Follow a loop trail that samples what Mount Rainier has to offer: a popular waterfall, vast expanses of wildflowers, numerous snowmelt streams, a historic monument to the mountain’s first climbers, and of course views of Mount Rainier itself.
Ascend the stone staircase near the Jackson Visitor’s Center at Paradise. Go right on the paved path, and then straight at a second junction, following signs to Myrtle Falls. Climb moderately to arrive at the very scenic bridge over Edith Creek at 0.45 mile. A short side trail leads to a popular viewpoint of Myrtle Falls.
Cross the bridge to the beginning of the loop at 0.55 mile. To the left are the more immediate views of wildflowers and the mountain.
Go left on the Golden Gate Trail. Climb gently on the wide, stepped trail through large meadows of wildflowers, mostly lupine. There are few trees to hide the marmots which can often be seen on a sunny day. The trail gains 780 feet over 1.0 mile to the Golden Gate, a small notch separating the lower and upper sections of the Edith Creek valley, at a junction with the Skyline Trail at 6400 feet. Go left a very short distance to outstanding views, then retrace your steps to effectively go right (downhill) at the junction.
Descend into the Paradise River Valley and new views. One half mile from the Golden Gate, rock-hop the Paradise River, then pass a junction with the Paradise Glacier Trail. This dead-end trail once led to the most popular attraction in the park: the Paradise Ice Caves, which collapsed a generation ago. Paradise Glacier has retreated so significantly that it is technically no longer a glacier.
Forty yards farther is a stone monument commemorating the first ascent of Mount Rainier in August 1870. Sluiskin, a Yakima Indian, guided Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump up the Muir snowfield, then waited here for their return. In appreciation, they named the nearby waterfall for him. (See the note below for more information about this historic climb.)
Sluiskin Falls is just beyond the monument, but it cannot be seen from the trail. Pass by the top of the falls at 6000 feet, then descend. Where the trail crosses the Paradise River again at 5500 feet, Sluiskin Falls remains hidden by trees and the narrowness of its canyon.
Follow signs to Paradise, bypassing junctions to the Lakes Trail and 4th Crossing Trail. Climb gently back to 5600 feet to complete the loop of 2.9 miles. Return to the stone steps for a full round trip of 4.0 miles.
Note: Stevens and Van Trump probably did not stand on the true summit of Mount Rainier, but they were credited with the first ascent, two months ahead of geologists Samuel Emmons and Allen Wilson.
Sluiskin refused to climb higher than 9200 feet. Other natives had similarly stopped short of the summit, largely because of Sluiskin’s grandfather, who decades earlier had climbed the highest of any native on Takhoma (Mount Rainier). He had not summitted, and strongly advised against it, reporting that Takhoma was inhabited by an evil spirit who dwelt in a fiery lake on its summit.
(Source: “The Stevens and Van Trump Ascent of Mount Rainier, August 1870”, Northwest Discovery - The Journal of Northwest History and Natural History, Northwest Press.)
Golden Gate Loop
- 4.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 1160 feet
- Highest Point
- 6400 feet
Hiking Golden Gate Loop
Golden Gate Loop
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 46.7863, -121.7362 Open in Google Maps