Skyline Trail

#5 in Best Things To Do in Mount Rainier National Park
Skyline Trail picture
Feng Wei Photography/Getty Images

Key Info

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Recreation, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.5

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

The start of the 5 ½-mile Skyline Trail sits near the entrance to the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise and is marked by stone steps inscribed with a quote by John Muir that reads: "… the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." If you head clockwise, the trail climbs 2 miles to Panorama Point, which rewards hikers with breathtaking views.

After this stop, the park service advises hikers use the High Skyline Trail to avoid a dangerous icy slope that never melts, which connects back to the Skyline above the junction with Golden Gate trail (an alternative for a shorter hike). Views along the way include displays of subalpine wildflowers, Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier, and, on a clear day, peaks as far south as Oregon's Mount Hood.

According to visitors, the hike is well worth the three to five hours it takes to make the round-trip journey, calling the views "spectacular." Reviewers do warn the trail can get crowded at times with other hikers and it is not for those who aren't in good health. Many hikers advise getting an early start to avoid crowds.

Access to the Skyline Trail is included in your park admission. Of note, hikers will find a convenient toilet located at Panorama Point. For more information, including current trail conditions visit the NPS website.

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More Best Things To Do in Mount Rainier National Park

Paradise1 of 5
Sunrise2 of 5
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Paradise

Paradise, which is located at an elevation of 5,400 feet, is a great place to start your park visit and where you'll find the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center, the main visitor center for the park. It offers general information, exhibits, a park film, guided ranger programs, a gift store and a cafeteria. In the summer, this area is ideal for wildflower viewing, and in winter, this is the main area for activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing. The historic Paradise Inn, which is usually open from mid-May to early October, is also located in this area, as is the Guide House, where climbers can obtain permits and hiking and backcountry camping information.

Visitors call the area "breathtaking" and "gorgeous," especially in peak wildflower season (July to August). Paradise also gets high marks for its visitor center and ranger programs. The only downside is that since it is so popular, parking can be hard to come by and you may experience long waits, according to some previous visitors.

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