Tolmie Peak: ‘Haagen Dazs’ of Day Hikes

posted in: Mount Rainier, Videos | 0

Rating: Strenuous

Distance: 6.2 miles round trip

High Point: 5,939 feet

Elevation Gain: 1,120 feet

A challenging climb to a jaw-dropping view of Mount Rainier, the trail to Tolmie Peak is the Haagen Dazs of day hikes.

You can break this hike down into about three one-mile chunks: 1) The first mile from the trail head at Mowich Lake to Ipsut Pass; 2) Ipsut Pass to Eunice Lake; 3) Eunice Lake to the Tolmie lookout.

The trail begins at Mowich Lake, at the terminus of one of the worst unpaved roads in the park. Plan on about 45 minutes to cover the 17 rough, rutted miles to Mowich Lake. The trail head is on the left just before you reach the dirt parking lot/campground. It’s clearly marked with an obvious sign (look back over your shoulder).

Begin with a brief downhill as the trail hugs Mowich Lake. Wind through a splendid mixed forest with plenty of shade. Turn around to catch Mount Rainier peeking through the trees above the lake.

About a mile in, you’ll find a spur trail to Ipsut Pass. Take it. You’ll be rewarded with commanding views of the Carbon River and Ipsut Creek valleys.  The spur trail is 200 feet and clearly marked. Well worth the extra few minutes.

The trail starts climbing shortly after Ipsut Pass. Watch out for tree roots, rocks and boulders and tangle foot. About 2.2 miles from the trail head you’ll crest a rise blanketed with a kaleidoscope of wildflowers. Top the rise and Eunice Lake marches into view. This beautiful turquoise lake offers postcard perfect mirror images of Tolmie Peak. It also has plenty of lakeshore boulders to sit on and soak your tired feet or eat lunch.

The final .9 mile from Eunice Lake to the lookout is steep, rocky, and switchbacky. On a clear day, portions of three switchbacks offer some of the best views of Mount Rainier this side of forever.

It’s not the mileage that kicks you on this hike. It’s the switchbacks. And the altitude. Especially if you’re starting from sea level. Plan on a pace of about 1.5 to 2 miles an hour. Most of the return trip is downhill, but save some fuel for the one mile-ish stretch between Eunice Lake and Ipsut Pass. This portion of trail is mostly uphill on the way back.

The Tolmie Peak hike is not recommended for children under age 10 unless they’re strong hikers.

Figure on about 4 hours round trip for this hike, without stops. But on a fine, clear day when the sky pours out an infinite bowl of blue and the Mountain is holding court, the Tolmie Peak trail is worth a whole day. Maybe more.

Getting there:

From Buckley, head south on Highway 165 through Burnett, Wilkeson, and Carbonado. Cross the one-lane Fairfax Bridge. Continue until you hit a “Y” in the road. Veer right. The route to Mowich Lake is clearly marked. About 17 miles.

After leaving the “Y,” the road is unpaved at about 1.8 miles. It’s rough and rutted. Make sure your suspension is in good shape.


Why You Need to Work at Rest

posted in: Just for Fun | 0

I know, I know. You’re TOO BUSY to take a break. You’ve got too much to do! And the world will stop spinning the minute you take any time off. Right?


In a culture that worships workaholics and doles out brownie points based on exhaustion and 24/7 work skeds, taking time off seems… irresponsible. But guess what? That old adage about, “I’d rather burn out than rust out”? Well, whoop-de-doo. Either way, you’re out. So listen up. Because you need to change. If not for your own sake, then for the sake of those who have to live and work with you.

I know, I know again. Taking time off sounds irresponsible. We may even feel guilty about taking time off to recharge the ‘ole batteries. Of course we need to be responsible. But working non-stop and refusing to take a break or schedule in a regular day of rest earns us a gigantean merit badge in the Who’s More Exhausted/Committed/Successful/Awesome/fill in the blank category, right?

Wrong again!

