Paradise in Spring

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Three years ago Kathy and I made our first visit to Mt. Rainier National Park. During that trip we had the pleasure of hiking the Skyline Trail, which does a wide loop through the Paradise Valley. This instantly became one of the best hikes either of us has ever done. So, returning three years later, I really wanted to hike in this valley once again. Unfortunately, because this most recent visit was in mid-June, we didn’t have a lot of hope of doing much here, as this area of the park was still covered in several feet of snow. We assumed there would be no access to the trails. Well, we assumed wrong.

On our last full day in the park we drove up to Paradise to assess the situation ourselves. Although extremely crowded, we were able to find a parking spot. Once on the scene we could see several dozen people hiking along the trails in the area. So we decided to go for it ourselves, and simply travel up the Skyline Trail for as far as we could go.

The first section of trail up to the Alta Vista trail split was almost completely snow free. However, just beyond that, we began walking through heavy slush, and then snow. As you might expect travel became fairly slow once we hit the snow, but it was an absolute blast! At first our goal was to simply go to the Alta Vista overlook. However, once we reached that point we decided to continue further up the mountain.

As we climbed higher we noticed a halo around the sun. Sun halos are the result of high thin cirrus clouds floating in the upper atmosphere, which causes light to refract after passing through the tiny ice crystals within the clouds. Halos usually signal an incoming weather front. Sure enough, less than 15 hours later it was raining in the park.

We hiked about a mile up the mountain – stopping somewhere just below Glacier Vista. Throughout our hike we enjoyed some absolutely spectacular views of Mt. Rainier towards the north, and the Tatoosh Range towards the south. There were many people who hiked even further up the valley, including a few skiers.

As strange as it might seem, it was extremely hot that day, even though there was snow all around us.

If you wish to learn more about hiking the entire Skyline Loop Trail you can click here to check out my photos and read my trip report from three years ago.

Trail: Skyline Trail
RT Distance: ~2 Miles
Elevation Gain: ~750 feet
Max Elevation: ~6200 feet
TH Location: Paradise
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.


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