Day Hiking Mount Rainier National Park  by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer

Day Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park

by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer (The Mountaineers Books)
Day Hiking Mount Rainier National Park  by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
In Day Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park you will find the most complete coverage of Mount Rainier National Park trails, including more day hiking choices, convenient organization, options to take it further or hike year-round, crystal-clear directions, and much, much more. Includes: 70 trails, each rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars; difficulty ratings and detailed route descriptions; nearby camping options and how to extend your hike; easy-to-use topographic maps and elevation profiles; quick-reference icons for kids, wildlife views, and more; info on flora and fauna, historical trails, and trail advocacy; Full-color photo section and overview map; organized by park entrances and major roads for easy planning; hikes-at-a-glance chart for choosing a route; and 1% of sales benefits our Washington trails. Day Hiking: Mount Rainier features the National Park’s four main entrances – Nisqually, Carbon River, White River – Sunrise, and Stevens Canyon – Ohanapecosh.

© 2008 Dan A Nelson and Alan L Bauer/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Day Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park" Guide Book
70 Trail Guides

This little loop explores some of the most spectacular wildflower fields on the continent. These glorious meadows of flowers are lined with trails, most of which are paved—at least along their lower reaches. This is an unfortunate but necessary fact. These high-altitude meadows are so fragile, and so popular, that the hardened trail surfaces are needed to prevent the fields from being loved to death.
Ashford, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
Bench and Snow lakes are found just above the head of the Stevens Canyon Road, but you’ll feel like you’re deep in the backcountry once you immerse yourself in the cool lakes basin. The lakes are clear and pristine, and the upper lake, Snow, is nestled in a snow-filled cirque with fabulous views up to Unicorn Peak. Bench Lake boasts a great view of Mount Rainier.
Packwood, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.6
Berkeley Park may be the best place in the whole Sunrise area to throw yourself down on a patch of earth and simply sit and contemplate your good fortune. This is, after all, one of the richest wildflower gardens in the world. By late July, when the heavy mantle of snow has finally pulled away, Berkeley Park explodes in a rainbow of color. Other meadowlands around the mountain likewise boast of bright wildflower carpets, of course. But Berkeley, for some reason, seems special. Perhaps it’s the north-facing bowl of the park that keeps Mount Rainier largely out of the picture, forcing you to focus on the splendor underfoot. Or perhaps it’s because this park gets fewer visitors than the other broad swathes of green in the area. Regardless, Berkeley Park is a special place that’s easily reached by folks looking for a moderate day hike.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
Box Canyon is one of the most unusual features in the park, and Nickel Creek Camp is a rustic backcountry retreat perfect for kids’ first backpacking adventure. The trail explores the rim of the deep chasm of Box Canyon before swinging out through the forest for a woodland ramble into the Nickel Creek valley along this short section of the Wonderland Trail. You can continue on the trail beyond Nickel Camp, climbing to Indian Bar.
Packwood, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
This route offers more than just wonderful wildlife viewing. The trail atop Burroughs Mountain provides hikers outstanding views of the northeast face of Mount Rainier. Little Tahoma can be seen flanking Rainier, and the tower-topped peak of Mount Fremont stands to the north. Closer at hand, marmots and pikas dash between the rocks along the trail. Mountain goats can be found showing off their agility on the sides of the local peaks. And raptors—from lightning-fast peregrines to massive golden eagles—soar overhead. All in all, the views and the local wildlife make this loop an unbeatable day hiking option for hikers young and old.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
The route to Camp Muir gives hearty hikers a small taste of what alpine climbers experience. The trail stretches high up the flank of Rainier, toward the upper mountain where alpine climbers play. This route isn’t for everyone since it does entail substantial snow travel and may require good routefinding skills. But on a clear summer day, hikers in excellent physical condition might consider this most strenuous trek into the world of rock and ice.
Ashford, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
Though the trail is lovely, it’s not exactly a thrill—not until you reach the end of the route. There, you’ll find yourself swinging on a cable suspension bridge and cooling your heels on an actual glacier. Getting to those highlights, you’ll trek along an old miners’ road paralleling the Carbon River upstream. This frothy river boasts some serious white water, but it’s not because of the rapids (which are generally small and not too frothy). Rather, the whiteness of the water comes from all the powder-fine silt ground up by the moving glacier. This water, known as “glacier milk,” is deathly cold (remember, it’s melted glacier ice from just a few miles upstream), so regardless of the heat, steer clear of the river itself.
Carbonado, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.5
There aren’t many examples of temperate rain forest left standing in the southern Cascades. Most of these moss-laden cathedral forests are found on the Olympic Peninsula or along the Coastal Range of Oregon. To be sure, there are old-growth forest stands throughout the Cascades, but very few are of the rain-forest variety. Here is one of those last remnants of the ancient lowland rain forests. Massive cedars and hemlocks fill the valley floor around the floodplain of the Carbon River. A blanket of moss covers the forest floor, while lichens drape from hanging branches and ferns sprout from nearly every surface. Bring the kids and let them explore the micro-ecosystems under the dripping leaves and in the mossy hollows.
Carbonado, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