Because here’s the deal: no one is effective if they’re constantly running on fumes. You might surprised at how much more productive you can be following a season of rest. How much and when are up to you.

Misty lake, pine

Here are some “Rest Tips”:

  • “Rest” is whatever lets you take a breath. Power down. And return to work refreshed and recharged. I recommend taking one day off a week and unplugging. If you can’t do that, try every other week, or maybe a few morning or afternoon hours.
  • Be intentional about resting your mind, soul, spirit, and body. Put rest on the calendar. Schedule it in. Seriously. If you don’t, you’ll probably be “too busy” to make it happen.
  • Speaking of which, only you can make your rest day happen. Do it.
  • A well-rested person is happier, healthier, and easier to work with and for. S/he is also far more productive in the long-run than that stressed-out, crabby, cranky curmudgeon who hasn’t learned the value of rest – until they wind up in the hospital with a heart attack.

A regular day or half a day of rest may seem irresponsible. Don’t listen to that lie. You’re doing yourself a favor, stocking up your store of energy by working at resting. When you return, you can hit work twice as hard and be much more productive having taken some time off to recharge.



Rest Ideas:

  • Watch a movie or listen to music
  • Go out to dinner (best with a friend)
  • Read something that’s not work-related. In other words, just for the fun of it.
  • Hike
  • Turn off the TV. Step away from the computer. Put down the mobile device. Turn it off. Yes. O-f-f. You won’t die. Promise.
  • Fly a kite
  • Take a bicycle ride or a road trip
  • Go outside
  • Hike
  • Wash the car. Wash the dog. Wash the dishes, kids, windows…
  • Sleep late and/or take a nap. It’s okay. The world will keep turning while you’re catching some extra zzzzs.
  • Pick some flowers
  • Bake some cookies (even better if you share)
  • Walk on the beach
  • Hike
  • Visit a neighbor
  • Find your neighbor
  • Go window-shopping
  • Hike
  • Take the dog out for a walk
  • Make ice cream
  • Eat ice cream
  • Hit the tennis court, basketball court, gridiron, soccer field, ice rink, track, or whatever “field of dreams” appeals
  • Hike
  • Journal
  • Go fishing

Did I mention hike?

One other thing. If at all possible, go somewhere quiet. Treat your heart and mind to some solitude. If that means locking yourself in the bathroom, hiking the Himalayas, swapping babysitting with another parent, asking the grandparents to take over once in awhile, or booking the next flight to the dark side of moon, do it. Find someplace secluded or nearly secluded. The attic. A beach. The garage. Forest. Lake. Dark side of the moon. Lose the ipad and the smart phone. Forget Facebook (It’ll be there when you get back. Promise.)

Give yourself permission to take a break. Rest. Disconnect. Be intentional. Deliberate. It may look/sound like this (trail to Crystal Lakes at Mount Rainier National Park):

Don’t look at rest as an irresponsible waste of time. You’d be amazed at what a little peace and quiet can do for your soul – and how it can boost your creativity and productivity. Some of the most productive people I know are those who’ve learned to work at rest.

As for me? I’m headed out the door shortly to hike Mount Rainier’s Tolmie Peak. I can’t wait!

How do you work at rest?



A version of this article first appeared on the author’s blog, Roads Diverged.


Best Sunrise Trails 2: Forest Lake

posted in: Mount Rainier | 0

Hiking hordes and masses at Sunrise got you down? Looking for some solitude? Something off the beaten path?

Have I got a deal for you.

In fact, the Huckleberry Creek Trail to Forest Lake Camp may be one of the best Sunrise secrets in Washington State’s Mount Rainier National Park.  That’s because you have to be part mountain goat to hike out.  Yep, the return trip is almost entirely uphill.  Think Empire State Building without an elevator.  But this is one trail that’s worth every grunt, groan and creaking knee.

