Area: Paradise
Hike Type: Family-friendly Pass: Natl. Park Pass
Distance: 1.2 mi RT Duration: 0.75 hr Difficulty Level: Easy
Elevation Start: 5,590 Elevation End: 5,950 Elevation Gain: 520
Snow-Free: Mid-July – Mid-Sept  

In Spanish, Alta Vista means “high view,” a fitting name for a trail with views that are nothing short of spectacular on a clear day. Even if it’s cloudy, take heart, you can still enjoy views at Paradise when Mount Rainier is hidden in the clouds. Its network of trails and summer wildflower displays light up the meadows like Tiffany lamps. On a clear day there are not only close-up views of Mount Rainier, Sluiskin Falls, Pinnacle Peak and The Castle (two peaks of the Tatoosh Range), but Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens (to the south) as well.

The paved Alta Vista Trail is a good choice for first-time visitors, families with small children, those with little hiking experience and guests staying at Paradise Inn looking for a nice walk. Paradise is a busy place on summer weekends though it gladdens our hearts to see visitors from so many nationalities and walks of life enjoying their time at Paradise.

By mid-August most of the avalanche lilies have faded but many other flowers delight the senses including magenta paintbrush, lupine, partridge foot, bistort, valerian and asters. Asters (a lavender daisy-like flower) are a late summer flower and soon after they appear, you’ll spot blue gentians in the meadows; you may even notice a tinge of fall color on mountain ash, vine maple and hellebore.

Be sure to pick up a free trail map that details the trail system at Paradise – those are available on the first floor of the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center; you can also get the latest weather forecast at the visitor center or the Paradise Ranger Station (next to the visitor center).

Just about everyone who visits Paradise can hike (or ramble) the paved trail to Alta Vista. Start from the visitor center and climb steps to a junction where the trails begin (5,590 feet). You can also start out from the Paradise Inn or the Guide House trail that connects Inn guests to the well-signed trail system (the Guide House trail begins at the Guide House).

The Alta Vista trail is paved from the parking lot; it is a little steeper than the other nature trails. On a nice day you can hike the trail in tennis shoes; no special equipment needed other than a jacket, a snack and water. Alta Vista at 5,946 feet makes a good lunch spot or turnaround; on a hot day evergreens provide shade and protection from the sun. There are also good views on rocky outcroppings a little below the high point; from our heather-bordered perch, the entire Paradise area and its network of trails was laid out at our feet. From our perch high in the sky, we watched the tiny hikers on the interconnecting trails below.

You wouldn’t know it today, but in 1895 a tent camp was established on the east shoulder of Alta Vista for tourists – the price per meal was 50 cents (the food was prepared in tents). The public road to Paradise was opened in 1915 – until then it was a horse and wagon road.

If you want to extend your hike from Alta Vista, continue on the Alta Vista trail to Glacier Vista (N 46° 47′ 52″, W 121° 44′ 11″; 6,090 feet) then return to Paradise on the Dead Horse Creek trail to where it joins the Skyline Trail and hike the Skyline Trail back to the trailhead (approximately a four-mile loop). See the park map for other short loops and variations.

Alta Vista Trail from Paradise (to and from): 1.2 miles round trip, 520 feet of gain. about 45 minutes. The Alta Vista loop is about 4 miles round trip with 750 feet of elevation gain. about 1.5 hours.

To get there: From the Nisqually Entrance of the park drive to Paradise via the Nisqually-Vista Paradise Road to the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center and parking lot (5,383 feet).

For additional information on fees, rules and regulations, current conditions, and weather call Mount Rainier National Park (360-569-2211) or visit their website at The recommended map for Mount Rainier National Park is Green Trails (Mount Rainier Wonderland Map 269S).

– Karen Sykes, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert

Starting Point: 46.788889, -121.736944
Notable Waypoints:

Trailhead: N 46° 47′ 20, W 121° 44′ 13
Alta Vista Overlook: N 46° 47′ 33, W 121° 44′ 12

About The Author

Karen Sykes

Karen (1943-2014) was a Washington native, born in Shelton and lived in Washington most of her life. She started to hike in 1979 and joined The Mountaineers the following year. By the 1980s she was leading hikes for the Seattle branch of The Mountaineers. Around the same time, she began writing articles for Signpost Magazine (Pack and Paddle) and contributed to so many hiking reports that her name became familiar to other hikers. She was contacted by The Seattle Post Intelligencer to write the "Hike of the Week" which turned into years of writing this weekly column, until The Seattle Post Intelligencer stopped their printing presses in 2009. Two of Karen's books have been published by Mountaineer Books - Hidden Hikes (out of print) and Best Wildflower Hikes with Al Kruckeberg and Craig Romano. Karen was as passionate about photography as she was about hiking and both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post Intelligencer have published her photographs.