Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Road to Paradise
Fur Trade Reenactors,
copyright Fort Nisqually
Living History Museum
Once you've explored the mountain, take a drive down Paradise Road towards Paradise Valley. Once you see it, you'll understand how it got the name. A mile above sea level, Paradise offers an unparalleled view of Rainier's summit. Due to its high altitude, the area receives 680 inches of snow annually. And it holds the world's record for annual snowfall: 1,122 inches (94 feet) in 1971!
On the car tour, you'll pass Tatoosh Range, a sawtooth-shaped ridge that predates its more famous neighbor. It was formed by lava flows, and the floors of the valley are heavily forested, providing great opportunities to explore the park's plantlife. The range is particularly beautiful at night, when the face of the ridge reflects the sunset.
You'll also see 168-foot Narada Falls. The falls were named by the Theosophical Society of Tacoma in 1893, and the word "Narada" literally means "uncontaminated." It's quite a refreshing sight!
Once in the heart of Paradise Valley, hike the Alta Vista Trail, an easy 1.5-mile loop through fields of flowers to a prominent knoll overlooking Paradise. From here, you'll get a great view of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. Nisqually Vista Trail is another easy 1.2-mile loop that circles the entire length of Nisqually Glacier.
Spend the afternoon hiking along Lakes Trail, a 5-mile loop winding through subalpine meadows to Reflection Lake. Formed by ancient glaciers (what else!), Reflection Lake is one of the most photographed bodies of water in the park. On a clear day, when the lake's surface is still, you can see a picture-perfect reflection of Rainier.
As you explore Paradise, black-tailed deer, red foxes, coyotes, Douglas squirrels (aka chickarees), and elk may cross your path. And although bear, cougar, and wolf encounters are highly unlikely here, be alert, stay on the trails, and avoid making a lot of noise.