Forest Lake


You’d never guess that a world-class wildflower meadow, gurgling creek and glassy tarn are tucked into the conifer-clad valley below Sourdough Ridge at Sunrise on the eastern flank of Mount Rainier.  Their secrets are revealed only to the truly intrepid or utterly clueless.  Consequently, we had the entire hike to ourselves on a beautiful Thursday in late September, save for one other couple from Holland.  And they were lost.

See?  Everyone with brains headed toward Frozen Lake or Mount Fremont.  We, on the other hand, opted for “the road less travelled.” We were rewarded with one of the most beautiful alpine settings in the park. And aching knees. But I digress.

There’s a lake down there. No, really.

There’s a lake down there. No. Really.

Dog-legging off Sourdough Ridge, the Huckleberry Creek trail narrows and turns treacherous as it juts into Huckleberry Basin, especially through a rock-strewn avalanche chute below the basin.


Avalanche chute – watch your step!


Past the chute, the trail slims further to ribbon-width as you dip into a riotous romp of Renoir pastels cleverly disguised as a serene alpine meadow.  Wildflowers aren’t as plentiful on this higher, more exposed side of the Mountain as they are in Paradise. But they still paint the landscape in rich floral hues with yellow mountain daisies, purple aster, and lupine. Fire-engine red Indian paintbrush and white-tufted bear grass splash the landscape like a Louvre-worthy canvas.


Huckleberry Creek winds through tall, thick grass and plays hide and seek with the trail as it skips around gentle knolls and ridges bristling with evergreens. Once you’ve reached the valley, cross a couple split-log foot bridges and elbow the creek to your left. It’s a short walk to Forest Lake Camp.

While its shores are lined with the sun-bleached bones of fallen trees, Forest Lake is as still as the Sphinx.  If you’re part polar bear, go for a swim.  We lunched at the camp for about an hour, listening to warbling wrens and varied thrushes.  Chipmunks scurried nearby as gray jays, those shameless panhandlers, thought we were opening a traveling cafeteria.  We left reluctantly as afternoon faded and snow-scrubbed breezes began whining off the Emmons Glacier.

The trail probably won’t be melted out till July. But it’s worth the wait.

As for the return hike, well, be sure to fuel up the after-burners. Both creek and camp are well worth the hamstring-hollerin’ climb out.   Just don’t tell anyone.

Best Sunrise Trails 1: Burroughs Mountain

posted in: Hiking 101, Mount Rainier | 0

The Burroughs Mountain Trail at Mount Rainier’s Sunrise is a two-fer. If you’re on the lookout for dazzling mountain vistas, this is the place.

First Burroughs Mountain is 4.8 miles RT, with a 900 foot elevation gain. Second Burroughs Mountain – i.e., the good stuff – is 6.0 miles RT, with a 1200 foot elevation gain.

To get to Burroughs Mountain, start at the upper end of the picnic area at Sunrise, elev. 6,400. Chug up the nature trail to the Sourdough Ridge Trail. Head left. Take the SRT to the junction at Frozen Lake. From here, follow the Burroughs Mountain Trail. It winds uphill to the southwest. The trail is steep and hits the top of First Burroughs Mountain at about 7,000 feet. It’s rocky and barren as you march up the mountain. But on a nice, clear day in September, the sky hangs out an impossible sheet of blue that bounces off the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers like a neon sign.

If you’re legs are up for it, keep going. Pass an intersection to Second Burroughs, climbing 400 more feet in about half a mile. Second Burroughs offers grand views into the Glacier Basin below, Little Tahoma to the south, and views of the park to the north. The latter includes Skyscraper Mountain, Fremont Lookout, Berkeley and Grand Parks, and Skyscraper Mountain. Wear a hat and bring plenty of water, because you’re above the tree line. Return via the Sunrise Rim Trail.

Getting there: From the White River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park on Hwy 410, follow the road to its end and the Sunrise parking lot.


Note: Not recommended for families with little ones of if you’re not in decent shape.

Colonel Bob Trail: Tough Trail, Big Rewards

posted in: Olympic Peninsula | 2

Looking for emerald rain forests dripping with verdure, rushing creeks, cascading waterfalls, jaw-dropping mountain vistas towering above the Quinault River Valley, and enough switchbacks to drop a Yetti?

