When a place’s name is Paradise, you know it’s bound to be good...
I visited Paradise with my family a couple of times growing up, and every time I was blown away. It had such an impression on me that years later, having not visited Paradise for almost a decade, I could still picture it. Driving up to Paradise, I could anticipate all the bends in the road, the different viewpoints I was approaching, and what I was going to see once I arrived.
Mt. Rainier is easily my favorite spot in Washington, and a place everyone who visits this state should add to their plans.
While there are a million and one different trails and areas to explore at Mt. Rainier, Paradise is a great starting point. Here you’ll find stunning views of the mountain, wildflower-filled meadows, and even a few waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you might also spot some wildlife!
What to do at Paradise, Mt. Rainier
Walk the Skyline Trail to Myrtle Falls
This is the main highlight for most people who visit Paradise. Not only is the path to Myrtle Falls paved and wheelchair accessible, it’s less than a mile long and kid-friendly. Once you reach the falls, there’s a viewpoint which faces the front of the waterfall, as well as a wooden footbridge which runs over the top of it.
Have a picnic or dine at the Paradise Inn
Paradise is the perfect place for a picnic lunch. Bring along some of your favorite snacks and find a spot at one of the picnic table locations. You can find picnic tables outside the visitor center, as well as at the designated Paradise Picnic Area.
If you prefer to eat at restaurant, check out the Paradise Inn. Below are their summer dining hours (subject to change during different seasons):
- Breakfast: Everyday 7am - 9am
- Sunday Brunch: Sundays 7am - 2:30pm
- Lunch: Everyday 12pm - 2:30pm
- Dinner: Everyday 5:30pm - till close
* Other food options at Paradise include a cafeteria in the visitor center and a small cafe in Paradise Inn.
Appreciate the wildflowers and keep an eye out for wildlife
The mountain wildflowers at Paradise are gorgeous. I probably took more photos of flowers than I did of the waterfalls, which is saying something since I’m waterfall-obsessed. The flowers you’ll see the most are purple like the ones in my photos. If you take a closer look at them during your visit, you’ll likely see butterflies, bees, and other insects flying around.
* Make sure and stay on the path at Paradise and don’t venture into the wildflowers. Mountain meadows are incredibly fragile habitats, and you don’t want to disturb the natural wildlife in them.
Stop at the Henry M. Visitor Center
The visitor center at Paradise is a great place to stop and get information about the area, or prep for any hikes you’re going on. Inside you’ll find restrooms, a cafeteria, guided ranger programs, general maps and information, as well as a few exhibits.
Check Out the Guide House
The Guide House is where climbers go to obtain permits to summit Mt. Rainier. Even if you're not a mountain climber though, I recommend checking this building out still. It has a unique design and is incredibly photogenic.
Waterfalls near Paradise, Mt. Rainier:
In addition to Myrtle Falls, check out the following waterfalls if you have time. All are located on the way to Paradise, but I recommend stopping at them on your way back. This way you get to Paradise before the parking lots completely fill up.
Christine Falls - 5 min. stop
Christine Falls is the quickest waterfall stop on the way to Paradise, but also the one with the least parking. If you see an open parking spot, swing by for a few minutes and check it out.
Narada Falls - 15-20 min. stop
This one is my favorite, simply because it is both impressive-looking and easy to walk to. The trail leading down to it is a little steep, but it’s still short and kid-friendly.
Comet Falls - 3.8 miles round trip (time depends on hiking speed)
Comet Falls is more of an actual hike with an elevation gain of 1250 ft. If you spend a long time exploring Paradise, you may want to save Comet Falls for another trip.
Tips for visiting Paradise
Get there as early as possible. Not only does the parking lot fill up quickly, the gate getting into Mt. Rainier National Park gets backed up with traffic. When I left the park at noon, the line of cars waiting to get in was miles long (no joke)!
Park in the overnight parking if you plan on staying longer than two hours. The parking lot closest to the visitor center has a 2 hour time limit.
Keep your eye out for deer and other wildlife. I saw a deer by the Guide House and a fat, little marmot on the hike to Myrtle Falls.
Always stay on the trail. Like I mentioned earlier, the meadows at Mt. Rainier are incredibly fragile habitats. Don’t ruin them by walking through them or trying to get a photo in the wildflowers. The photos I took of flowers were all taken from the path.
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