Washington Hikes: Alta Vista Loop

On our recent trip to Mt. Rainier National Park, we opted to stay at the Paradise Inn for an evening and dedicate our weekend to hiking around Paradise. After an incredible morning hiking at nearby Sunrise, we finally arrived at Paradise to find that the clouds had rolled in, blocking much of the summit and limiting our views of the surrounding area.

Although it would have been nice to have had good weather at Paradise, given our views of the summit the last time we visited, the clouds did not deter us from continuing with our hiking plans! I had written down several hikes that were easily accessible from the parking lot at the Paradise Visitor Center, but when we approached the map, Brian wanted to check out the Alta Vista Loop, which was supposed to be a relatively short, nearby hike.

We followed the signs for the Alta Vista Loop and ended up walking directly up to the viewpoint– talk about a leg day! Afterward we learned there are more moderate means for reaching the viewpoint, like the path depicted in the photo below, but the route we chose took us straight uphill. A group behind us gave up after only a short distance and opted to find another way but we fought through it and before we knew it, we were at the viewpoint!

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The clouds were continuing to roll in so after we had recovered from our uphill battle we continued on to the intersection of the Alta Vista Trail with the Skyline Trail where we were to loop around.

We couldn’t see Mt. Rainier’s summit at all at this point, and even the nearby areas we had been able to see before were quickly disappearing. Neither of us really wanted to get caught in any rain the clouds might be bringing with them so we ended up expediting our return trip to the parking lot and our accommodations for the evening.

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While the Washington Trails Association puts this loop trail at 1.5 miles and 560 feet of gain, our version ended up being 2.7 miles and 731 feet of gain (which I do believe primarily occurred within the first half mile we ascended to the viewpoint!).

Although we had limited visibility of the summit at our turnaround point, the view looking south was still relatively clear and we were able to follow the winding path back to the trailhead so we could continue on with our evening.

There are a number of hikes at Paradise that are just off the lower and upper parking lots. The Alta Vista Loop is a relatively short and moderate hike that would be perfect for those wanting to enjoy the area without dedicating hours of their day toward hiking. Just be sure to map your route on the more gentle inclines versus the straight shot to the viewpoint unless you are looking for a good workout!

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