Check out the Col. Bob Trail in Olympic National Forest.

You don’t have to be part mountain goat to navigate the steep, serpentine coils of this 4.1 mile trail (one way) to one of the most rugged, spectacular, and isolated peaks in the Olympic Mountains. But it helps. Ditto BYO bottled oxygen.

I recommend starting from Pete’s Creek. (See below for directions.)

We tackled this trail in mid-June, starting out at about 0830. The trail was wet and steamy. Pockmarked by mini-Amazon rivers, the path was choked with enough undergrowth in places that Sasquatch would have cause for pause. It was also quite muddy.

The trail is also strewn with enough tangle foot, rocks, tree roots, moisture-slicked boulders, and downed trees to warrant a warning from the Surgeon General. Wear. Waterproof. Boots. And keep a sharp eye out to avoid that pesky trip to the E.R. for a twisted ankle or worse.

The trail also includes a couple creek crossings that involve foot logs and/or rocks drenched in rain forest ‘perspiration,’ and thus slick. Watch your step.

The trail isn’t that strenuous for the first mile or so along cantering Pete’s Creek. After you hit a small clearing with a charred stone fire ring (on your left as you head out, just below the two-mile mark), the trail begins to climb sharply.

Think Sherpa.

A chunk of this trail below Moonshine Flats includes a series of switchbacks through a rocky slide area. It’s steep. It’s narrow. It’s exposed to direct sun. Turn around for eye-popping vistas of the Olympic Mountains to the south while you stuff your lungs back into your chest.

Bring plenty of water. Wear a hat. Use sunscreen.

Most of the trail snakes through the Colonel Bob Wilderness and a dense forest with soaring evergreens and moss-draped conifers. It’s lush. Remote. And scenic. Wildflowers – lupine, trillium, bunch berry dogwood, rainbow hues of mountain paintbrush – can be outrageous in season.

This emerald-green region has temperate rain forest conditions, with an annual precipitation of more than 150 inches. When we hiked this trail yesterday, an anemic sun combined with overnight precipitation created clouds of humidity, making for a sticky day. We sweated buckets. Bring plenty of water. We had to turn back less than a mile from the summit due to impassable snow. (Some obstacles just aren’t worth risking life and life. That’s not a typo.)

The trek down requires concentration and focus. It’s easy to stumble over all the tangle foot and treacherous footing. (I wouldn’t even attempt this trail without a pair of good, solid trekking poles. They’ll save your knees on the downhill, big time.)

Note: Some trail guides put the total RT hiking time for the Col. Bob trail at about four hours. Sure. If you’re half jack rabbit. Or Secretariat. For the rest of us mere mortals, figure about six to eight hours for the round trip. Factor uphill progress at a rate of roughly one mile an hour. (Jack rabbits and Secretariats may be exempt.)

The Col. Bob trail is a tough, hamstring-hollering climb with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet per mile. The summit is at just over 4,500 feet. But on a clear day, you can see forever from the top. Even if you’re a jack rabbit. Or Secretariat.


From Hoquiam, drive north for 25 miles on US 101. Turn right onto Donkey Creek Road (Forest Road 22, Wynoochee Lake). Follow the road for 8 miles then turn left onto FR 2204. Continue 11 miles to the Pete’s Creek trailhead. It’s clearly marked. The road is only paved part-way. After the second bridge on FR 2204, watch for pot holes the size of Manhattan.

Northwest Forest Pass is required.

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What Mount Rainier Campground Gets Highest Marks?

posted in: Camping, Mount Rainier | 0

Hiking and camping go together like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve been doing both since just after the Ark made landfall, particularly at Mount Rainier National Park. So I’m sometimes asked which Mount Rainier campground is my favorite. That’s like asking a mom which kid is her favorite.

But I do have one. Just hang on for a minute.

