Paradise Glacier Trail — The ice caves are no more, but the views are still incredible  

 

IMG_6778Quick Facts:

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 5.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Map: Green Trails Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: National Park entrance fee; Dogs Prohibited; Practice Leave No Trace Principles;

Access: From Elbe, follow SR 706 east (passing through Ashford) for 14 miles to the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Then continue east on the park’s Paradise-Longmire Road for 17 miles bearing left onto the Paradise Road. Continue another 2.1 miles to large parking areas and trailhead.

Good to Know: alpine views, kid-friendly, wildflowers, historical, wildlife viewing

 The Paradise Ice Caves were one of the most popular features in Mount Rainier National Park. But that was decades ago, before a changing climate claimed this fascinating frozen feature. The trail that once lead to the caves however is still in place—and now it only sees a fraction of the number of hikers than from its heyday. So, hike this trail for solitude. But its breathtaking close-up views of the mountain and the Paradise Glacier are enticing too. There’s also a sparkling tarn along the way, and a slew of waterfalls to keep you mesmerized as well.

The Paradise Glacier Trail branches off from the Skyline Trail at the Stevens-Van Trump Historical Monument. There IMG_6817are several ways you can do this hike, the shortest by taking the 4th Crossing Trail from the Paradise Valley Road to the Skyline Trail. My preferred route—and the one described here begins at Paradise. From the Jackson Visitor Center, start off on the Skyline Trail heading northeast. Follow the paved path past the Paradise Inn and the Guide House and Waterfall trails. The way soon steepens cresting a bench just above Edith Creek. Here enjoy a sweeping close-up view of Mount Rainier.

The Skyline Trail continues by crossing Edith Creek on a bridge and soon coming to a junction with the Golden Gate Trail. Continue right, now on a wide graveled path sporting plenty of impressive stone steps and stone drainage gullies. The trail traverses steep slopes across the Paradise Valley. Enjoy gorgeous views of the valley and its Tatoosh Range backdrop. In summer, the surrounding slopes are alive in a dazzling array of wildflower blossoms. In autumn, mountain ashes add oranges to the golden grasses while ground hugging blueberry bushes set the ground afire with patches of red.

The trail descends a little to make a boot-wetting crossing of a cascading Paradise River tributary, before making a bridged crossing of another cascading tributary. Here the 4th Crossing Trail departs right. Continue left climbing up Mazama Ridge. A few switchbacks help ease the grade. So too do the magnificent views of Mount Rainier hovering over Paradise.

Reach Mazama Ridge and the junction with the Lakes Trail. Stay left climbing up the open ridge. Views east to Stevens Canyon and beyond and south to the Tatoosh Range are inspiring. So too are the carpets of wildflowers that drape this ridge throughout most of the summer. Come to the Stevens-Van Trump Memorial that commemorates the spot where General Hazard Stevens and Philemon Van Trump camped before making their famous 1870 ascent of Rainier. The memorial also commemorates their guide Sluiskin who waited for their return at this spot. The pretty waterfall just to your left is also named for Sluiskin. The canyon right was named for Stevens, and a beautiful park above Comet Falls is named for Van Trump. This memorial was placed here in 1921 by the Seattle Mountaineers and Portland based Mazamas.

Now head right on the lightly traveled Paradise Glacier Trail ascending a ridge above cascading Stevens Creek. The way grows increasingly open, grasses and sedges giving way to glacial till. The trail is often covered with large snowfields and snow patches most of the summer. Snow-fed creeks and rivulets rush down and across the trail feeding small tarns and wetland depressions. A series of pretty tarns lie just to the right on the edge of the ridge.

The trail marches north skirting below a small knob before brushing up against a sparkling little tarn that often reflects Rainier. Then continue hiking on a rockier path across and along polished ledge and glacial till. This entire area was under a sheet of glacial ice not that long ago. Look around for tenacious marmots scampering about colonizing plants in search of some good grazing. Look right at the plummeting glacier-fed Stevens Creek now just a couple of hundred feet away.

At 2.5 miles a sign announces the end of maintained trail. But when snow is absent, a well-defined path can still be followed beyond for a short distance. Take it hiking above and perhaps across a lingering snowfield reaching a barren bench in .3 mile. Here creeks run across the seemingly desolate plain feeding Stevens Creek. But look close at the ground and you’ll see mosses and sedges claiming this newly exposed ground. It was here not too long ago where a large network of ice caves and the snout of a glacier once reached. The caves are no more and the glacier has receded much higher up the surrounding stark slopes. It must have been quite the scene—check out some of the old photos of the caves at the museum in Longmire. The area is still quite beautiful and a testament of our changing climate and environment.

Retrace your steps back to the Skyline Trail—and then return the way you came—or consider a longer return by either heading right on the Skyline Trail and following that wonderful trail back to Paradise—or by following the Golden Gate Trail back to Paradise—a shorter but just as beautiful return.

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park, pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0

 

Gobblers Knob and Lake George –In your face glacier views from Mount Rainier National Park lookout

 

IMG_6592Quick Facts:

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 12.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Map: Green Trails Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: National Park entrance fee; Dogs Prohibited; Practice Leave No Trace Principles; camping only in designated spots and with a permit

Access: From Elbe at the junction of SR 7 and SR 706, head east on SR 706 passing through Ashford and reaching Mount Rainier National Park at 14 miles. Continue west on park road for 1 mile and turn left on graveled Westside Road. Then continue 3.2 miles to barrier (trailhead) just before Dry Creek.

