Carbon Glacier

Buckley, Washington 98321

Carbon Glacier

Carbon Glacier Professional Review and Guide

"Hike through grand moss-covered forest to one of the largest glaciers in the lower forty-eight states, mantling the northwest slopes of Mount Rainier. Along the way you’ll cross an impressive suspension bridge over a rocky, glacier-gouged channel of the Carbon River, carrying torrents of milky meltwater from the glacier just above.

Ancient glaciers were largely responsible for creating the lakes and jagged peaks that attract thousands of backcountry enthusiasts to Washington’s Cascade Range each year. Several of those glaciers yielded to a warming trend that began about 10,000 years ago, and many present-day Washington glaciers are mere remnants of a recent cooling trend, known as the Little Ice Age, which began around A.D. 1500 and ended in the early twentieth century."

Carbon Glacier Reviews

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As another person posted, the road is very bad and the contrast between shade/sun made a spinal adjustment at the end of the trip a requirement. We first stopped at Ipsut falls, very nice. Then went up the Carbon Trail to the bridge. It was hot on this side of the river - I'd suggest crossing early in the day (more on this later) and using the North Trail instead, returning on this trail. The bridge was fantastic - too bad the glacier is receeding. We took a right off the bridge and climbed steeply toward the glacier. We got tired, eventually, snapped some pics and returned to the bridge for lunch. There, we ran into some other hikers who said that water was coming over a log bridge on the Northern trail. Undeterred, and probably because my oldest daughter refused to go over the "Indiana Jones memorial bridge of death", we went down the north trail to return. Glad we did it - much more scenic and cooler. After running through numerous creeks, waterfalls (including one hidden one) we needed to cross the carbon. One bridge was in serious trouble, with flow crashing it hard. We made a safety line and got everyone across safely, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you have some prowness. I spoke with another hiker who said it was an afternoon phenomenon - as the heat melts the glacier faster, the water level rises and impacts this bridge. All in all, I was expecting a nice hike but received a spectacular one instead. One hint: the north trail is MUCH nicer than the carbon river trail.
The road from the Park Entrance to the trail head was very bumpy and hard to manouver, the light filtering through the trees made it hard to spot all the bumps. The trail was on excellent condition, and the views were quite amazing. There were lots of people on the trail, which became a problem when crossing the bridge. The bridge rule is "one person at a time, one group at a time;" however, many people were too impatient to respect this rule. The glacier itself seems to be receding, a rather sad thing to witness. A couple of unbelievably dumb people went down to the glacier itself. While they were down by the glacier, a huge avalanche fell on one side of it. The two guys were lucky enough to get out of there unharmed, a few feet separated them from the rock and ice shower. On the way back we stopped at the Ipsut waterfall and spotted some deer grazing around the area.
This trail is in great shape currently. It follows one side of the Carbon River up to the glacier (big and brown) where you cross the river on a bouncy one-person-at-a-time suspension bridge. On the return trip I'd suggest descending past the suspension bridge to where the trail crosses the river on log foot bridges. These probably get washed out every spring, but they were in place this weekend even though there was a ribbon on the sign saying they were gone since Sept.11. You will see no one on that side and the trail is quite scenic.

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Trail Information

Nearby City
1,275 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
4 hours
June through October
Mount Rainier National Park
Local Contacts
USGS Mowich Lake
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018