This is a popular hike for many reasons especially on a clear day. In summer the lakes are bordered with wildflowers but in fall the lakes are bordered with mountain ash and the gold-threaded leaves of hellebore scattered amidst grasses mingled with asters and royal-blue gentians. Light is more intense in fall; skies are bluer, Mount Rainier seems whiter, the reflections brighter. If you don’t have time to hike you can access Reflection Lakes via the Stevens Canyon Road, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the views. Experienced hikers with a map often hike from Paradise to the lakes and climb back to Paradise for exercise and to prolong the beautiful views.
For reasons we’ve never understood this trail doesn’t get much attention, perhaps because trails with views of Mount Rainier take precedence for first-time visitors. For hikers seeking views of Mount Rainier without a lot of company, the Moraine Trail is ideal. From the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center, walk up the steps onto the well-marked trail system; follow signs to the Moraine Trail. After climbing through meadows the trail enters forest before descending to the moraine. Don’t get too close to the edge; it may be unstable. Listen to the clatter of falling rocks as the glaciers grumble in this wild and desolate setting. Chances to encounter wildlife here are greater than on busier trails.
From Sunrise hike up to a junction on Sourdough Ridge, turn left. Silver snags frame Mount Rainier with views of tundra-like terrain mingled with late-summer flowers. Pause at the overlook of Frozen Lake, continue to a designated junction, and follow signs to Burroughs Mountain. First Burroughs is a good turnaround for an easy hike; many make Second Burroughs their turnaround with views of glacial ponds and the gleaming flanks of Mount Rainier. The trail to Third Burroughs looks further away than it is; if you’ve got the energy, keep going. From Third Burroughs look down on the dizzying crevasses of the Emmons/Winthrop glaciers. Be prepared for any kind of weather including wind-driven snow and rain.
Start at Mowich Lake for one of the most spectacular hikes inside the park. Behind the patrol cabin find a trail that climbs through the forest. Gradually meadows replace the forest with small, mossy tributaries bordered with monkey-flowers. The trail climbs steeply to a ridge-crest then descends a boulder field; this stretch is often in the shade; you may encounter steep snow and/or ice. Take trekking poles and traction devices. Unless you are an experienced navigator go back the way you came; otherwise you can continue on a path to Spray Park and hike back to Mowich Lake. There are not enough adjectives that live up to the splendor of the setting.
5)Grove of the Patriarchs – Easy | Ohanapecosh Area
This is an easy hike for all ages and persuasions. The trail starts behind the restroom near the Stevens Canyon entrance of the park through old-growth forest. Short spurs lead to the banks of the Ohanapecosh River. After admiring the massive Western Red Cedars and Douglas firs you’ll come to a suspension bridge. Kids may be tempted to jump up and down on the bridge; please discourage them as it causes the bridge to sway. The loop trail continues through an ancient grove of trees where awe is the only possible response once you see these giants. In fall, fiery vine maples fill in the gaps between the big trees. Benches invite quiet contemplation.
6) Sheep Lake/Sourdough Gap – Easy | Chinook Pass Area
Park at the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead just below Chinook Pass; views begin at the trailhead for this family friendly hike. Allow plenty of time; not because the hike is difficult but because there is so much to see. The trail parallels State Route 410 as it snakes its way east then alternates between open areas and forested stretches before it opens out on the sandy shores of Sheep Lake (about 1.5 miles). If you can tear yourself away from the lake you can continue on the trail and climb to Sourdough Gap, another spectacular site with far-flung views other peaks including Mount Adams, perhaps even Mount Hood or Mount Saint Helens to the south. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
This is a strenuous but precious gem off Highway 410 that shares the trailhead with Crystal Lakes. Cross a small stream and at 1.5 miles turn right at the junction for Crystal Peak (the trail to Crystal Lakes continues straight). After crossing a stream the trail switchbacks through old-growth forest that gradually transitions to meadows with views of Mount Rainier and colorful mountain ash, asters and other late summer flowers. The trail climbs to a notch in a rocky ridgeline (site of an old lookout) with views down to Crystal Lakes. You can follow the ridgeline a little further to another highpoint but watch your footing especially if the trail is frosty or snow has fallen.
8) Grand Park – Moderate | Sunrise Area Other adjectives for “grand” include majestic, impressive, imposing, splendid, and striking to mention a few. All fall short of describing the grandeur of Grand Park. Fall is ideal for this hike as mosquitoes are gone; Grand Park is a huge meadow on a plateau with wraparound views (mosquitoes come out when flowers bloom). Gaze down on Berkeley Park with Mount Rainier rising above. You may hear bugling elk; fall is their mating season. You are more apt to smell them than see them. Their scent is musky, almost like smoke from a campfire. Should you encounter elk be respectful; do not intrude into their “space”. Ptarmigan will be changing color from mottled browns to white as winter approaches.More Details about this Hike
9) Naches Loop – Moderate | Chinook Pass Area
This trail loops around Naches Peak with views of sparkling tarns, meadows, Mount Rainier, Naches Peak and mountain ash with red-orange berries. Unless the trail is icy or snowy, the hike is not difficult. Park at the Pacific Crest Trailhead below Chinook Pass, hike back to the overpass at Chinook Pass on the PCT. Hike the loop either direction; we prefer clockwise. Continue left (clockwise) as the trail circumvents Naches Peak. Spurs lead to viewpoints and ponds. You can drop down to Dewey Lakes if you have time though it’s a steep climb back to the trail. As the trail rounds Naches Peak Mount Rainier comes into view and the views unsurpassable.
You can’t go wrong no matter where you hike at Paradise. Get a free printed map of the trail system (at the park entrance or the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center) and/or follow signs. Alta Vista is a 1.5-mile loop suitable for all ages and abilities (experienced hikers can continue to higher points including Panorama Point, even Camp). Start out on the stone steps across from the Visitor Center, listen for the shrill whistle of marmots or better yet, see them as they scurry about preparing for a long winter. The steep meadows that flank the mountain burn with fall color – save Paradise for a clear day if possible and discover why Paradise is thusly named.