“The most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings.”
-John Muir, 1888
On the second day of our getaway we were up again before dawn to beat the crowds to Paradise and to once again enjoy a hearty breakfast at the lodge. The only people up on the mountain at that early hour were groups getting ready to climb the glacier and photographers….lots of them!
Paradise is a beautiful area to explore and it’s the most easily accessible place in the park. By mid morning, the parking lot is full and the place is swarming with people!
After breakfast and a quick walk up to Myrtle Falls, we headed over the mountain to the Grove of The Patriarchs near the Stevens Canyon entrance on Highway 123. This is a short but popular hike through a majestic old growth forest of Red Cedars and Douglas Firs. These giants have been protected from fire, allowing them to grow to enormous size. So, in this small area, you have many trees that are more than 25 ft in circumference, at least one approaching 50 ft, and some over 1,000 years old. It is an amazing sight, even to this Oregon native that has grown up in northwest forests!
We returned to Paradise for one last walk before heading back to camp for dinner. By this time the park was really hopping and parking was a mess. We lucked out though and found a place in the overflow parking lot with access to a hike that we hadn’t known about previously called the Nisqually Vista Trail – a 1.5 mile loop that provides stunning views of Mt. Rainier’s Southern Flank and the Nisqually Glacier.