Mount Rainier National Park is the most iconic place in State of Washington that is visited by thousands of visitors and locals during all seasons. Mount Rainier is famous for being an active volcano cloaked with snow and topped with glaciers, surrounded by valleys, mountain ranges, meadows, waterfalls, rivers and a treasure chest for nature and adventure lovers. Paradise located at 5400 feet at Mount Rainier is the most gorgeous place to visit and is open all year around. Panorama point at elevation of 7000 feet offers dazzling close view of Mount Rainier and stunning distant views of Mount St Helens, Mounts Adams, Mount Hood on a clear day.
On one fine sunny day, we started our drive to Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park. Arrived at around 12.30 pm at Henry M Jackson Visitor Center parking lot. Parking lot was full. After circling around the parking lot for 5-10 minutes we were able to secure a parking spot in Main Parking lot. To get the latest information and updates on Trail conditions and avalanche prone zone we checked in to visitor center and got the trail status and the below map from the Rangers.
Hike to Panorama Point/Skyline trail
- Round trip – 5.0 Miles.
- Elevation Start – 5400 feet.
- Gain: 1600 feet
- Highest Point: 7070 feet.
Rangers at Visitor Center told us that the Trail was unmarked, buried in more than 9 feet of snow and we should proceed if we have direction and navigation skills. Also we were informed to follow the footsteps imprint on snowy trails on own risks. We have been to Paradise many times and were quite aware of the uphill area near the visitor center. This was our first time on trail to Panorama point. Without wasting much time, we started our hike with our hiking essentials and with Snow shoes and Hiking poles. It was bright sunny at Paradise.
Starting on the trail near Visitor Center, there were many visitors enjoying the photo shoot in snow with Mount Rainier outstanding in background, kids playing and doing disk sledding in the snow. Moving ahead on the trail when Visitor center in back goes out of the sight we hardly met 8-9 hikers/ skiers heading towards Panorama Point through Skyline trail.
We observed few people enjoying the Solitude of the Mount Rainier along with us. As it was sunny, the snow brightness was blinding the eyes. Good Sun Protection Safari Cap, full sleeves and Sunglasses were the need and glad we were having all.
I was capturing photos of Skiers and some recordings of Skiers enjoying skiing with Mount Rainier in back ground. When we were almost 1/3 rd. portion away from the Panorama Point, the climb to the point was much steep and Inclined approx. about 70-80 feet high.
Saw few hikers turning back from this point avoiding the climb of hill. Many hikers were doing glissading during them descend on this incline portion. There was a chute for glissading which was nearly 4 feet wide. After observing and assessing the incline path on slope hill, we started our climb on the steep portion. My son was uncomfortable climbing this incline portion in his snow shoes so he removed his snow shoes and then he and my hubby climbed the portion easily and reach above top area.
And then I started my climb on incline portion. Soon I realized I was not able to climb with my snow shoes and I was losing my balance. I was stuck on the incline slope for around 15-20 minutes. I was scared as I was not able to move ahead nor move down. Remember I am scared of heights. I was feeling failure in myself as the thought of not reaching to Point was bothering me. Two other hikers crossed me on the steep portion saying kind words that I can do it. I observed them reaching the top and disappearing out of sight.
I was trying my best to move but I was falling, sliding back and managing myself to not to stumble down 70 feet the incline slope. Soon I realized I need to remove my snow shoes as it were making my climb difficult. But to my disappointment they got stuck hard with my hiking shoes.
And on the steep hill I could not manage to remove them by myself. After some time to my relief, my hubby came down to my help on steep portion and helped me remove my snow shoes. And alas I was able to climb the snowy steep hill in my hiking boots.
The Lesson learnt, snow shoes are good to have for walk on flat snow surface but on incline surface they are just burden. Assess your own risk and feasibility. Micro spikes or Crampons or hiking shoes/boots with good traction are the best to climb the steep hill.
We had our micro spikes but as we were using snow shoes, we didn’t carry micro spikes in our back pack. Otherwise Climbing incline snowy hill would be much of ease with micro spikes.
By the time we reach to the Panorama point, the sky was covered by clouds and atmosphere became much cooler. The far view of Mount Adam, Mount Saint Helen and the closer view of Mount Rainier were incredible and Majestic. After clicking some photos, soon we started descending back as we had lost much of the time in climbing in last hill.
Again, descending the steep hill was a challenge. Many hikers were doing the glissading in the snow chute and were reaching the base of hill in no time. We were scared to do glissading. But after walking down half hill we gave glissading a try.
It was scary but we enjoyed doing it. And we were at base of hill in just few seconds. My kid enjoyed glissading the most. But one needs to be very careful while doing glissading. Hiking gears like hiking poles, snow shoes or ice axe needs to be properly attached to your back pack to avoid getting injured by them during glissading.
On the way back we didn’t use snow shoes as the snow on the trail was compacted enough with no post holing. And we came a crossed few skiers who were skiing their way down to the trail head and to parking lot.
By the time we reached back to Parking lot, the Visitor center was closed and there were few cars in parking lot. It was beyond 6.00 Pm and we thought the gate would close but the gate (road leading to Paradise) at Longmire was opened.
This was our first-time adventure climbing the slope on hill and later glissading. Apart from excitement, the views from Panorama point were breath taking.
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.
View of Panorama point is much different and beautiful after the snow completely melts out in Summer. The meadow at Panorama point flourishes with wild colorful flowers and green plants in warmer days. We will definitely go back to Panorama point to see the summer beauty.
Do you like Snow shoe hikes or hiking in snow. Give a read to “Easy Snow Shoes trails at Mount Rainier National Park” that can be done with family and kids. And if you are not interested for hiking, then you can still visit Mount Rainier National Park . It is best for drive through the Park with many spots to pull over and enjoy the beauty of nature. Do read on “Must Visit Places at Mount Rainier National Park”.
Have you been to Panorama Point in any season? Feel free to comment below and let me know if you have been to Panorama point at Mount Rainier National Park and what was most amazing thing you enjoyed.
Stay Healthy and Happy. Enjoy Hiking….