The Tipsoo Lake area is a really beautiful area and I don't think all too many tourists stop there. We were there at the end of July on a hot summer day, we did get there fairly early in the morning but all day we didn't see many people. We took almost the whole day out to visit this area. There are several hiking trails, we only did the loops around Tipsoo Lake and part of the Naches Peak trail. We mainly enjoyed the gorgeous views of Mount Rainier and the gorgeous wildflowers that were in full bloom. From the parking lot just follow the trail and it will take you along Tipsoo Lake, go around the lake so you will have great views of Mount Rainier. Along the way there are several benches if you need a rest or just want to relax and enjoy the view.
This place was about the most beautiful place we visited in Mount Rainier National Park.
Even though you are hiking a certain trail, don't forget to stop and take in the beautiful views and enjoy the nature that surrounds you. When visiting the Paradise area there seem to be gorgeous views everywhere you look. We did a few hiking trails there and wondered off to enjoy some other views in the area. I can't remember the name of all the mountain ranges, but it sure is beautiful. We were also there when the wildflowers were in full bloom, so we stopped and took a closer look at those as well.
Located on the south side of the mountain, Paradise is the primary center for activities. The lodge, shops, visitor center and trails all are available in this area. If you've not been here before, this is a recommended starting place.
This waterfall might perhaps be the most popular one in Mount Rainier National Park. Narada Falls seems to have a following of visitors. Veiling over a wall of basalt, the Paradise River slides and plunges 17 feet into a small pool then spreads out and veils 159 feet in a lacy display that can stretch to 75 feet wide at peak flow. When the river is running high, be prepared to get soaked at the viewpoint as the spray always seems to be funneled straight at the trail. While the commonly enjoyed viewpoint provides the best views of the falls, a second, less developed viewpoint further downstream yields a side view of the falls from below, which has been used for some of the more famous pictures of this waterfall.
The falls can also be partially viewed from road as you travel to the Paradise area from Ashcroft. It's near a large pullout about a half a mile east of the bridge over the Paradise River. During the winter, the falls freeze and become 150 feet of Icicles, which attract ice climbers from afar.
For those who love photography, this is the place to be! We initially wanted to get here quite early as you get the best reflections when the water is still calm. Sunrises are stunning too if you don't mind getting up very early in the summer. Because the road through Stevens Canyon was close due to a landslide while we were there we had to drive almost 2 hours instead of 45 minutes to get to the Paradise area. We really didn't want to get up that early and left our hotel around 9.00am. We did get to Reflection Lake in the late morning and the water was still a little calm, just enough to get some reflections.
There is a parking lot, but don't be let down if you can't see the beautiful view from there. There is a very short trail that takes you along the lake where you get the amazing views of the water and Mount Rainier.
When visiting Mount Rainier you don't want to miss the Paradise area of the park. Here you'll find several trails to enjoy the stunning views of Mount Rainier and an abundance of wildflowers if you are here in the right time of the year. We visited at the end of July and saw lots of colourful wildflowers.
Once you get to the Paradise area you may want to go in at the Jackson Visitor Centre to get a map of the trails. The Nisqually Vista Trail is an easy 1.2 mile loop trail, gaining only 200 feet elevation and has a high point of 5,420 feet. Allow 45 minutes to complete and more if you want to stop for photos of the amazing views. The trailhead is located west of the Jackson Memorial Visitor Centre at Paradise, you will see the signs. It is a family friendly trail and wheelchair/stroller accessible.
This hike travels through beautiful forest overlooking the Nisqually Glacier. This is a great hike for kids and adults alike. The trail takes you through beautiful forested areas and wonderful meadows to an overlook of the Nisqually Glacier. The Nisqually Vista Trail is a self-guiding trail, but the National Park Service offers a guided tour of this hike in summer and leads snowshoe walks throughout winter. Inquire at the Jackson Visitor Center for more information. It is downhill all the way to the lookout and then uphill back to the parking lot, but both gradients are gradual.
This is the most frequently visited area of Mount Rainier National Park, and there are an awful lot of people I have seen spend well over an hour getting to Mount Rainier National Park, and then never get past Paradise. The area is still quite beautiful, but the crowds of people that visit here also mean that the name Paradise may no longer apply at some of the busy times. People have wandered well off the trail system, creating regions of dead plants. While the National Park Service has an ongoing effort to restore these areas at times it is a losing battle due to the crowds and the number of people who feel signs do not apply to them.
Please, don't get me wrong. Paradise is a wonderful place. However, it is also the most crowded place in Mount Rainier National Park on any given day. Please, visit this most famous area of the park, and walk its trails that go to viewpoints further up the mountain. Watch for wildlife, and if the wild flowers are in bloom then take time to enjoy them.
However, please also realize that this part of the park will be crowded with people, especially during the peak tourist season.
How did I get photos of the trails with so few people in them? Easy. These photos are from the second Saturday in October, when the weather was cold and winter was definitely setting in, and most people choose not to tour the Pacific Northwest.
Also, please take the time to visit the areas of the park that are less visited. Even if it is just to take a look at some of the viewpoints and short trails along the road between the Nisqually entrance and Paradise, it will give you something besides what most other people come here to see.
