If you’ve been to Mount Rainier’s Paradise, you may be familiar with Narada Falls, and the short hike down to its popular viewpoint. But are you aware of the other trails this short hike connects to? Do you wonder what ‘Narada’ means? Read on to find out.
From the parking lot, most people are drawn to the ornate stone retaining wall overlooking the top of the falls. Peering over the wall, or from the nearby bridge over the top of the falls, you can see the lower viewpoint 100 feet below. This is the destination for most hikers.
Before you start hiking, keep in mind: the trail down to the viewpoint is moderately steep and almost always wet, due to ground seepage. Have proper footwear. Swirling mists can make the viewing area wet at any time of day. Be prepared for these conditions.
To do the hike, walk across the bridge. At the far (east) end of the bridge is the trailhead. Note that the building beyond the trailhead is not just a restroom but a comfort station, meaning it includes not only bathrooms but also a spacious indoor seating area.
The trail drops at a constant rate. There is a railing along the first 200 feet, where ferns and blueberries may encroach from the uphill side. Round a switchback and continue the remaining 400 feet to the obvious viewpoint. The falls are best seen after mid-morning, when they can be fully illuminated on a sunny day.
Narada Falls has an average width of 50 feet, as the Paradise River drops a nearly-vertical 168 feet over an andesite face. Andesite lava sometimes forms a columnar structure as it cools. The andesite at the base of Narada Falls is more fractured than at other places in the park. To the right of the top of the falls, andesite lines radiate outward in different directions, suggesting that uneven cooling took place in this lava flow.
From the viewpoint, the trail continues, connecting with the Wonderland Trail at 0.2 mile from the parking lot. Heading left leads to Reflection Lakes and a lovely loop hike options of 3 or 5 miles. See WTA's entry for Narada Falls to Reflection Lakes for more on that.
If you just want to wander upstream a short distance from the parking lot, walk past the Comfort Station to a marked trailhead for the Narada Falls Trail. This is the exit point for the loop hikes mentioned above.
What does Narada mean?
In Hindu traditions, Narada was a Vedic sage, a revered traveling musician and storyteller. ‘Narada’ is a Hindu word meaning ‘uncontaminated’ or ‘pure’. Many sources indicate that Narada Falls was named after the sage, or the meaning of the word. According to the park service, “a group of Theosophists whose modern interpretation of the word is ‘uncontaminated’ suggested the name of their Tacoma unit or chapter for the falls.” This name was adopted in 1893.
After the death of Washington’s U.S Representative Francis Cushman in 1909, there was an attempt to rename the falls. Some maps of the era label it as Cushman Falls, although the rename was never official.