As someone that has hiked nearly all of the trails at Mt. Rainier National Park, I often get asked if there’s one hike not to be missed.
Well, the answer is almost too easy – the Skyline Trail hike is hard to beat!
If you’re into stunning wildflower meadows, massive glaciated peaks, alpine meadows, abundant wildlife, and panoramic vistas, this is the hike for you.
AND if you happen to be visiting the park in August you’re in for an especially stunning display. Can you say ‘Wildflower season at Mt. Rainier?!‘ This is one of the best hikes for wildflowers in the world.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about hiking the Skyline Trail Loop at Mt. Rainier National Park.
Skyline Trail Hike Details
- Distance: 5.4 mile loop
- Elevation gain: 1,700′
- Estimated hiking time: 4 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Area: Paradise
Important Skyline Trail Hiking Tips
Practice Leave No Trace
- If you’re unfamiliar with Leave No Trace, it’s a measure to be a good steward of the land. You can read about the seven principals of Leave No Trace here.
You + Sunscreen = Best Friends (Forever)
- Take my word for this. I forgot to use sunscreen while hiking the Skyline Trail and came back with a burn so bad that I couldn’t sleep on my back for six days. Here’s the sunscreen I NEVER leave the house without now.
Wear hiking boots with good traction
- Even though the trails are well maintained, exposed roots are common. It’s easy to trip in the woods, so set yourself up for success by wearing proper shoes.
- Stepping on the exposed tree roots actually harms the trees and causes them to degrade over time. Step over roots whenever possible.
- Bring insect repellent during summer months and a light rain jacket regardless of the season.
- Check trail conditions before heading out!
- No way around this, my friends. With an average of two million visitors a year, prepare for crowds – especially during the nice, warm summer months. Pacific Northwest folks wait all year for this respite from the rain!
- To avoid congestion, visit during the weekdays whenever possible, and start your hikes early (before 8am is a safe bet).
Hiking with pups
- Dogs are NOT allowed on trails, snow, wilderness or in buildings. Essentially, pups can only go where cars can go. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen hikers prep their cute pups for a hike before a Ranger notices and tells them dogs aren’t allowed on trails – heartbreaking to watch.
- Mt. Rainier National Park is a world-renown destination for wildflowers. The best time to catch peak bloom is mid to late August. Wondering where else to see them in the park? I’ve got you covered. For the very best wildflower hikes, read: 10 BEST Wildflower Hikes at Mt. Rainier National Park.
Our experience hiking the Skyline Trail Loop at Mount rainier National Park
The Skyline trail loop offers the best of the best when it comes to trails at Mt. Rainier National Park. You’ll see overwhelming views of Mt. Rainier, endless fields of wildflowers, waterfalls galore, and glaciers, glaciers, glaciers!
I’ve hiked this trail four times and each time the weather was different. You never know what you’re going to get at Mt. Rainier National Park, but the views from this trail are spectacular regardless!
Pro Tip: check instagram before you go and look at the most recent photos with the location tag of Mt. Rainier to see how the wildflowers are looking to get an idea of what to expect before you arrive.
Should you hike the Skyline Trail clockwise or counterclockwise?
The trail starts on pavement until it reaches a junction where hikers must choose between hiking clockwise or counterclockwise. I’ve hiked both routes and suggest hiking this trail clockwise.
Worth mentioning – when I hiked the trail with my mom, counterclockwise suited us best because the elevation gain is less steep on the way up.
Whichever way you choose, you’ll be stunned by never-ending vibrant meadows and breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the Tatoosh Range.
Ah, Mt. Rainier, I can go on for days!
Continue up the trail and you’ll feel like you may accidentally summit if you take a wrong turn (and you actually could if you continue up the Camp Muir Trail) – that’s how close the Skyline Trail takes you to the mountain!
When you reach the top make sure to soak in the views, because goodness – you’ve earned it! I highly suggest bringing lunch with you and taking a break at the top (but don’t feed the marmots or chipmunks!). Seldom do you get an opportunity for this kind of view!
When you’re done soaking in the views, feel free to make your way down. Since the Skyline Trail is a loop, you’ll be rewarded with a different landscape on the way down (be sure to look back toward the mountain occasionally). This is the hike that keeps on giving!
And that’s a wrap! Before long you’ll find yourself back at your car with nothing but sweet, sweet memories and stunning photos.
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