Myrtle Falls and Mount Rainier. Credit: Samuel Kerr/GPA Photo Archive
Myrtle Falls, Mount Rainier National Park
Kids will love: Whistling marmots, wildflowers of every color in the crayon box, clear views of real glaciers.
Highlights: If you do this hike in summer, when it's at its best, chubby, frolicking marmots and elaborate fields of wildflowers will captivate your attention for the short jaunt to this postcard-perfect waterfall, fed by water from melting snow off the volcano’s slopes and the Nisqually Glacier. Relatively flat and on stroller-friendly pavement, it’s one of only a handful of barrier-free trails to waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest.
The path to Myrtle Falls begins on the northeast edge of Paradise Inn, and is actually the first stretch of the uber-popular Skyline Trail. By summer, the open meadows flanking the trail are bursting with beauties such as avalanche lilies, lupine, valerian, magenta paintbrush and pasqueflower. Amble along the half-mile to the falls, taking in the scenery and pausing for close looks at the many wildflowers. On a clear day, the mountain’s glaciers look so close you feel you might be able to reach out and touch them. Soon the trail crosses a sturdy footbridge directly above the silky cascade of Myrtle Falls. Stay on the trail bridge to look directly down onto the falls, or find the spur trail nearby that takes you down for a closer look.
Pavement ends just past the waterfall, so if you don’t have a stroller and want more of a hike just continue on the Skyline Trail (5.5 miles round-trip, 1,700 feet elevation gain) as it climbs to a high overlook of Paradise Valley and provides great views of the volcanoes to the south (Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Hood), plus a bonus tumbling cascade — Sluiskin Falls.
Tip: The trail to Myrtle Falls is usually accessible by July, like all of the flower trails departing from the Paradise area. Monitor conditions at this webcam or Mount Rainier National Park’s website.
Distance: 1 mile round-trip, 100 feet elevation gain
Directions: The Paradise area and its surrounding trailheads are about 2.5 hours from Seattle. Take I-5 south to Tacoma, then drive east on State Route 7 to Elbe. From there, continue on State Route 706 through Ashford to the Nisqually Entrance to the park, where you must pay the entrance fee (or show your fourth grader's Every Kid Outdoors pass). After entering the park, continue on Paradise Road heading east all the way to the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center and Paradise Inn. The trailhead is located on the north side of the upper parking lot.