This route follows the Wonderland Trail east of Longmire through some of the oldest, most beautiful ancient forest left in Washington’s Cascades, while providing views of the crashing waters of the milky Nisqually River. Families appreciate the nearly flat, easy trek through the trees along the first half of the route, while those with an appetite for more adventure enjoy the last half of the hike as it turns to follow the Paradise River upstream to a pair of pretty waterfalls. Note: The bridge over the Nisqually River was completely wiped out by the 2006 floods. A footlog was put in place in July 2007, but always check with the ranger before venturing out to make sure you can safely cross the river.
Ashford, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.2
Chenuis Creek stair-steps down a series of rocky platforms to form the multi-tiered Chenuis Falls. The short trail leading to the noisy cascade is perfect for families or for visiting relatives who want to experience the diverse beauty of Mount Rainier National Park without excessive effort. The short hike can be combined with one or more of the other short routes in the Carbon River area to create a day of adventure without overtiring anyone.
Carbonado, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
Many claim this two-step falls is the most beautiful waterfall in the park. The 320-foot cascade fans out as it crashes down the basalt cliffs, providing a spectacular show of force and beauty. The trail to this natural wonder climbs the steep valley of Van Trump Creek, offering little along the way other than an experience in the forest primeval. But once you reach the waterfall basin, that overly average trail suddenly seems exceptional.
Ashford, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
These beautiful lakes are nestled in a green bowl beneath high, craggy peaks. You might encounter a few elk, maybe a mountain goat or two, and possibly even a black bear. The latter is especially likely in late summer when the plethora of purple fruit— succulent huckleberries!—ripens up. That’s all you’ll find here. If you need more natural beauty, you’re out of luck. You won’t find many trails that offer wilderness like this. The trail climbs steeply away from the highway, piercing dense old forest as it climbs. That’s a good thing, since the tight forest canopy provides welcome shade as you sweat up a long series of switchbacks in the first 1.5 miles. At that point, the trail splits; the right fork leads to Crystal Peak.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
Grand views await you here, as Crystal Peak stands between the stunning spires of the Norse Peak Wilderness and the mighty summit of Mount Rainier’s northeastern flank. You might encounter elk; you’ll surely see soaring hawks and/or eagles; and if you time it right, you’ll be waist deep in huckleberries on the upper slopes of the peak. If the berries aren’t ripe yet, no worries—you’ll find wildflowers in bloom along the way.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
Seldom visited but deserving of more attention, this route rolls past a couple of sparkling waterfalls, climbs through lush old forest, and leads to moderate views from a wooded pass above a pretty wooded lake basin. The trail is on the maintenance logs, but the relatively light use leaves the route brushy and the trail tread rough at times. The best favor we can do for this sweet little forest route is to use it: the path needs people to use it and love it. It offers a great outing in a part of the park seldom visited by the hordes that descend on the big mountain each year.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
This short hike leads through lush old forest to a picturesque waterfall and a cool woodland camp along a pretty forest stream. The trail lacks the panoramic views and awesome alpine scenery you’ll find along so many other Mount Rainier trails. Instead, this short walk offers you a look at a different aspect of this multifaceted park.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
You start low, strolling up a deeply forested river valley, but end up in broad meadows with stellar views of Mount Rainier. The trail gets very little hiking pressure, so you’re almost certain to have the route to yourself. The trail parallels the highway, but most of the way, the road is well out of both sight and hearing of the trail. Look for weasels and martens along the river—as well as dippers and other water-loving birds.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
Forest Lake may be the most underappreciated lake within Mount Rainier National Park. You won’t find grand views. It’s not in a broad, sun-filled meadow. There is minimal camping space available and not a lot of potential for extending the relatively short mileage. Many hikers see those as negatives. Perfect! Because that means there’s a much higher likelihood that you and I can enjoy this wonderful route in relaxing solitude. What you will find is a gorgeous forest valley, a pristine woodland pond, lots of huckleberries (reason enough to visit!) and a wide assortment of wildlife.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
This trail is threatened by lack of use as well as perpetual flooding of the Nisqually River. The flooding doesn’t affect the trail itself, but it does potentially block access to the trail. In fact, the access road was lost in the 2006 floods, so before heading out, be sure to check with the ranger to make sure this route is accessible. If it is, you’ll find a long climb through forests leading to stellar views.
Ashford, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
The rewards are grand views, wonderful lessons in geology, and easy hiking. The only drawback of the route is the potential for crowds—the hiking is relatively easy, leading out of a popular car campground, so the masses flock to this scenic trail. Fortunately, the broad trail can handle the pressure. In fact, it once handled hordes of tourists in Model Ts and Park Service buses, so a bit of foot traffic won’t be a problem. The road-turned-trail offers easy walking for the most part, close to the river. Look up at the hulk of Rainier looming to the southwest as you hike, and you can enjoy the towering wall of Goat Island Mountain to the south.
Greenwater, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
For the best views of the long cut of Stevens Canyon, stride up this route to the vantage point at Faraway Rock. From there, you can look east along the length of the canyon, across the deep bowl of Louise Lake, and down the valley flanked by Stevens Ridge and the Tatoosh Range. You’ll also find wonderful views to the north.
Packwood, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2

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Jan 2019