Skyline Trail is probably the most popular trail in Mount Rainier National Park – and it’s not an easy one! The trail begins at the popular Paradise Jackson Visitors Center at around 5,400 feet of elevation on the south slope of Mount Rainier. And the Skyline Trail just goes up from there… it’s called the Skyline Trail – what did you expect?
Head toward the peak by following signs for the Skyline Trail – as you get higher, you’ll get a great view of the Nisqually Glacier to the west. The river valley it spawns can be seen as it spirals down toward the park entrance. The dense pine forest at Paradise will give way to a tundra-like terrain with fewer trees as you gain elevation. Eventually, there will be signs to point you to Pebble Creek (at 7200′ and about 2.2 miles from Paradise) or Panorama Point (at 6800′). I made it as high as Pebble Creek and if you want to head higher toward Camp Muir (at over 10,000′ of elevation), you should make sure you know the unmarked way.
You can pick several trails to return: the way you came (which I did on the second day), from Panorama Point via the Golden Gate Trail (the one I took on my first day), or swing further east on the Skyline.
Directions: Take State Highway 706 through Ashford to the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Continue to Longmire and then on to Paradise – seasonal restrictions apply during the winter (check here for road status).
First half is Skyline Trail and back via Golden Gate Trail. Second half is Skyline Trail to Upper Skyline Trail, back via Skyline and Panorama Point.