Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park
By: Daniel Taylor
Posted On: 2015-02-28
Mount Rainier National Park was established on March 2, 1889. It is located slightly southwest of central Washington in the Pacific Northwest. It is divided up into several beautiful regions, including the mountain itself, Sunrise, and Paradise. Paradise is the centrally located region directly south of Mount Rainier National Park’s namesake.
The park’s entrance fee of $15 is good for a noncommercial vehicle with up to fifteen passengers (and you can return for free within 7 days!). I recommend taking advantage of that benefit and checking out multiple areas within the park, but today I’m going to highlight Paradise.
Although the Paradise region of the park is located in prime viewing range of Mount Rainier, the highlight of this region is the wildflower meadow. Unique from other areas of Mount Rainier NP, Paradise boasts an array of stunning wildflower stands. You’ll find pasqueflower, mountain daisy, American bistort, lupine, glacier lily, partridgefoot, and a variety of other unique vegetation here.
Several walking trails of less than two miles can take you on tours of Paradise’s wildflower meadows for up-close viewing.
Because of its heavy snowfall, Paradise is an excellent place for winter activities. But don’t come unprepared! I’m not joking when I say that there’s a lot of snow. This region of the park averages 641 inches per year. That’s over 53 feet!
Snowplay* – once Paradise has received five feet of snow pack (to protect the meadow beneath), the rangers will open up its recreation area. Available for soft-vessel sledding and tubing, the snowplay area is accessible for free on weekends and holidays. Expect the area to be open no earlier than December.
Hiking – there are many blazed trails available for visitors who want to check out the most popular areas in the Paradise region. Several short trails of less than two miles are available for visitors who don’t want an all-day commitment, but you can wander longer than that if you have it in you. A few longer trails head north toward Rainier itself, with more than one skirting the mountains beautiful glaciers.
Wilderness camping – Paradise, though easily accessible by road and featuring the Paradise Inn, provides ample wilderness experience. A $20 wilderness permit (good for up to a dozen people for up to fourteen nights) is required for camping and a $45/$31 (depending on age) Climb Pass is required for anyone who plans to venture onto any glacier or climb higher than 10,000 feet. Try to plan ahead for wilderness permits.
*For those interested in more exciting winter activities, fret not. Other areas of Mount Rainier are sometimes open to skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
Inspiration Point, located just off of Stevens Canyon Road (you’ll see signs), is a must-see whether you plan on plunging into the wilderness or sticking to your vehicle. To the north is a breathtaking panorama of Mount Rainier and to the south is a spectacular view of the less-recognized, but still beautiful, Tatoosh Range.
No matter what brings you to Paradise, Inspiration Point brings everything into focus. It invokes a sense of awe and reminds visitors of the true scale of the park. Don’t miss it.
You can access the Paradise region in a few different ways since Mount Rainier NP is well-connected.
Southwest entrance – east of Ashford, WA, take SR-706 into the southwest corner of the park. Proceed east past the Longmire Museum.
Northwest entrance –This road doesn’t extend very far into the park and will not lead you anywhere close to Paradise, so don’t take it unless you have different plans.
Eastern entrances – There are north, central, and south entrances into the eastern corridor of the park. From the south, take SR-123 north into Stevens Canyon Entrance. From the north (south of Greenwater, WA), take SR-410 south for the entire length of the park to that same point. From the east, (west of Yakima, WA), take the Mather Memorial Highway (SR-410) west into the park. Follow that road south to the same entrance point. From the Stevens Canyon Entrance, head west past Stevens Ridge.