Skyline Loop Trail
Updated: Nov 25, 2018
This absolutely gorgeous 5.5 mile loop trail with a 1,625 ft. elevation gain is a must for anyone wanting countless spectacular views in one trip and an up-close encounter with Rainier. Definitely strenuous but not the most difficult hike I've ever done.
From late July to early August the Skyline Trail is filled with views of cascading waterfalls, mighty glaciers and subalpine meadows brimming with colorful splashes of lupines, mountain heather, scarlet paintbrush, cascade asters and bistort.
Though terribly strenuous I recommend doing the trail in a clockwise loop if you're able. It gets the worst part of the trail out of the way and rewards you with spectacular views right off the bat. To do this leave the Paradise parking lot and locate the Skyline trailhead behind the Jackson Visitor Center.
At 6,300 feet, Glacier Vista offers some of the best photo opportunities on the trail and serves as an unofficial turnaround for many who can't manage the remaining strenuous climb.
Foot traffic goes way down from here so keep your eyes pealed for the hoary marmots that inhabit the area. Please remember to stay on the paths. It's our responsibility to preserve the beauty we have left.
Continue hiking along the Nisqually Glacier until you reach Panorama Point (by far my favorite spot on the entire trip). At just under 7,000 ft. Panorama Point provides stunning views of the Paradise valley, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood on a clear day.
Stunning is definitely a great word for this spot. The joy, exhilaration, and overwhelming sense of how small I was in the grand scheme of things was beyond words as I looked out over a vast sea of endless clouds.
This is a great place for a break as it offers a pit toilet and space to relax but be wary of chipmunks. Though absolutely adorable the little buggers are so used to people that they will literally crawl onto your lap (or back) and steal your food before you know what's happening.
While your here make sure you wander around. There are countless views points for you to see. Who knows, if you're paying attention you may even see a hiker carrying a 7 ft. aluminum ladder strapped to his back as he climbs to Camp Muir. Believe me this is the craziest thing I've ever seen while hiking! I had no idea what to make out of it.
From Paradise point the trail is all down hill so take your time and soak in all the beautiful vistas, wildlife and serene peace. The Golden Gate Trail offers a shortcut back to the parking lot but you'll miss beautiful views and Sluiskin Falls if you take it.
The last leg of the journey passes over Edith Creek Basin. This is my favorite place to go when I visit Paradise and can be accessed with a short walk from the inn. There's a family of Marmots living on the hill to the right just before the bridge. In the summer time they offer some adorable photo opportunities as the youngsters play.
Just past the bridge on the left is a photo spot for Myrtle Falls, a stunning waterfall with Rainier in the background. Be advised, getting a photo of the waterfall and bridge without other people in the way is relatively difficult and may require lots of patience.
I highly recommend plenty of water, snacks and breaks (there's so much to see along the way, this shouldn't be hard).
I also suggest arriving as early as possible to ensure parking and avoid the crowds since this is a popular trail in the summer.
Rules to be aware of:
1. Dogs aren't allowed on national park trails and should be left at home.
2. Feeding the wildlife is illegal and can lead to a $1500 fine. And before you think you won't get caught, you'd be surprised by how many rangers are out and seem to pop out of thin air.
'til next time,