Sunset over the Cascade Range from the Skyline Trail on Mazama Ridge. The Paradise Inn, Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center and Paradise Valley Road are in the foreground – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State, USA.
On the first day of my trip to Mount Rainier National Park last year I hiked up to Mazama Ridge. I’d seen a number of photographs from there before, and it looked like a good place to start exploring the area around Paradise – beyond the views available from the roadside. I parked at the small lot (elevation: 5250 feet or 1600 meters) near the Paradise River bridge in Paradise Valley, and hiked up the Fourth Crossing Trail. I’ve been part way up this trail in the past, and though parts of it feel a lot like climbing stairs much of this is right next to the Paradise River which makes it a bit more pleasant. The Fourth Crossing Trail eventually meets up with the Skyline Trail after a climb of around 250 feet (76 m) in elevation. If I had to do this again I would park near the Paradise Inn and walk the Skyline trail from there rather than heading back down to my car along the Fourth Crossing Trail in the dark.
From the junction of the Skyline and Fourth Crossing trails there is a series of switchbacks to get you up to Mazama Ridge (at an elevation of around 5800 feet (1770m)). The Skyline Trail then comes to a junction with the Lakes Trail (which Google refers to as the Mazama Ridge Trail). As I was still primarily scouting I headed down the Lakes Trail in search of wildflowers and places to photograph. This trail heads downhill gently at first, but if you wish it will take you all the way down to Reflection Lakes. The panorama below is a view of the Tatoosh Range before the trail gets down into the trees.
This stretch of the Lakes Trail is also where some of the iconic views of Mount Rainier with wildflowers are found. If you do hike this trail, or any of these trails in Mount Rainier National Park please don’t trample the wildflowers or other foliage along the trails. The “keep on the trail” signs are around for a reason as some visitors to these sensitive areas seem to see nothing wrong with wandering off the trail and crushing the wildflowers. It was at this point in the trail I was talking to one of the park volunteers and we noticed some moron about 50 feet off the trail behind us trampling through the wildflower field. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was dragging an aluminum stepladder around up there. After I’d left up the Skyline Trail I ran into the volunteer again – he’d given the stepladder guy a good lecture. This really shouldn’t be necessary…
After making a few photographs along the Lakes Trail I headed back up to the junction with the Skyline Trail. I scouted the Skyline Trail up past the Stevens Van Trump Historic Monument at which point the light turned the sky a nice colour and the shadows disappeared from the foreground. At this elevation the Tatoosh Range comes into a better view compared to lower down on the Lakes Trail. I’ve said this before but often I prefer photographing the Tatoosh Range over Rainier itself – especially when in the Paradise area. I wrote a bit more about this in an earlier post featuring a panorama of the tatoosh range. Rainier takes up a lot of the sky and can be tough to photograph backlit by the sunset in the evenings. Dawn would probably be an ideal time, but I’m saving that for when I actually stay at the Paradise Inn or relatively nearby.
I had seen a few photographs with the shadows of mountains at sunrise and sunset, but hadn’t give it much thought in terms of finding this phenomenon myself. It was on Mazama Ridge I saw this for the first time. The dark blue in the sky is the shadow of Mount Rainier cast down towards Stevens Valley and the Cascade mountains to the east.
I’ve shown the following image before, but I think it remains my favourite of all the images I made that evening on Mazama Ridge. A lot of Magenta Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora) in the foreground (as opposed to the usually dominant Lupines) and great sunset colours in the sky. This was near the intersection of the Skyline Trail and the Paradise Glacier Trail.