Hiking Mount Rainier National Park
by Heidi Schneider & Mary Skjelset (Falcon Guides)
© Heidi Schneider & Mary Skjelset/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This is a popular trail but if you go early (before 8) you will have the trail mostly to yourself on the way up. Also keep in mind that it is uphill all the way to Van Trump Park so it could be strenuous depending on your physical condition.
The trail ascends up a river canyon with the bottom third featuring pretty views of the river cutting thru bedrock creating a series of bowls, water slides and mini falls. I was fortunate to see a Dipper hunting in this fast moving water. You lose sight of the river during the middle section as the trail takes you along the ridge above the canyon thru forest and across a couple of patches of talus. It is not as nice as other parts of the trail but you will probably see Pica in the talus and some other flora/fauna of note. As you near Comet falls the river returns to bedrock as do your pituresque views of rock bowls, water slides and falls. About 300 feet before the first view of Comet falls you will cross a feeder river/stream on a sturdy foot bridge (assuming it hasn't been washed way). There is a rather large multi-level fall here and many folks are duped into thinking it is Comet falls. Continuing on there are several nice view points for Comet falls and if you are interested in getting wet it is an easy scramble to the base of the falls. The hike beyond the falls ascends thru forest and ultimately to the top of the canyon into Van Trump park where the you get to see yet another great view of Mt Ranier, hang out with wildflowers and tromp around on unmaintained trails.
The only drawback is the immense popularity of this trail, I went early in the morning but there was dozens of people going up as I went down.
Hiked most of the way up, but had to turn around before reaching our final destination, Comet Falls, due to time constraints. The portion of the trail we saw was well maintained, and though it was all up hill, it wasn't too strenuous. My 5 year old daughter went w/us (sans pack)and didn't have a problem. We met hikers on their way down where we had stopped before turning back who said that a bridge was out up ahead but we never made it there to see for ourselves. This trail/falls was apparently where a female hiker was found the next day having fallen to her death the previous day or two. So there are some dangerous spots to look out over the creek and falls.
What a great hike! I was on limited time and could not get up to Paradise due to icy roads. Comet Falls looked interesting and it turned out to be a great choice. From the look of the lower stream areas it could be great in the hot summer if the water is flowing. There were a number of naturally shaped bowls in the rock that would be fun to splash around in. When hiking up the trail I had to watch out for the trees unloading large clumps of snow on my head as the branches bowed under the snow's weight. The trail is pretty family-friendly and the falls are a great sight, especially with snow and ice to frame its flow. It really does have the look of a long wispy comet's tail. There are a number of great places to sit and eat lunch and be serenaded by the sound of tumbling water. If you have the time you can continue the om trail's path uphill, possibly all the way to Paradise.
Sign in/up to upload photos.