Mount Rainier National Park offers more than 260 miles of maintained hiking trails. That means the options are nearly endless when you’re searching for a day hike in the area. To say we’ve stomped every mile of every trail near Mount Rainier isn’t even close to the truth, but we still have our favorite adventure. The Pebble Creek hike at Paradise is easily one of the coolest hikes we’ve ever done, period.
When Tove and I recently visited Paradise, we wanted a hike that put us as close to Mount Rainier as possible, and that’s exactly what we got. The rangers pointed us to Pebble Creek, which is located about 2.5 miles from the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center. You can typically take the Skyline Trail to a junction that branches toward Pebble Creek, but the Skyline Trail was partially under construction when we were there. So instead, we started on Avalanche Lily Trail, went north on Deadhorse Creek Trail, and then eventually connected with the Skyline Trail. From there, we marched about a mile (making stops at Glacier Vista and Panorama Point) before linking up with the Pebble Creek Trail.
Sitting at 7,200 feet, Pebble Creek is the highest elevation you can hike to from Paradise. You can technically keep going beyond Pebble Creek, but you head directly into the Muir Snowfield and eventually Camp Muir (base camp for most climbers who try to tackle Mount Rainier). Along the Pebble Creek Trail, you pass several climbers who are either making their way to the summit or several who just summited and are heading back down to Paradise.
The Pebble Creek hike gives you some of the most spectacular views of Mount Rainier you’ll ever see. The trail puts you directly on the mountain. You get so close to Mount Rainier that you can hear the thundering claps of rock and ice fall on the higher peaks. It’s the closest I ever remembering being to the mountain and I’ll never forget it. I wanted to snap another stunning picture every step of the way.
If that’s not enough for you, there are also incredible views heading back down from Pebble Creek (it’s about five miles round-trip). You get panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, including a glimpse of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and even Oregon’s Mount Hood in the distance.
There’s also a good chance you’ll experience wildlife on the Pebble Creek hike. We encountered several marmots along the way, and if you’re there the right time of year, you can also see plenty of amazing wildflowers. We’re told the peak season for wildflowers at Mount Rainier National Park is usually early to mid August.
Weather is always something to keep in mind on the Pebble Creek hike. It was a sunny day in mid-July when we made the trek, but at least 60 percent of the trail was still covered in snow. That made the hike a little more challenging than we expected (which we actually enjoyed) and it also helped thin out the crowd of tourists. As a sign along the Pebble Creek hike mentions, the weather can change in an instant at Mount Rainier. It can be bright and sunny one minute, and cloudy and cold the next. It’s smart to pack warm clothes just in case.
I know I’ve already said this, but I want to say it again: the Pebble Creek hike is one of the coolest day hikes I’ve ever done. The combination of scenery, challenge (it’s listed as a moderate hike), and wildlife is pretty hard to beat. There are several other hikes we want to try at Mount Rainier National Park, but there’s no doubt we’ll head back to Pebble Creek soon.
Have you ever tried the Pebble Creek hike at Paradise? How was your experience? We’d love to hear all about it! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more cool places to visit around the Emerald City.