Paradise, the aptly named Visitor Center and tourist hub on the south side of Mt Rainier, can only be best described as a zoo on weekends during the pristine summer months in Washington. Even so, it’s a stunning place to soak in beautiful views of Mount Rainier National Park and the surrounding mountains.
While it is hectic with thralls of tourists mingling, only a tiny percent take steps onto the trails. So to emerge from the crowds and enjoy the views, the trail with the best overall views is the Mt Rainier Skyline Loop Trail.
At 6 miles long, the Mt Rainier Skyline Loop Trail will wind through gorgeous wildflower fields, an oasis that reminded me of Iceland, and lastly to Panorama Point, where unobstructed views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens await. Because of the diversity, it’s easily one of the best Mount Rainier hikes.
Mt Rainier Skyline Trail Loop
Planning your Trip
What to pack
- 32L – 40L backpack
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking Base Layer: Sun shirt (men’s) (women’s)
- Lighter Down Jacket
- Water filter
- Sunglasses, Wide Brimmed Hat, Sunblock
- Wind Jacket (Rain Jacket too if you think it could rain)
- Hiking Poles
- Download map offline
How hard is the Skyline Trail Loop?
The Skyline Trail is at the bottom of the moderate to challenging range. The first three miles aren’t too bad (going counterclockwise), while the final bit of switchbacks can be harder. This area is also more exposed to the sun, making it harder.
Overall, the Skyline Trail is doable for ages ten and up!
How long does it take to hike the Skyline Loop Trail?
Give yourself three to four hours while hiking to enjoy the views. It’s not a long trail, six-ish miles, but you’ll want to stop for the flowers and everything else that excites you!
What’s the hardest hike on Mt. Rainier?
If you want to push yourself, keep going after reaching Panorama Point to Camp Muir. This is the highest hiking spot most people go to without summiting Mt Rainier. You can read my trail review here.
Where to stay near Mt Rainier National Park
Staying near Ashford is your best bet. It is right outside the park boundaries and allows quick access to the park!
Skyline Loop Trail Details
- Length: 6 miles & 1800 feet of elevation gain
- Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
- Best time to hike: July – September
What to expect on the Skyline Trail
Starting the trek
The Skyline Loop trail starts at the Paradise Visitor Center, and you can go clockwise or counterclockwise. I suggest the latter, as it’ll remove you from most crowds and is a gentler ascent. At the half-mile mark is Myrtle Falls, an idyllic waterfall with Mt. Rainier posing beautifully behind it. But, again, this will be a bit crowd-heavy, so visit early if you can.
Once past the falls, the crowds will dissipate, and you’ll enjoy stunning views and wildflowers as you continue hiking. While PNW wildflowers vary in their bloom, a reasonable timeframe is the last half of July and the first half of August.
A sea of Wildflowers on the Skyline Trail Loop
Here, the Skyline Loop Trail emulates a roller coaster before gaining elevation towards Panorama Point – the highest on-trail spot on the south side of Rainier. But before you reach your high point, you’ll find yourself in a lush valley with a creek running down it and Mount Rainier squarely in your field of vision. It reminded me of Iceland.
The push for Panorama Point
As you climb out of this lush area, your terrain turns to rock as switchbacks bring you higher and higher onto the Volcano. As you approach, you’ll see the final destination – the crowds will make it easy. Once you arrive, take a break, enjoy snacks, and soak in your marvelous views. It’ll be no wonder why this is one of the best Mount Rainier hikes you can find.
With nearly four miles in your rearview mirror, you’ll have a little under two miles left going downhill. There’s nothing special about the way down, other than the views of Rainier are gorgeous! Overall, the Mt Rainier Skyline Trail is a beautiful adventure and one to add to your bucket list.
Photos from the Skyline Loop Trail
Skyline Loop Trail – Wrapping Up
For such a gorgeous place, I hope you have a blast trekking the Skyline Loop Trail at Mt Rainier. It’s a gem of a hike, and the views will blow your socks off!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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