Paradise Glacier Trail, Paradise Visitor Center, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Paradise Glacier Trail - 5.0 miles

Paradise Visitor Center

Open travel on Paradise Glacier

Open travel on Paradise Glacier

Round-Trip Length: 5.0 miles (unmaintained travel continues to Cowlitz Rocks)
Start-End Elevation: 5,420' - 6,290' (unmaintained travel continues to 7,148')
Elevation Change: +870' net elevation gain to end of maintained trail
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Paradise Glacier Trail - 5.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Paradise - Stevens Glacier has lost more than 50% of its area since 1896, and separated into distinct lobes of stagnant ice higher up the valley. The western lobe is Paradise Glacier-proper, which splits off the Cowlitz Glacier at about 9,000'. The middle lobe - up which an unmaintained route continues to Cowlitz Rocks, is Stevens Glacier. The eastern lobe is Williwakas Glacier, a major headwater of Stevens Creek.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Paradise Glacier Trail explores the barren expanse left by this retreat, and offers a rare glimpse at an exposed glacial bed. 

The Skyline Trail (1.8 miles) rises through lush subalpine meadows to the Paradise Glacier Trail (.7 miles), which splits off into a contrastingly stark landscape of scattered rock, gravel milky blue streams and lengthy snowfields.

Prepared hikers may continue 1.4 miles beyond the maintained trail across glacial remains to a pass between Paradise Glacier and the Cowlitz Rocks:

From Paradise, follow signs right (east) for the Skyline Trail. The Skyline trail rises through broad, flower-covered slopes to the Golden Gate Trail split (.45 miles : 5,615'), then drops to a low point over a cascading stream (.8 miles : 5,518').

It steepens back past connections for 4th Trail Crossing and Lakes Trail (1.35 miles : 5,815') to Sluiskin Falls and the Paradise Glacier Trail split (1.8 miles : 6,068'). You'll pass an interesting subalpine wetland along the Paradise River leading to this point.

The Paradise Glacier Trail veers NE on a rolling climb through herbaceous meadows and tree-topped knolls that give way to fell-fields and barren glacial beds. It edges up against Stevens Creek to the End of Maintained Trail sign (2.5 miles : 6,290'). This moon-like area contrasts with the meadows just below it, and is easy to explore.

An intuitive route continues up-valley along Stevens Creek, which is gradually consumed by perennial snow. Keep a safe distance from the creek's path, which is mostly hidden. If you intend to cross the creek, do it early and lower down the valley. 

Many streams bisect your path and hollow out tunnels under your feet. By late summer these snow bridges can be highly unstable - proceed cautiously. Steady but moderate grades continue along the base of Paradise Glacier to Cowlitz Gap between the upper-glacier and Cowlitz Rocks (3.9 miles : 7,148').

You'll have amazing views down the tail of Cowlitz Glacier and Muddy Fork Cowlitz River Valley from this point, and of the Tatoosh Range and Mount Adams on the return. 

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N46 47.182 W121 44.190 — 0.0 miles : Paradise - Skyline Trailhead
  • N46 47.520 W121 43.940 — .45 miles : Golden Gate Trail split
  • N46 47.604 W121 43.566 — .8 miles : Nadir across stream, begin steep climb
  • N46 47.410 W121 43.164 — 1.35 miles : Lakes Trail split
  • N46 47.663 W121 42.956 — 1.8 miles : Paradise Glacier Trail split (6,068')
  • N46 47.977 W121 42.728 — 2.3 miles : Rolling climb along glacial stream
  • N46 48.093 W121 42.830 — 2.5 miles : End of Maintained Trail (6,290')
  • N46 48.436 W121 42.948 — 3.0 miles : Varied terrain / snow
  • N46 48.761 W121 42.833 — 3.45 miles : Varied terrain / snow
  • N46 48.988 W121 42.588 — 3.75 miles : moderate climb up snowfield
  • N46 49.086 W121 42.487 — 3.9 miles : Pass under the Cowlitz Rocks (7,148')

Worth Noting

  • The Paradise area receives on average 643 inches (53.6 feet) of snow per year. It briefly held a world record in the 1971-1972 winter with 1122 inches (93.5 feet) of snow. In the 2014-2015 winter it saw a record low snowfall of 266 inches (22.2 feet).
  • The Paradise - Jackson Visitor Center is open from May - early October. From mid-October - April, the visitor center is usually open on weekends and holidays (off-season days and times will vary by weather and staff).

Camping and Backpacking Information

Wilderness Permits are required year-round for overnight camping in the backcountry. Wilderness Camping Permits are free (*see notes for climbers below). There are no designated backcountry campsites on Paradise Area Trails.

  • Permits and current trail conditions are available at all wilderness information centers, visitor centers and ranger stations (360.569.2211).
  • Camp only in sites designated on your itinerary. Fires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
  • All trail-side camps have primitive toilets, marked sites, poles for hanging food and a nearby water source.
  • Cross-Country Zone Camping: there are no maintained trails, campsites or amenities in cross-country zones. Camp at least 1/4 mile away from any road or established trail, and 100' from water sources. Cross-country camping is not permitted for those hiking the complete Wonderland Trail.
  • Summer Party Size Limit (May 15th - September 30th): 5 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation. Families are an exception to this rule (parents + children).
  • Winter Party Size Limit (October 1 - May 14th): 12 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation.
  • Groups (defined as 6 - 12 people) are permitted in 25 designated sites throughout the park, and when camping on snow in Alpine Zones.
  • Climbing Permits are required year-round for any day or overnight travel on glaciers or above 10,000', including Little Tahoma. The Climbing Permit also serves as the wilderness camping permit for overnight trips. Wilderness Camping Permits are free while a Climbing Permit requires the purchase of an annual Climbing Pass for each member of the party.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park (good for 7 days). Annual Passes are $50.
  • Pets and Bikes are not permitted on hiking trails or climbing routes in Mount Rainier National Park.
  • Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in Mount Rainier National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Paradise Visitor Center (main trailhead) is located 17.2 miles from the Nisqually Entrance Station in Mount Rainier National Park.

From the entrance station, drive 15.2 miles to the split for Paradise and Ohanapecosh. Turn left for Paradise and continue 2 miles to the upper parking lot (Visitor Center, Ranger Station, Paradise Inn). The main trailhead is located on the west (left) side of the Visitor Center at the paved steps.

The road between Longmire and Paradise is plowed throughout the winter. Click here for current road status.

Contact Information

Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

Paradise Visitor Center

Paradise Climbing Information Center (CIC) | Guide House

White River Wilderness Information Center

Longmire Wilderness Information Center

Carbon River Ranger Station

General Information

Lost and Found

The Paradise Visitor Center is open from May - early October. From mid-October - April, the visitor center is usually open on weekends and holidays (exact days may vary by weather and staff).

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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