There are a couple different routes to get to Paradise: South on I-5 and Route 7, or east on 164 or 169 and 410. Either way, you are circling the mountain and it will take around 2-2.5 hours. We went east on 169 (Maple Valley Highway) so that we could pass through Black Diamond and stop at the delicious, Black Diamond Bakery. A local favorite for over 100 years, if you can take this route, you must stop here. The restaurant has plenty of classic breakfast options with a great view of Rainier from the window. The bakery has a delectable assortment of donuts, cookies, cakes and Russian pretzels. TIP #2: Eat a hearty breakfast full of protein, not just donuts. Do as I say, not as I do.
From the bakery, we were on our way to the mountain. The drive was dramatically scenic and we had to pull off the road a few times to take pictures. We drove through the small town of Green Water and discovered that they weren’t kidding. The river was emerald green. It was around this time that we started seeing snow along the sides of the road. Yep, it was late June and there was still plenty of compact snow on the ground (not on the road though, don’t worry about that). We drove through valleys and canyons along windy roads and cliff sides that had clearly just experienced a rock slide, but the views were breathtaking. TIP #3: Pull off at 1-3 viewpoints/waterfalls, but don’t spend all day there. There are so many amazing viewpoints along the way, but once you’re in the park itself, there’s no reason to look back.
After passing through the park’s main entrance and paying the $25 fee for a single car (the pass is good for one week), we made our way to a rest stop at…I believe it was Box Canyon. We did a little exploring around the rest area and found a cliff side area with another beautiful view to sit and relax in the sun. Who would’ve thought that there would be such an amazing view fifty yards from a toilet?