At Paradise, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center is Mt. Rainier’s busiest and biggest visitor facility in the park. Tucked on the south slopes of the mountain, the visitor center sits at 5,400 feet and gives you a close-up view of the Nisqually glacier. Inside the airy, high-beamed building, find a variety of hands-on displays to learn about glaciers, mountain climbing, wildlife, and geology. Large windows open out on Rainier’s glaciers and hiking trails. There’s also a cafeteria, gift shop, information booth, and guided ranger programs.
Hiking and wildflowers are the thing here in summer. Snow can stick around until July, so late July and August are the premier wildflower months with lupine, paintbrush, lilies, and anemones. Popular trails for all ages and standards abound, whether you’ve got babies in strollers or adventurous teens ready to hike off into the hills. The family-friendly trails draw crowds on sunny summer days, but the views are worth it.
Be sure to stop in at the historic Paradise Inn (built in 1916) across the parking lot to admire the heavy timbers, grand stone fireplaces, and grandfather clock. The Inn is the only place to stay in the Paradise area, and offers a dining room and a casual self-serve cafÃ© (we preferred the food here over what was available in the visitor center). The Inn is closed from October to mid-May.
The road to Paradise is open year-round, but closed nightly during the winter. The visitor center is open weekends only from October to May. Local families like to come to Paradise for weekend winter snow play, but bear in mind the roads can be treacherous. Check the nps.gov website for information on road conditions and closures, chain requirements, and facility updates.