Everything You Need to Know About Hiking the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Hiking the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier National Park
It’s going to be one hill of a day
The Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier is unreal. The day begins earlier than I would have liked. My alarm goes off at 4:30. The strong urge to snooze is sedated by my realization that I get to see Mount Rainier National Park for the first time.
The day before I arrived in Tacoma, Washington to visit my dear friend Chloe. On the day of my arrival I can see Mount Rainier from her house, but along the hour and a half drive I see the volcano closer and closer. Mount Rainier looks incredible from the pictures online, but in person it is even better. The Skyline Trail takes hiker from Paradise to Panorama Point. It is five miles of breathtaking views, snowy paths, and an up-close volcanic experience.
There are only certain times of the year you can go
The Skyline trail is open in July and closes around Mid-October. Otherwise, the trail is covered in snow and ice. As adventurous as I am, I am not sure I am ready for ice climbing just yet. Even in the middle of July there is still snow on the mountain. I can only imagine how cold it gets in the winter months.
The beginning of the hike starts out at around 5,000 feet of elevation, and it rises from there. The first mile of the hike is steep. I want to say we stopped to take pictures of the view, but in reality, we are out of breath.
Take Glacier Vista for extra mileage
When you come up to the route Glacier Vista, take it. The side route is not on the map, but the park ranger recommended it to us. It adds an extra mile onto the whole loop. On Glacier Vista you get closer to the active volcano and walk through the snow. The higher we got the closer we got to the snow. Even though there was snow on the ground we have goldy locks weather, not too hot not too cold. It could be the middle of the summer and the snow on the top of Mount Rainier never melts.
Don’t go without snacks and hydration
On the glacier trail we stop at the benches for a quick snack break. You will want to bring several snacks such as granola bars, energy chews, almonds, or raisins with you. Staying energized and hydrated is the best way to be prepared for a day hike. Especially with the drastic changes in elevation bringing food and water is essential for staying safe on the trail.
There is little shade or coverage
The Skyline Trail has impeccable views throughout the entire trail, but that also means there is little sun coverage. Be sure to bring sunscreen and lather up.
About halfway through there is a bathroom in the sky
In order to preserve the natural landscape visitors are instructed not to venture off the trail. The trails are heavily trafficked. This makes finding a place to the bathroom extra difficult. Thankfully, about halfway up the trail there is a bathroom. I commend the person who carried a toilet up this mountain.
The views keep getting better and better the higher we go. It is tempting to stop and take pictures at every viewpoint. However, we spent so long taking pictures and enjoying the view that what should have been a four-hour hike took around six hours. With the added trail loops we hiked around seven miles total.
The terrain gets rocky
Hiking boots are helpful. Some portions of the trail have rocky terrain. Be careful to avoid spraining an ankle.
The trail peaks at 7000 ft. elevation
At around 5000 feet elevation begins to play a role on the body. The trailhead starts at around 5000 feet elevation and reaches 7000 feet elevation at its peak. During the skyline trail hike you will climb around 1,700 feet of elevation total. At this level of elevation, the oxygen is thinner and makes it harder to breath. Not to mention it is easier to become dehydrated while hiking at higher elevation.
For more information about hiking at higher elevations read Backpacker Magazine’s article: How to Hike Strong at Altitude.
Snow is slippery so be careful
The temperature is cool and mild, but some parts of the Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier are covered entirely in snow. Be careful not to slip on ice. Chloe warned me to be careful not to run on the snow and quickly after I fell.
It is very doable for beginner hikers
The Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier is moderate difficulty. It only five miles long but has some steep uphill sections. It is perfect for a beginner hiker looking for a challenge. At the end of the day you will be tired, but the trail is very doable.
Does it get any better than tasty snacks, gorgeous views, and great company? By the end of day our feet are sore, bodies exhausted, but both of us are happy as clams.
After seeing the Skyline Trail’s jaw-dropping views you will not regret this hike.
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