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Mount Rainier - Paradise

    Jackson Memorial Visitor Center – Stop into the visitor center to pick up Junior Ranger booklets and the Subalpine Wildflowers brochure. Check out the scale model of Mount Rainier and exhibits about the geology, ecology and animals of the area, look through telescopes for close-views of the Tatoosh Range, and watch the 20 minute movie in the theater. Also fill up your water bottles with water before going out on a hike.
Skyline Trail
  Go on a hike – Plan to spend the day in Paradise (it is special), wandering through glorious meadows, or hiking up the mountain for panoramas of the valley and surrounding mountains, and close-up views of glaciers.
    Tip: Mount Rainier makes it own weather – one minute the huge mountain is completely visible, the next, it's covered in mist and clouds. Be sure to bring along some warm clothing before setting out on your hike, even if the day is warm.
    Easy hikes – For toddlers and the stroller set, there's numerous paved trails, starting out from the visitor center. Go east on the Myrtle Falls Trail, or west on the Waterfall Trail. Wander up the trail as far as kids like, taking your time, and stopping to look at miniature waterfalls trickling off mossy rocks, deer with velvety antlers munching greenery, and fields of yellow, white, pink, red, blue and purple wildflowers.
      Panorama Point – Hike up the Skyline Trail to Panorama Point, the perfect picnic spot with spectacular views of the meadows below, snow covered mountains and the pointy Tatoosh Range. On the way back down, if kids haven't seen glaciers before, take a short detour on the Glacier Vista Trail, which look down over the Nisqually Glacier below.
      Skyline Loop Trail – Our favorite long hike is the Skyline Loop Trail, 5.5 miles.
    Starting at the visitor center, you'll see signs for the Skyline Trail going in two directions, north and east – as it is a loop trail, you can take either one. The Skyline Trail going north goes in a clockwise direction, past Panorama Point, and has the advantage of doing the really steep stuff in the first part of the hike.
    Going clockwise on the trail, you'll climb up through meadows, the Nisqually Glacier is on your left, and you'll see numbers of marmots coming out to greet you (don't feed the animals). At Panorama Point, continue on the high Skyline Trail, with more glacier views and Mount Rainier right above.
    Continuing on, the trail goes through moss-covered alpine meadows with snow-fed streams. At the turnoff for the Golden Gate Trail, if kids want a shortcut back to the visitor center, take that trail. But it's worth following the next section of the Skyline Trail, high on a ridge, each view of the mountains is different around each corner. When the Skyline Trail drops down, you hike through a long meadow covered in wildflowers (this was our favorite wildflower display), past Myrtle Falls, and end up at the visitor center.
      Tip: For this longer hike, be sure to have good hiking shoes (there will be short sections of the trail covered with snow) and bring plenty of water.
    Have a picnic – A few picnic tables are located outside the visitor center, but there's a larger picnic area just down the road, west of the visitor center. If you didn't bring a picnic, pick up sandwiches at the deli in the visitor center.
    Star gazing – Go outside at night and look at the stars, there's no city lights (this is especially convenient if you're staying at the Paradise Inn). Check at the visitor center for ranger programs or here's our favorite night sky app.
    Tip: If you're staying outside the park, arrive early at Paradise, as the parking lots fill up quickly. When the lots are full, there is a free weekend shuttle from Longmire and Ashford in summer.
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