First, there are three-ish campgrounds at Mount Rainier National Park: White River (NE section of park), Cougar Rock (SW part of the park), and Ohanapecosh (SE section of park). I say “three-ish” because the Mowich Lake campground is more like a wide spot at the end of the road. No campfires and no running water unless you haul in your own or filter it from the lake.

Among these campgrounds, Mowich Lake is the highest in elevation. Read: cold nights! It’s perched on the Northwest shoulder of the park at 4,929 ft. Last time we were here in mid-September, tents were crusted with overnight ice each morning.

White River is next-highest, at 4,400 ft., followed by Cougar Rock (3,180 ft.) and Ohanapecosh (1,914 ft.), respectively. All have certain attractions and charms.

In terms of number of individual campsites, Ohanapecosh has the most, with 188. Cougar Rock has 173 individual camp sites. White River has 112. Mowhich Lake has 10 “primitive” camp walk-in sites. Tents only. The annual peak season fee as of this writing is $20 a night.

Mount Rainier campgrounds are typically open from late May to late September, depending on whether. Be sure to check the park web site for up-to-date information.

If I had to choose a favorite Mount Rainier campground, however, it would be Ohanapecosh. Hands down.

The Ohanapecosh Campground is located in the SE corner of the park, on Highway 123, 4 miles north of State route 12. It’s roughly 20 minutes north of Packwood and the nearest gasoline. If you’re looking for soaring evergreens, rushing water, old-growth canopies, and enough green to convince you you’ve landed in the Emerald City, this is the place.

If you’re looking for the campground equivalent of the Waldorf-Astoria, however, keep looking. Ohanapecosh is rustic. Flush toilets. No hot water. No showers. Fire grates at each camp site. It’s often wet in this neck of the woods, so be sure to select your campsite carefully, e.g., not in a hollow where passing rainfall will turn your tent into a boat float.

But you can watch daylight fade and twilight pour over Backbone Ridge. Hear owls hoot or varied thrush trill. Watch finches flit above the water, which is a chilly 40 degrees and an impossible shade of aquamarine. On a clear night, the stars go to infinity and beyond.

Ohanapecosh River


Another plus: The Silver Falls Loop – one of the park’s most popular, family-friendly trails – and Grove of the Patriarchs, Tipsoo Lake and the Naches Peak Loop trail are all nearby. Sunrise is located up the road about an hour.

Also, Ohanapecosh is the only campground in the park that hosts a visitor’s center.

I would not recommend either Cougar Rock or Ohanapecosh during peak season unless you’re fond of hordes and masses. Rowdy young adults have become somewhat of a problem during peak season as well. So if you can visit in the off-season – around mid to late June or mid to late September – Ohana is the place. A family favorite since 1964.


For more information, see:

Campground Regulations

Campground Services

Operating Hours




Best Rookie Trails at Mount Rainier 5: Bench and Snow Lakes

Sapphire ovals set between jade green hills and emerald foliage, Bench and Snow Lakes are a Mount Rainier “must-see” once the trails have melted out. We’ve moseyed around some mighty fine alpine lakes in our mountain-top meanderings, but perhaps none as fine as these twin gems.

Snow Lake in early May.

The 2.6 mile round trip hike to both lakes starts on the south side of Stevens Canyon Road, 1.5 miles beyond Reflection Lakes. It features enough ups and downs to thrill any step-aerobicizer as you cross a series of low ridges in the shadow of Mount Rainier. You climb quickly from the trail head, sometimes on boardwalk. Descend the far side and the trail levels out onto “The Bench,” a broad plain hosting killer views of the Mountain.

If you can tear your eyes off Rainier for a moment, focus on the mountain meadows. They’re in a class by themselves. Blazing in autumnal garb in mid-September, every huckleberry bush, clump of bear grass, vine maple and deciduous leaf in sight looks like someone just set it on fire.

At about 0.7 miles, a short spur offers a steep, often muddy descent to Bench Lake as well as stunning images of Mount Rainier. On a calm, clear day, the reflections of Mount Rainier off Bench Lake are the stuff of legend.

