--we had no axes or poles--but my son was more open to slipping and sliding and loved it. Several teams were out practicing arrest maneuvers for their upcoming Camp Muir exertions. I envied their equipment but that was about it! As my son was soaking wet, we wimped out and took the early Golden Gate Trail bailout. This is my third hike on Rainier this summer all inspired by your entertaining site. Thanks!
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