The trail system here includes both short and somewhat longer trails that climb from the Paradise visitor's center to points several thousand feet above the timber line. Please understand that these trails are high altitude places. You may be very tired very quickly while walking these trails, especially if you are not used to recreational activities above 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) in elevation. Take things slow, and make sure you don't get yourself into a position that you can't get out of.
The trails are will marked, and most of them are well maintained gravel. A few of the most highly traveled places are paved.
The Paradise Visitor's Center has restrooms and a drinking fountain, as well as a small restaurant and a gift shop. Services are far more limited here October through May than during the rest of the year, and be prepared for trail and road closures due to out of season heavy snow.
Waterfalls and viewpoints are too numerous to mention here, and the map of the trails, plus the map of the area provided when you entered the park and paid your entrance fee, will give you far more information than I am able to provide here.
If you want to get an early start, Paradise also features an overnight lodge, which is only open during the non-snow season (closes to overnight stays in October). This is a good way to get a little bit of a head start on the crowds.
Guides for climbing the mountain are available from the climbing lodge.
There is a picnic area downhill from the Visitor's Center, but many of its facilities are closed during the winter months.
For crowded weekends, there is a lower parking lot with limited services during the off-peak part of the year. During the busiest times of the year, it may be necessary for you to park down there and walk up the hill to the Visitor's Center.
If you want to avoid the congestion in the parking areas it may be worth considering including the Ashford to Paradise bus service (which only operates in the peak months) in your transportation plans.
Located approximately 1 mile from the very popular Paradise visitor's center area, Myrtle Falls is a good destination to test your abilities at higher elevation before tackling a more ambitious trail in the park. The trail is paved the entire distance, and is reasonably easy. However, it should be noted that the trail is also very steep, and it is after all at a starting point some 5,400 feet (1,647 meters) and climbs steeply from there. If you start feeling the altitude slow down and don't rush yourself. High altitude sickness results in making poor decisions as one of its side effects, and you don't want to go from bad to worse - even this close to a very popular visitor's center.
The trail starts just uphill from the visitor's center.
The falls themselves are a rather attractive but small cascade down the side of one of the steep canyons. Due to the popularity of the place it is hard to see the falls, as they are visible from only one small view point, that typically has a large number of people stopped at it and making it difficult for anyone else to actually see the falls. However, if you are patient, you will be eventually rewarded with a view of the falls.
What started as a small crack in the ground has now turned into one massive narrow canyon, though which the Muddy Fork of the Cowlitz River flows. Only a few meters / yards wide, the canyon is over 100 feet (30 meters) deep in places.
From the parking area along the Stevens Canyon Road, there is a short loop of a trail that wanders along the small, flat plateau through which the canyon cuts. The main part of the trail is a little steep in places but is still fairly easy to negotiate. The trail crosses the canyon on a wooden bridge at the north end, and at the south end there are sidewalks on the road bridge over the canyon.
There is a short trail on the south side of the road that goes to an observation area as well.
Several longer trails connect to the parking area here as well. This is the section of the Wonderland Trail that goes up hill to the ridge known as the Cowlitz Divide, and in the other direction the Wonderland Trail goes into Stevens Canyon, as well as connecting to a small picnic area just uphill along the road.
WATCH CAREFULLY FOR AUTO TRAFFIC HERE!!!! There is a tunnel right next to the bridge, and unfortunately visitors do not watch anywhere near as carefully as they should for pedestrian traffic crossing the road to the trails. Many of them also go far too fast for the blind curve and crossing area created by the tunnel.
There are several excellent hiking trails along Stevens Canyon Road; including the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, Box Canyon Trail, Wonderland Trail, and the Nisqually View Trail. I will go into a bit more detail about these under the Sports Tips.
Another historic portion of the park in Longmire. James Longmire developed this area as a medical springs resort in 1888 and 1889 along with his family. After the national park was established, this became the park headquarters. The Longmire District is National Historic District.
Not far from Paradise is Narada Falls. A short trail leads you to a very nice viewpoint where you can see the entire 168 foot falls. The rock that forms this waterfall is a fairly young andesite lava flow which abuts much older rock. In photo 2 you can see part of the trail that looks up to the falls.
If you are entering the park from the Southwest, a good place to start your visit is at the Henry M. Jackson Visitors Center. Here you can gather information to maximize your enjoyment of the park and register for any backcountry activities. There is a snack bar in the center too. This visitors center is open year round.
Early in the history of the park, Paradise was a center for recreation in the high mountain area. This tradition continues today. Paradise is located along Stevens Canyon Road in the Southern part of the park. Facilities include: The Henry M. Jackson Visitors Center; the Paradise Inn; and the Guide House where you can arrange for guides if you wish to climb Mount Rainier. There are also several trailheads here. The entire Paradise area is a National Historic Landmark.
For the last few miles the road has been gradually gaining in altitude. Here, at about 4000 feet of elevation, you can see it is still pretty thickly forested but the trees are smaller than the old growth forest of the Grove of the Patriarchs. The trees will get more sparse as you head toward Paradise which is over 5000 feet in elevation.