hike: Mount Rainier Skyline-Golden Gate loop

If you can only do one hike at Mount Rainier National Park, this incredibly scenic loop takes you from the meadows at Paradise to high above treeline on the mountain.

distance: 4.8 miles (roundtrip)
elevation: 1,456 ft. gain, 1,590 ft. loss
difficulty: moderate
drive time from Portland: 3 hours
parking pass: National Park Pass required for entry
hike description: AllTrails: Skyline, Glacier Vista, Upper Skyline and Golden Gate loop

The Hike

Fall is a great time to visit Mount Rainier National Park, with huckleberry and mountain ash shrubs providing brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red to the already spectacular scenery.

For this trip, I spent two nights camping at the Cougar Rock campground on the last few days before it closed for the season. This campground is located inside the national park and provides great access to hiking trails at Paradise.

Mount Rainier – Cougar Rock campground

Weekends can be very crowded here, so we timed our hike for a Thursday afternoon and didn’t have any problem getting a parking spot in the main lot. Starting at the steps near the Jackson Visitor Center, we took the Skyline Trail to the Glacier View Trail. Right away, the fall color was electric in the meadows.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

It’s quite common to not be able to see Rainier as it hides in clouds on many days, so we were lucky that it was out for the duration of our trip.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

Looking back towards the visitor center and the Tatoosh Range.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike  Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

On the Glacier View trail

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

The hanging meadows west of the Nisqually Glacier were also filled with fall color.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

View of the Nisqually Glacier

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

Looking back at the Tatoosh Range, with Mount Adams and Goat Rocks on the horizon.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

After reaching the viewpoint at Glacier View, we decided to continue on the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

The views kept getting better the higher we climbed.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

This mountain goat was hanging out in a meadow. I used a zoom lens and cropped this image so I didn’t get too close.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

This hike makes you feel like you are on top of the world!

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

At Panorama Point looking up towards Rainier. The trail continues up from here for the full loop.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

Looking back down at Panorama Point from the High Skyline Trail.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

The previous week, snow covered most of the trails in this area, but warm weather and rain melted most of it out before we arrived. We did hike on small sections of snow, but didn’t need any traction devices. If the trails had been more covered, I would have used microspikes to safely traverse the upper section of this hike.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

At the high point of the loop, we were just above 7,000 ft. and the closest we would be to the mountain.

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The terrain on the eastern portion of this hike is more desolute and rocky but equally beautiful.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hikeMount Rainier Skyline loop hike

We took the shorter Golden Gate trail back towards Paradise, switchbacking down hillsides covered in fall colors.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike  Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

Back on the paved trails near Paradise, we stopped at Edith Creek and Myrtle Falls.

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike

It was getting dark as we finished our hike and the meadows below Rainier were glowing with color. I loved every bit of this hike and look forward to doing it again!

Mount Rainier Skyline loop hike