Monday afternoon, after we had hiked along the Skyline Trail up to the Muir Snowfield, I rattled on so much about Mount Rainier that I failed to mention much about the this, the most popular trail in the park or other aspects of our hike.
First, let me just mention our adventure trying to get to the trailhead. Essentially, there are only three roads which give access to the interior of the park. One of these main roads is closed right now because of a landslide. It’s too bad because of the two roads leading to Paradise Lodge, it was the most convenient from our campground. That road closure necessitated our driving around which took 2 hours. The distance was not all that great, only 60 miles, but the road was so bad we could only do about 25-30 mph much of the time. The road inside the park was not much better. At least I didn’t think it could get much worse until the afternoon return trip. During the time we were on the trail, road crews had managed to scrape off most of the road surface. They are, at least, trying to make improvements. I guess this means there will be road construction every time we want to use this road for the remainder of our stay.
Now, for our hike description. Skyline Trail is a 5.5 mile loop beginning between the visitor center and Paradise Lodge, climbing about a 1000 feet to intersect with Pebble Creek Trail, then sweeping back down the mountain to close the loop. There are several trail junctions along the route. So many, in fact, that you can hardly tell which one is Skyline on the map. Because this trail is so popular, it is paved for about a mile on the lower, or Paradise Lodge, section.
If you are hiking for the views, this trail has them. We took the left side of the loop for our ascent and were never out of view of Mount Rainier. After we passed the Pebble Creek trail and started our descent, we would occasionally get a ridge between us and the view of the mountain, but not often. The farther down we went, however, the better the views got. Almost the entire trail is above tree line, so there were the huge vista where you could see for miles and miles if you didn’t want to be continually looking at Mount Rainier.
If you are hiking for the wildflowers, this is heaven. I have never seen wildflowers in such abundance or in such variety over such a large area. We have often seen trout lily covering a hillside and spring beauty so thick it looked like snow, but here, for the entire length of our hike (about 8 miles) we were never in an area that was not covered in flowers. Well, unless it was covered in snow.
If you are hiking for creeks, streams, or waterfalls, there were plenty of those, also. Of course, the snow was melting which produced lots of run off, some of which was in the trail. At one point, the trail was completely covered with about 3 inches of swiftly running water. There were numerous waterfalls, especially on the second half of our hike. I was too tired by then to take pictures. Some of these falls seemed large enough to be flowing year round; others were probably only visible during snowmelt.
I won’t repost the photos from Monday, but I will put up a couple to identify the flowers.
We stayed home today for a little rest and relaxation. Tomorrow we are planning another trip up to Chinook Pass. We hope to stop at the Grove of the Patriarchs to see the big trees and to do the 3 mile hike around Tipsoo lake.