Skyline Loop, Paradise Visitor Center, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Skyline Loop - 5.8 miles
Paradise Visitor Center
|Round-Trip Length:||5.8 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,420' - 7,154' (max elevation on loop)|
|Elevation Change:||+1,734' net elevation gain (+1,915' total elevation gain on loop)|
Skyline Loop - 5.8 Miles Round-Trip
Subalpine parklands ring Mount Rainier from 5,000' - 7,000', covering about 23% of the Park. This specialized ecosystem is characterized by herbaceous meadows and small 'tree islands' that experience long, harsh winters and short summer growing seasons that can trigger spectacular all-at-once blooms. The Paradise area averages 643" (53.6') of snow per year, making it one of the snowiest places on earth - literally.
Subalpine meadows in Mount Rainier can be divided into two groups, which are largely determined by snow depth and duration. The North Pacific Alpine-Subalpine Dwarf-shrubland and Heath group are dominated by ericaceous shrubs such as mountain heather and huckleberry, which favor acidic soils.
The Northern Rocky Mountain-Vancouverian Subalpine Montane Mesic Herbaceous Meadow Group is comprised of three sub-groups: 1) Herbaceous meadows of Sitka valerian, lupine and showy sedge. 2) Low herbaceous dominated by black sedge and cinquefoil. 3) Well drained, dry sites (primarily in the east) of dry grasslands of fescue and lupine (Henderson 1974; Franklin et al. 1988).
Paradise exemplifies the subalpine meadow and parkland ecosystem at Mount Rainier These aptly named meadows hold what many consider to be the Park's most impressive and extensive wildflower displays. A network of short, interconnecting trails provides numerous routing options through the meadows and to various attractions.
The Skyline Loop is the longest trail in Paradise, circling the meadows with access to Panorama Point, Muir Snowfield and Paradise Glacier. This description begins at the Paradise Visitor Center and travels clockwise on the loop.
Follow signs for Alta Vista and bear left on the Skyline Trail (.33 miles). A steep, paved path rises through flower and heather-covered meadows with spurs for Dead Horse Creek and Glacier Vista (.6 miles : 5,770').
These side trails offer great views of Nisqually Glacier, the Nisqually Icefall and Nisqually River valley. The main trail continues higher with panoramic views that reach across the Tatoosh Range to Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount St Helens.
It curls up a steep wall to the split for High Skyline, Pebble Creek and Muir Snowfield (2.3 miles : 6,955'). This point straddles the alpine transition zone, where vegetation is scarce and travel more rugged leading to the upper mountain.
Take the High Skyline Trail, which rises then levels across the loop's highest points with expansive views over the entire Paradise area. It drops steeply back into the subalpine with views over a contrastingly stark landscape to the east.
The Paradise - Stevens Glacier covered this area until only recently; it has lost about 50% of its area since 1896 and separated into distinct lobes higher up the valley. The rocky expanse left in its place offers a rare glimpse at a glacial bed.
The trail drops through lush meadows to the Golden Gate Trail split (3.4 miles : 6,425'), and dips across a damp stream channel to Sluiskin Falls and the Paradise Glacier Trail split (4.0 miles : 6,060'). The Golden Gate Trail will shorten the loop if pressed for time.
The Skyline Trail continues south and down past connections for Lakes Trail, 4th Crossing Trail and the second connection for Golden Gate just above Myrtle Falls (5.4 miles : 5,560'). It crosses the falls and rises back through open slopes to Paradise Visitor Center to complete the loop (5.8 miles : 5,420').
- N46 47.182 W121 44.190 — 0.0 miles : Paradise Visitor Center
- N46 47.297 W121 44.234 — .33 miles : Alta Vista Trail split
- N46 47.542 W121 44.273 — .6 miles : Glacier Vista Trail split
- N46 47.890 W121 44.123 — 1.1 miles : Deadhorse Creek Trail split
- N46 47.976 W121 44.103 — 1.2 miles : Glacier Vista split #2
- N46 48.209 W121 43.938 — 1.9 miles : Split for Pebble Ck + Camp Muir
- N46 48.339 W121 43.738 — 2.3 miles : High Skyline Trail split
- N46 48.232 W121 43.392 — Level across High Skyline Trail
- N46 47.934 W121 43.364 — 3.4 miles : Golden Gate Trail split #1
- N46 47.663 W121 42.956 — 4.0 miles : Paradise Glacier Trail split
- N46 47.410 W121 43.164 — 4.45 miles : Lakes Trail split
- N46 47.604 W121 43.566 — 5.0 miles : Nadir, begin climb to Paradise
- N46 47.520 W121 43.940 — 5.35 miles : Golden Gate Trail split #2
- Paradise sees heavy use throughout the summer, especially on weekends. Expect crowds.
- Paradise briefly held a world record in the 1971-1972 winter with 1122 inches (93.5 feet) of snow. In the 2014-2015 winter it saw a record low snowfall of 266 inches (22.2 feet).
- The Paradise Visitor Center is open from May - early October. From mid-October - April, the visitor center is usually open on weekends and holidays (off-season days and times will vary by weather and staff).
- The Golden Gate Trail will shorten the loop if pressed for time.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Wilderness Permits are required year-round for overnight camping in the backcountry. Wilderness Camping Permits are free (*see notes for climbers below). There are no designated backcountry campsites on Paradise Area Trails.
- Permits and current trail conditions are available at all wilderness information centers, visitor centers and ranger stations (360.569.2211).
- Camp only in sites designated on your itinerary. Fires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
- All trail-side camps have primitive toilets, marked sites, poles for hanging food and a nearby water source.
- Cross-Country Zone Camping: there are no maintained trails, campsites or amenities in cross-country zones. Camp at least 1/4 mile away from any road or established trail, and 100' from water sources. Cross-country camping is not permitted for those hiking the complete Wonderland Trail.
- Summer Party Size Limit (May 15th - September 30th): 5 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation. Families are an exception to this rule (parents + children).
- Winter Party Size Limit (October 1 - May 14th): 12 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation.
- Groups (defined as 6 - 12 people) are permitted in 25 designated sites throughout the park, and when camping on snow in Alpine Zones.
- Climbing Permits are required year-round for any day or overnight travel on glaciers or above 10,000', including Little Tahoma. The Climbing Permit also serves as the wilderness camping permit for overnight trips. Wilderness Camping Permits are free while a Climbing Permit requires the purchase of an annual Climbing Pass for each member of the party.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $25 entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park (good for 7 days). Annual Passes are $50.
- Pets and Bikes are not permitted on hiking trails or climbing routes in Mount Rainier National Park.
- Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in Mount Rainier National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
The Paradise Visitor Center (main trailhead) is located 17.2 miles from the Nisqually Entrance Station in Mount Rainier National Park.
From the entrance station, drive 15.2 miles to the split for Paradise and Ohanapecosh. Turn left for Paradise and continue 2 miles to the upper parking lot (Visitor Center, Ranger Station, Paradise Inn). The main trailhead is located on the west (left) side of the Visitor Center at the paved steps.
The road between Longmire and Paradise is plowed throughout the winter. Click here for current road status.
Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304
Paradise Visitor Center
Paradise Climbing Information Center (CIC) | Guide House
White River Wilderness Information Center
Longmire Wilderness Information Center
Carbon River Ranger Station
Lost and Found
The Paradise - Jackson Visitor Center is open from May - early October. From mid-October - April, the visitor center is usually open on weekends and holidays (exact days may vary by weather and staff).