Five Day Tour: Mt. Rainier National Park Hiking Tour
Triumphant views provide a continual backdrop as you explore the natural history of these epic environments on some of the most spectacular trails the Pacific Northwest has to offer. This perfect exploration includes a side trip to nearby Mt. St. Helens!
Day One: Sunrise to Glacier Overlook
Meet in Seattle. Van to Mt. Rainier. Hike from Sunrise to Glacier Overlook. Be awed by 180-degree views of the Cascade Mountain Range, the Olympic Mountains and even Puget Sound.
Meet us in Seattle. Shuttle into Mt. Rainier National Park. Begin hiking from Sunrise Visitor’s Center – the highest point on the mountain that can be reached by car. Hike above the treeline through open heather and rocky alpine tundra on the north side of the mountain. Tree islands of whitebark pine and mountain hemlock float upon seas of meadows dotted with wildflowers. From Glacier Overlook, peer down on nearly 4.5 square miles of ice – Emmons Glacier – the largest river of ice in the contiguous states. Look north over the endless green carpets of Grand and Berkeley Parks. Marvel at the Cascade Mountain Range extending to the horizon. Mt Baker, Glacier Peak, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains – all are visible on a clear day. Watch for mountain goats and black bears foraging or cooling themselves on the snowfields.
– 6 miles; 1300 ft gain
Day Two: Naches Peak & Ancient Trees
Naches Peak – the quintessential Cascade Crest loop. This afternoon: visit the Grove of the Patriarchs.
Hike the quintessential Cascade Crest loop from Chinook Pass around Naches Peak. From this vantage point you can easily see the (missing) profile of Mt. Rainier’s former cone and imagine what it looked like 5600 years ago when, similar to Mt St Helens, it lost 2000 feet from its summit. Look south along the Pacific Crest: the snow-capped tops of Mount Adams and Goat Rocks are now visible. Feeling spry? Head down to the clear waters of Dewey Lake for lunch. No matter your choice, there are continuous views all the way back to Tipsoo Lake, an enchanting tiny alpine gem just beneath Chinook Pass. After lunch, take a short afternoon pilgrimage to the Grove of the Patriarchs en route to Mountain View Lodge in Packwood.
– Naches Peak: 3.5 miles; gain 600ft; 5200-5600ft
– Dewey Lake: adds 3 miles and 700ft gain
– Grove of the Patriarchs: 1.5 miles; gain 50ft
Day Three: Mt. St. Helens
Head to Norway Pass to see Mt. St. Helens and the aftermath of the 1980 eruption, still very evident today.
It wouldn’t be polite to lavish all our attention on just one volcano when Mt. St. Helens is within reach. To the natives, St. Helens was “Loowit,” a lovely maiden. But she was also called Louwala Clough, “smoking mountain.” It’s a bit of a drive; small price for the opportunity to gaze into the crater of an active volcano! Nowhere is the view of Mt. St Helens more stunning than from Norway Pass and Windy Ridge. Gaze across the lonely waters of Spirit Lake directly into the crater. Hear the incredible story of the mountain that garnered headlines around the world in 1980. Witness the fascinating changes that have taken place in the blast zone since the eruption. Listen for the eerie calls of bugling elk in the early fall. Watch for the majestic bulls whose antlers frequently feature 6 or 7 points and measure over 5 feet long. The views along the drive aren’t half bad either: we are headed to Paradise, after all!
– Norway Pass: 4.5 miles; 900ft gain; 3600-4500ft
Day Four: Skyline Trail
Hike the Skyline Trail through what John Muir dubbed “the lower gardens of Eden.”
Hike Mt Rainier’s most famous trail – the Skyline Trail – and spend another night in Paradise! Berry patches abound. The natives referred to these gardens as Sahalee Illahee, “land of peace”. John Muir dubbed them “the lower gardens of Eden.” Savor the highly coveted mountain huckleberry in season. Gather a sampling of grouseberries: a mere thimbleful of these miniscule treasures has more flavor than an entire box of Popsicles. Contemplate the workings of the Nisqually Glacier from above. Gaze at the rugged peaks of the Tatoosh Range. Watch adult marmots as their youngsters wrestle in the meadows. Visit the spot where the native guide “Sluiskin” waited for Hazard Stevens and P.B. Van Trump to make the first summit climb in 1870. Cheer on the intrepid climbers set to ascend to the 14,411 foot summit. Tonight, don’t forget to step outside for a moment to take in the panoply of stars overhead.
– Skyline Trail: 6 miles; 1600ft gain; 5400-7000ft
Day Five: The West Side
Hike the old growth rainforest on Mt. Rainier’s western slopes, home to waterfalls, flying squirrels and spotted owl. Enjoy a final celebration before heading back to Seattle.
West from Paradise toward Longmire, drop down out of the meadows and tree islands of the alpine zone into lush old growth rainforest on the western slopes. Visit the home of northern flying squirrels and spotted owls and learn about the plants and animals that are unique to and dependent on these original forests. Waterfalls abound in this area. Visit 320-foot Comet Falls. Witness the fabulous rainbow created by the morning sun’s rays passing through the spray. Sample some of the most delicious mountain-fresh water the world has to offer. If time allows, keep on past the falls to say our farewells to the meadows and the mountain from another triumphant picnic spot in Van Trump Park.
– Comet Falls; 3.5 miles; 1600ft gain; 3600-4900ft
– Van Trump Park: 6 miles; 2200ft gain; 3600-5800ft