Friday, July 26, 2019

Three short hikes, Mt. Rainier National Park, Paradise, 2019

The Jackson Visitor Center, opened in 2008

This past week we got up early and drove to Paradise at Mt. Rainier National Park with the goal in mind to do three short hikes, Nisqually Vista, Myrtle Falls and Reflection Lake.  This would be a total of approximately 3 or 3 ½ miles with about 300 or 400 ft elevation gain.  Parking at the visitor center and lodge area is restricted to 2 hours with a special lot reserved for overnight guests staying at the Lodge.  A second lot is walking distance away and is reserved for all day or longer than 2 hours. 

The Jackson Visitor Center has exhibits, rangers, a restaurant/lunchroom, and picnic tables.  The Lodge dates from the 1930s and has rooms for overnight guests, a large lobby, a large dinning room, an additional small eating area, easy chairs, tables and fireplaces plus outdoor tables and chairs.  Both buildings have gift shops and restrooms. 

 Interior views of old lodge

The interior of the old lodge, built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) using unskilled laborers and unemployed skilled workers, has magnificent pole beams, two stone fireplaces, and chairs and tables, lampshades and décor in general from the 1930s.  This lodge is one of a group built by the CCC during the Great Depression.

1.  Nisqually Vista

Nisqually Vista was our first destination.  Even though it was a weekday there were lots of people but not many were opting for the short hikes so we encountered few if any people in certain sections.  The paths are wide and paved or hard dirt, free of stumbling obstructions and have the edges decorated with thousands of wildflowers.  One of the off shoots was called the Avalanche Lily trail.  We probably missed the peak bloom but there were still thousands upon thousands of lilies covering the hillsides and meadows.

Avalanche lilies

Closer view of Avalanche lilies

Of the three lilies that we see in this park these are white, the Glacier lilies are yellow, and the Tiger lilies are orange with dark spots.  On this trail we saw both Avalanche and Tiger lilies.

 Tiger Lilies

This Tiger lily had more spots than usual

There were hundreds of Indian Paintbrush flowers ranging in color from bright magenta, to red-orange, to pale orange and light pink.  Sometimes we also see yellow or white paintbrush.

Magenta Paintbrush

Red-orange Paintbrush mixed with Spirea, Valerian and a little Lupine


 Around the bend, munching on leaves, was this hoary marmot that was not the least nervous and continued to eat as we approached closer and closer. 

Marmot, munching breakfast salad

 On the return we saw another marmot in the same general area.

The roped off area next to the trail to Nisqually Vista is to protect and encourage vegetation regrowth.

From one of the view points, the Vista--Nisqually glacier, river and moraine  

The trail makes a keyhole loop and has several viewing areas of the Nisqually glacier before winding back to the lodge and parking areas.

On the return we had a nice view of the Tatoosh range as we neared the visitor center and parking area.

2.  Myrtle Falls

Myrtle Falls

 We have been to Myrtle Falls several times and usually go part way up the Skyline Trail or the Golden Gate trail but this time we just went to the falls and back.   There are stairs down to a viewing point and well worth the effort to get a look at the falls.  Often marmots can be found near the falls but not this time. 

Besides the people, guests at the falls included a chipmunk ,

a deer

and this Gray Jay sitting in the tree.

3.  Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake

To get to Reflection Lake it was necessary to go back to the parking area and drive a short distance.  This day there were clouds around Mount Rainier so we didn’t get the beautiful reflection in the lake as hoped.  There is a trail around the lake and side paths that lead down to several small beaches.  

We walked part way around and saw another deer.

Also a Stellar’s Jay

View from the end of the lake

A big surprise was an entire meadow filled with Elephant’s head lousewort

A few of the other flowers we saw . . .

Rosy Spirea

Sitka Valerian

Pink Mountain Heather



Sickletop lousewort

Rosy Pussytoes

Mountain Azalea

Shooting Stars

We do not count people or dogs at Mt. Rainier National Park because there are hundreds of visitors.  No dogs are allowed on the trails; however, we did see people walking their dogs in the parking area.

Count for the day:  4 deer, 2 marmots, several chipmunks and ground squirrels, fish jumping in the lake, and numerous  birds and bird song.


  1. Hey Laurie and Bob -- you guys are an inspiration. I will be heading to Mt. Rainier myself in a week. I will overnight at Eagle's Nest. Hope I see as much wildlife and wildflowers as you!

    1. Rainier is a beautiful park. Enjoy your time and we will be happy to hear about it and see photos too.