Mount Rainier National Park is located in west-central Washington and is ideal for hiking, mountain climbing and scenic drives. Most roads are open from late May to early October, which allow for both stunning views and access to a wide range of hiking trails and other sites. Hikers will find forests with cedar, hemlock, and fir trees as well as streams and wildflower meadows. On Rainier's alpine slopes, visitors will find firs, glaciers, and tundra. Mount Rainier, an active volcano, is the most prominent peak in the Cascades, and it is covered by 26 named glaciers including Carbon Glacier and Emmons Glacier, the largest in the continental United States. The mountain is popular for climbing, and more than half of the park is covered by subalpine and alpine forests. Paradise on the south slope is one of the snowiest places in the world, and the Longmire visitor center is the start of the Wonderland Trail, which encircles the mountain.
You would think there were trails in late June, but in 2010 snow was heavy and Paradise still had a base of about 10 feet of snow. Undaunted, with no visible trails, we had been here before and knew where Panorama Point was and knew where Pebble Creek was, so set off straight uphill in the snow! We saw others doing the same and some even were trekking up with skis and snowboards on their backs (great idea btw). The blue sky and bright white snow really made the scenery pop and hiking in snow is a great cardio workout. And when you start getting hot, you have a snowball fight or roll around in the snow. If you plant your feet going up and heel down coming down, the snow gives you some great footing. We really enjoyed it and had a blast. Try it in early June when you can get to the Paradise parking area.
Valentine’s Day on Mt. Rainier, what could be better! We spent the night at a nearby cabin, had a wonderful breakfast at Longmire lodge and headed up to Paradise to enjoy the last nice day in the forecast. The sun played peek-a-boo through the clouds and lit the mountain up like a lantern – so beautiful. Also very warm! We were soon peeling layers off and would have been happy in shorts and sleeveless shirts. Thank heavens for sunglasses and sunscreen.
Our snowshoe trek was not long, didn’t go all the way to Panorama Point, but we thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the few others we encountered and drinking in the view. We even spotted bobcat tracks!
Did this in early June. Followed the Skyline trail most of the way but made to just below the point because the snow was soft, unstable, and overused to make it any further. The views were amazing and you can see some other mountains in the distance, maybe Mount St. Helens. Go early so the snow is still firm.
If you are looking for a fun and relaxing day hike that truly shows the beauty of the pacific northwest, I have an amazing recommendation for you. Last August, my fiancé and I, were lucky enough to find such an experience on the Hidden Lake trail in Mount Rainier National Park. We were expecting a typical day hike, what we experienced was so much more.
Traveling to the trail head offered beautiful views from the entrance of the national park. We arrived early and found that the parking to the trailhead is also a highly visited viewpoint of Mount Rainier. This close-up view of the mountain is breathtaking. The start of the trail has a wonderful view looking down on Sunrise lake. The terrain was easy on our feet and very well maintained. The hike in consists of mostly shaded sections of forest with some beautiful meadow openings and the occasional small creek crossing. About half way in we were surprised by an opening, with a lovely clear body of water, known as Clover lake. The trail passes along the rim of the small lake which offers areas to explore and step off the trail to sit and enjoy a rest. Continuing on you cross over a decent sized hill, and make your way down the other side, which continues to offer many meadow openings. The trail splits to continue up to Hidden Lake. The name describes it well as the final trail after the turn off doesn’t appear to be as highly traveled and isn’t as well maintained, yet offers the feeling of adventuring out through the unknown wilderness. The turnoff ends at Hidden lake which is a great place to stop for lunch and enjoy the beauty of the clear water lake that is nestled in, what could only be described as, a hidden valley. The lake has several short paths to explore around and take in the scenery before heading back. The hike back was very pleasant as it offered a new look of all the natural scenery that was seen on the trek in from a whole new angle. As we arrived back to the trailhead and lookout, we were very hungry from just working up such an appetite.
Luckily the hike wasn’t the only pleasant surprise of the day. Continuing just a couple miles further into the park lies Sunrise, a small attraction that offers restrooms, a restaurant, gift shop and visitor center. All of which are host to a stunning view of the mountain. The food at the restaurant was simple and served as a cafeteria style venue, but this was nice because it was quick and simple. Which, after building up a small sweat and appetite, was just what we wanted. Continuing into the visitor center we came across a variety of interesting information on the history of the volcano that was well supported with artifacts, visual models and even a three-dimensional map laid out of the entire national park. This area also has multiple trailheads that connect into a large variety of trails including the famous wonderland trail. Many of these are commonly used for overnight hikes that have a higher level of difficulty.
As for the Hidden Lake trail, it isn’t so difficult. The 6.4-mile hike made for a fairly easy to moderate stroll through the wilderness. We passed a variety of people on the trail ranging from young children to some elderly folks. We even ran into one family that had their two-year-old son in a child carrier backpack and appeared to be enjoying the pleasant hike just as much as we were. There is a 900-foot elevation gain to consider, however, it wasn’t difficult enough to cause any worry. The hike took us 5 hours to complete and we spent plenty of time hanging out at all the lakes we came across. I would recommend bringing a day pack with a decent snack and plenty of water to stay hydrated. As for what to wear, that would depend on the conditions for when you plan your visit.
The Hidden Lake Trail, which is a side path off of the Upper Palisades Lake Trail, is only available certain months due to the high level of snowfall in the area. Typically, you should plan to visit June-October. As the trail head is located in Mount Rainier National Park there is an admission fee of $25 for a single vehicle that is good for seven days, or if you plan to return to explore more of the beautiful mountain they offer an annual pass for $50 that is good for the entire year. The park entrances are open 24 hours, however, due to varied operating hours of the visitor center and accommodations throughout the season, I would recommend visiting the National Parks Services webpage when panning your trip.
Overall, I would give this hike a 5-star rating and highly recommend this trip to people off all ages. The stunning beauty of the scenery, relaxed difficulty and nearby amenities made this hike a very pleasant memory that I will not forget. I already have plans to return to the area so we can see more of what the park has to offer because we enjoyed this hike so much. I hope you found this information helpful and are able to enjoy a similar adventure