Kautz Creek Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
Due to its lower elevation, beginning at about 2,400 feet above sea level, towering forest is the defining view as you hike up the Kautz Creek Trail on the slope of Mount Ararat in Mount Rainier National Park.
The trail begins off Highway 706 and remains relatively flat as it heads north through the valley, crossing Kautz Creek around one mile in.
Once you cross the creek, the trail climbs steeply through the forest as it starts to head up the hill. Due to time constraints, I made it about two miles with an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet from the trailhead before having to turn back. There are no real breaks in the tree cover up to that point.
The trail continues to give views of Mount Ararat and Indian Henrys Hunting Ground. For more information, VisitRainier.com has an excellent write-up on the full Kautz Creek Trail.
View of the peak of Mount Rainier.
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.
View of Nisqually Glacier at Glacier Vista near Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park.
If you don’t have the time or energy to make it higher on the popular Skyline Trail, a moderate trip up to Glacier Vista is a great way to spend a day in Mount Rainier National Park.
The trail begins at the hub of activity – the Paradise Jackson Visitors Center at around 5,400 feet of elevation on the south slope of Mount Rainier. You can take a variety of trails to reach the vista, which is named for the spectacular view of the Nisqually Glacier that snakes down the slope. I started on the Skyline Trail, then veered onto the Waterfall Trail, which will connect with the Deadhorse Creek Trail. That eventually merges back with Skyline and just a bit past that, the spur Glacier Trail gives you the best view of the ice to the west. At this point, you’ll have gained almost 1,000 feet in elevation over about 1.5 miles.
The quickest and easiest way back to the Visitors Center is to jump back on the Skyline Trail and take it straight south back to the end. And if you’re feeling adventurous, keep heading up the mountain on the Skyline for even better views.