Above Bench Lake, heading back to Stevens Canyon Road.

Climbing back up and continuing on, the trail skirts more meadows, crosses Unicorn Creek and empties out onto the shores of Snow Lake, whose turquoise waters offer an Academy Award-winning performance of Most Perfect Mirror Image of Rainier. It’s hard to tell where water stops and sky starts.

Try this hike late in the day when the Mountain’s draped with sunset. The solitude and scenery are well worth the aerobic effort required on the return trip up “The Bench’s” back.

Getting there: From Enumclaw, drive east about 47 miles on State Route 410 to the junction with SR 123 at Cayuse Pass. Stay right (straight ahead) to merge onto SR 123-Cayuse Pass Highway. Drive south about 11.5 miles to the junction with the Stevens Canyon Road. Turn right (west) and pass through the Stevens Canyon Entrance to the park. About 16 miles from SR 123, park in the long parking area on the south side of the road.

From the south, drive US 12 about 8 miles east of Packwood to the junction with SR 123. Turn north on SR 123 and continue about 6 miles, passing Ohanapecosh Campground, to the Stevens Canyon Road. Turn left (west) and pass through the Stevens Canyon Entrance to the park and find the trailhead as described above. From the west, via Paradise, drive SR 706 through the Nisqually Entrance and continue approximately 17 miles east to the trailhead on the south side of Stevens Canyon Road.

You Can’t Get This From Your Car

posted in: Hiking 101, Just for Fun, Videos | 0

We’re sometimes asked why we love hiking. That’s kind of like asking why we *love* breathing. But okay.

Here’s the ‘nutshell’ answer by video.  About 2:25 minutes. Includes some fave hikes in Oregon, the Olympic Peninsula, and Mount Rainier National Park.

Just click on the button below. (You may even recognize a couple peeps.)


Why Can’t I Take Fido on National Park Trails?

posted in: Hiking 101, Mount Rainier | 0

Your dog is Da Bomb. The most loyal and lovable critter to ever roam God’s green earth. Einstein in a fur coat. So why isn’t Fido allowed on most national park trails? Is this prohibition a “stupid Gestapo law” and “illegal harassment” designed to take a bite out of your personal liberties?

This rule is in play at my favorite local hiking destination, Mount Rainier National Park. (See: Where Can I Hike With My Dog?)  So I went straight to the top and put the question to the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. (The National Park Service falls under DOI jurisdiction.)

Short answer: It’s Not. About. You. So don’t take it personally. Savvy?

Longer answer: It’s still not about you.

Here’s my inquiry, followed by an *official* NPS response:

Date: Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 8:13 PM
Subject: From Dogs on Trails?


I understand that dogs are not allowed on any trail inside the park. Could you please provide the rationale for this rule? Is it a federal law, a local ordinance, or…? There are those who affirm that dogs should be allowed anywhere on public lands as long as they are leashed. Is there a specific reason why this does not suffice for trails at Mount Rainier? Please explain. Thank you.


About a month later I received the following response from Ms. Colleen Derber, Staff Assistant, National Park Service, Regulations, Jurisdiction, and Special Park Uses, Washington, D.C.:


From: “Derber, Colleen” <>

Cc: Barbara Baxter <>

Date: Fri, 26 May 2017 12:55:01 -0400


Subject: Reply to your Inquiry about Dogs in National Parks


Thank you for your inquiry about dogs in units administered by the National Park Service, and specifically, Mount Rainer National Park.  Existing regulations that prohibit dogs on trails were developed to protect native wildlife, the environment, and your pet.  Dogs are natural predators that could bother or harm wildlife, which is prohibited.  Because of dogs’ primitive instinct to mark territories, they also have the potential to spread disease. 

