Washington Hikes: Panorama Point

We ended the month of July by completing our first (and likely last) summer season hike at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park.

I’ve been so spoiled with the less traversed trails we’ve been tackling and forgot how distressing it is hiking around people who pay no attention to what they are doing, where they are walking, or the damage they are inflicting on the flora and fauna around them.

I know that’s a negative way to start this post so I’m going to keep this PSA short and sweet:

Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy these beautiful places, and everyone should play a part in keeping them that way.

We saw people feeding the wildlife, walking over bright orange barriers marking meadow repair/rehabilitation, standing on signs featuring crossed out footprints, and everything in between.

We’ve been to several parks recently that have posted warnings that if people cannot abide by the rules, entire trails will be accessible by pre-booked guide only.

Please, be mindful of the impact you have on the world around you and help keep these incredible spaces open to everyone.

[End of PSA]

Prior to encountering this chaos, we had a lovely hike to Panorama Point, which has long been on our list.

We made the wise choice of hiking there via the Skyline Trail/Golden Gate Loop in a counter-clockwise direction. We only encountered a few families and photographers as we made our way to Panorama Point – we had the wildflower meadows almost entirely to ourselves.

The crowds we encountered were all on our journey down. While I’m pleased we completed the loop, if I were to do it again I would make it an out-and-back hike, returning via the same, less-traversed route we took to get there.

Our first stop was Myrtle Falls – a gorgeous waterfall with Mt. Rainier’s peak towering in the background.

This section of the trail is very accessible and there were several families with young kids who made the falls and the idyllic wooden bridge that crosses over it a turnaround point.

The trail split just after the bridge and we took the Golden Gate leg across lovely wildflower meadows with intermittent views of Mt. Rainier’s peak to our left and the Tatoosh range to our right.

After climbing up a series of switchbacks, we began to encounter some snow along the trail. We noticed there was a red coloring across some of the small snow fields and thought maybe it was some sort of geological debris.

However, when we got home, I discovered it’s a phenomenon called ‘watermelon snow.’ It’s caused by an algae and occurs following glacier melt. That makes perfect sense given the exceptional temperatures we’ve been having and how quickly the snow has been disappearing from the mountains, including Mt. Rainier.

We finished climbing up a section of loose rock when a young boy who was hiking with his dad pointed out a mountain goat – the first one we’ve seen during our hikes at Mt. Rainier. Too far away for a picture, but it was awesome to see and to watch other people discover it as we continued to our destination.

Just like that, there was the peak – seemingly so close we could touch it! I stood and stared for a while, discovering glacial melt waterfalls and other interesting geological elements we haven’t been able to make out from farther away. It was stunning.

It was also very cool to see the groups of climbers setting off for Camp Muir and the summit. I still haven’t decided if that’s on my bucket list, and watching them trudge along their trail with their heavy packs and gear isn’t likely to accelerate my decision!

This hike ended up being 5.25 miles and 1,645 feet gain with a maximum elevation of 6,971 feet. It took us 3 hours, with 10 minutes of resting time.

Although our descent was packed with people and a bit painful, our journey to Panorama Point was incredible and I would highly recommend an early start via that alternative route to anyone interested in this viewpoint. Happy hiking!

2 thoughts on “Washington Hikes: Panorama Point

  1. Carrie

    We just did this hike in the opposite direction as you last week. We also we bothered by people ignoring the signs. And they have been working so hard on meadow restoration. There is a large crew you can see working to replant (and I’m not sure what else) just below Panorama Point. We generally dint visit Rainier during the summer and this hike reminded us why. The wild flowers and views were stunning. Without an early start on the trail I can’t imahine how crowded the trails get.

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