If you are looking for a short hike with wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park, I recommend trying the Mount Rainier Nisqually Vista trail. This is a paved trail, just 1.5 miles, with only 210′ of elevation gain. It is accessed from the Paradise parking lot, but it is not anywhere near as crowded as the Skyline trail. Along with the wildflowers you get some great views of Mount Rainier (if the clouds permit).
When we visited this area there were so many Avalanche Lilies that it looked like it had been snowing!
This hike starts at the Paradise/ Henry Jackson Visitor Center, which is on the southern end of the park. There are multiple trails that start here, and there are several trail junctions along this particular trail, so I recommend going into the visitor center to ask the park rangers for a map. The trail is paved, but there are some steep sections. At the far end of the loop there are several lookouts where you can get a good view of Mount Rainier and the Nisqually River. You also can see the lower reaches of the Nisqually Glacier, although it can be difficult to see because this portion tends to be covered with soil from the mountain side.
Here’s the track that we followed:
Click the track to see an elevation graph. Move your mouse along the elevation graph to show the location on the map. The Refresh icon will re-center the map. Click the Expand icon to expand to full screen
Mount Rainier has several different entry points. We entered at the southwest corner at the Nisqually entrance, and proceeded to the Paradise area and the Henry Jackson Visitor Center. This is about 2 1/2 hours drive from downtown Seattle (depending on traffic). The visitor center has exhibits, a great information center, a snack bar, and restrooms. Note, however, that this is a very busy area and parking can be complicated. The main parking area fills up fast, and there are several overflow parking lots further down the hill (but not too far). I highly recommend arriving early in the day. We were there on a Friday and Saturday, parking was complicated both days. The trailhead is located at the west end of the upper level parking lot.
Timing is Everything
You never really know what the weather will be when you are planning ahead for Mount Rainier. Be prepared for cold weather. On our visit in late July the weather was wonderful. Sunny, temperatures in the 60’s to low 70’s, no rain. I was very pleased to note that there were no mosquitoes bothering us on this particular hike!
Here’s a sample of a few of my favorites from this hike.
There were huge masses of Avalanche Lilies along this trail. Amazing!
Fan-leaf Cinquefoil dots the hillside, glowing gold.
Partridgefoot is a curious flower. The plant is low to the ground, with bright flower spikes. This was mostly in shaded areas.
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Mount Rainier Nisqually Vista Wildflower Listing
Here’s a listing of the native plants that we found on this visit. The ones listed in color are endemic to California (that is, found only in California).
- American Bistort, Polygonum bistortoides
- Avalanche Lily, Erythronium montanum
- Bracted Lousewort, Pedicularis bracteosa
- Brewer’s Mitrewort, Mitella breweri
- Broadleaf Arnica, Arnica latifolia
- Fan-leaf Cinquefoil, Potentilla flabellifolia
- Greenleaf Strawberry, Fragaria vesca
- Magenta Paintbrush, Castilleja parviflora var. oreopola
- Partridgefoot, Luetkea pectinata
- Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
- Rosy Pussytoes, Antennaria rosea
- Sitka Valerian, Valeriana sitchensis