Note: I’ve lost track of how many of times I’ve encountered irresponsible pet owners on trails. They’re easy to spot. They’re the ones who don’t clean up after their dogs, leaving canine “calling cards” all over the trail for the rest of us to (hopefully) miss. Ugh! Derber continues:


In addition, because trails in national parks tend to be narrow, there is the possibility that dogs could damage vegetation near the trail.  The regulations have also been designed to protect your pet from harm. 



The National Park Service (NPS) general regulations pertaining to pets are codified at Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations, section 2.15. To view these regulations, use a search engine, and type in e-cfr.  Once you access that website, search for title 36, then parts1-199, then part 2, section 2.15.  Park-specific pet regulations, including those pertaining to Mount Rainer, may be viewed by going to our website at, click on Find a Park by State, click on the State where the park unit is located, and then click on the individual park unit that will link to the unit’s webpage.  On the left side of the page, click on the tab for Management, and then click on Laws and Policies. There you will find the Superintendent’s Compendium.  The compendium is where park-specific regulations and designations are listed.  …


Generally, pets are welcome at most areas administered by the NPS, but they are prohibited in public buildings, public transportation vehicles, swimming beaches, and other structures or areas directed by the park superintendent. Most NPS units do not allow pets on trails. Pets must also be restrained on a leash no longer than six feet or confined at all times and cannot be left unattended and tied to an object. 



Thank you again for your inquiry and your interest in national parks.


You have a choice when it comes to most national parks. No one’s forcing you to visit a national park. But if you choose to do so, your choice includes abiding by park rules. Even if you don’t agree with them personally.

If said rules include “no pets on trails,” then you have another choice: either obey park rules or risk a citation and/or a fine. Your average third grader knows better than to deliberately defy park regulations or have a meltdown over same when they’re enforced. Meanwhile, there are plenty of pet-friendly options available inside most national parks.

So lighten up.


For more, see: Where Can I Hike With My Dog?


Best ‘Rookie Trails’ at Mount Rainier 4: Silver Falls

posted in: Mount Rainier, Trail Tips | 0

Located on the Mountain’s southeast flank out of Ohanapecosh, Silver Falls is one of the best-known waterfalls cobwebbing Mount Rainier National Park. An easy hike through a spectacular old growth and an emerald green conifer cathedral, it’s also a great trail for first time visitors to the park.

Access to the falls is by a family-friendly loop trail of about three miles. The are four basic trail head options:

  • Pick up the trail head behind the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center and the Hot Springs Nature Trail at the far end of B Loop.
  • Cross the Ohanapecosh River bridge and pick up the trail off the amphitheater as you head into the campground’s D loop (on your right at the brown kiosk).
  • Access the trail off Highway 123. It begins 1.6 miles north of Ohanapecosh, with parking at the pullout on the west side of the road.
  • You can also hike down from just inside the Stevens Canyon Entrance. The trail leading to the falls is on the west, across from the Grove of the Patriarchs trail head.

It’s loud at the overlook. Zillions of gallons of water crashing over massive boulders kick up a fine mist and roar like a freight train! Tip: The fine curtain of mist at the overlook is particularly refreshing on a warm summer day. Heads: Watch your step. There’s plenty of ‘tangle foot’ at the overlook. And the railing is there for a reason. Stay. Behind. It.

The Silver Falls Loop is one of the first trails to melt out in spring. It’s also one of the most popular trails in the park. It gets crowded during peak season. There’s a reason for that, too!

Getting there: From Enumclaw, drive east about 47 miles on State Route 410 to the junction with SR 123 at Cayuse Pass. Stay right (straight ahead) to merge onto SR 123-Cayuse Pass Highway. Drive south about 11.5 miles to the junction with the Stevens Canyon Road. Continue south on SR 123 past the Stevens Canyon Road to the Ohanapecosh Campground on the right in about 3 miles. Turn in to the campground and park in front of the visitor center. The trailhead is found behind the visitor center.

From the south, drive US 12 about 8 miles east of Packwood to the junction with SR 123. Turn north onto SR 123 and continue 3.5 miles to Ohanapecosh Campground. Turn left (west) into the campground and park as described above.