Good to Know: historic fire lookout, historic patrol cabin, subalpine lake, exceptional old-growth, alpine views, backcountry camping, bike-hike possibility

 

At 5,485-feet, Gobblers Knob is the lowest of Rainier’s four remaining fire lookouts. It used to be the shortest to reach too. Now, you must walk (or bike) 3.8 miles of the closed Westside Road to get to the old trailhead. While this hike is long—it is not difficult. The road is easy walking and the trail is wide and well-graded. The old-growth forest along the way is magnificent and Lake George makes for a nice lunch spot; or if you’re inclined to spend the evening—a great camping spot. And the views? Breathtaking to the point that you just may need a little resuscitation!

This hike begins with a long approach on the Westside Road before reaching the Gobblers Knob Trail. The Westside Road was IMG_6562built from 1926 to 1934. In 1989 due to recurring mud and debris flows over the road from Tahoma Creek, the park permanently closed the road to visitors at Dry Creek. The road is still maintained however, to allow emergency and park personnel access to the remote west side of the park. And while you can’t drive on the road—you can ride your bicycle on it. So consider biking to the original Gobbler Knob Trailhead at Round Pass. You’ll really appreciate the return with a mostly downhill route. Otherwise, start trudging up the road.

Pass the barrier and cross Dry Creek. Then walk along the base of Mount Wow, and stand in awe of this peak’s sheer and intimidating cliff faces. You may indeed exclaim, “Wow!” But the mountain wasn’t named for a reaction, but after mountain goats. Wow is a corruption of a Yakima Indian word for mountain goats. Look up at those cliffs for moving patches of white, as goats frequent them. Then mutter wow upon seeing them.

The road crosses Fish Creek on a bridge and then brushes alongside Tahoma Creek on a much rougher path. The creek has claimed chunks of this road year after year and park officials continuously patch it up. Enjoy excellent views of Mount Rainier rising above snags in the glacial till and rocky outwash of the creek. Enjoy a good view too, of Mount Ararat, looking far more impressive from this angle than from Indian Henrys Hunting Ground.

IMG_6613The road then passes the primitive Tahoma Creek Trail and makes a couple of wide switchbacks to the Tahoma Vista. The Vista has long since grown in. The road then makes a long traverse—followed by a couple of more switchbacks—and another long traverse—finally reaching forested 3,900-foot Round Pass at 3.8 miles. Locate the trailhead on the left side of the road near an old parking lot. Now on real trail, enter a luxuriant old-growth forest. The trail is wide and well-graded and a pleasure to hike.

The trail works its way up a bench. Look east through the big trees to a constant white backdrop. At 4.6 miles reach Lake George. Definitely take time to explore this long lake tucked beneath the northern slopes of Mount Wow. Surrounded by emerald giants and emanating a green hue, it’s a verdant body of water. An old ranger patrol cabin is tucked in the woods near the lake’s northeastern corner. Here too find attractive campsites (permit required to camp) and a big shelter.

The trail continues past the lake passing through more magnificent primeval forest before reaching a pocket meadow. Here look up and see the fire lookout teetering on rocky Gobblers Knob. The trail then decides to gain some elevation commencing in some short switchbacks.  Soon reach a small pond—where the lookout can once again be seen.

Now climb again and come to a junction. Here the Goat Lake Trail leaves left to steeply descend to Goat Lake in the Glacier View Wilderness. At this junction turn right and follow a couple of short switchbacks to gain the last few hundred feet of elevation. The trail works its way under the rocky knob and crests the long rugged ridge emanating north from Mount Wow. It then swings around the knob to ascend it from the north. Stay on the trail—as it is a heck of a drop. Approaching the summit, clutch your chest. The view of Rainier—practically in your face—with knock your breath out! Now ascend the steps of the 1933-built fire lookout perched on the rocky pinnacle.

Walk the catwalk and be blown away by some of the best views in the park. Look south to the Goat Rocks, Pyramid Peak,

The mountain reflecting on the lookout's windows.

The mountain reflecting on the lookout’s windows.

Mount Wow, High Rock and Mount St. Helens. Look west to Goat Lake straight below and the sawtooth Glacier View Wilderness Peaks. Look farther west to the Black Hills and Olympic Mountains. Look north down the deep Puyallup River Valley and out to the Colonnade and Tolmie Peak. And look east straight at the mountain—especially the Tahoma Glacier. It’s an impressive site of snaking snow and ice terminating in cascades whose roars can be heard from the lookout!

Stay for a while and soak up the incredible views. And perhaps start wondering, why gobbler? Back in the 1930s when this lookout was being built, one of the CCC crew members hailed from Tennessee—a state with no shortage of wild turkeys. This young worker thought this rocky knob looked a lot like the ones in the Smoky Mountains where he hunted for turkeys. Hence the name. But one thing is for sure—this hike is no turkey!

 

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park, pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!

 9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground via Kautz Lake — Head to a fabled land of wildflowers!

 

330Quick Facts:

Location: Nisqually Valley, Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 11.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 3200 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Map: Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: National Park Entrance Fee or Interagency Pass required; Dog prohibited

Access: From Elbe, head east on SR 706 passing through Ashford and reaching Mount Rainier National Park at 14 miles. Continue west on park road for 3.3 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: historic guard station, wildflowers, alpine views

There are three ways to get to the fabled wildflower meadows and Rainier-reflecting tarns of Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. None of them are easy. This route via the Kautz Creek Trail takes you up and along a knolled high ridge shrouded in alpine meadows. In season flowers and huckleberries are bountiful. Views of the Mountain and ridges and peaks south and east are breathtaking. And crowds? Not on this trail.

The trail starts by paralleling Kautz Creek, a tributary of the Nisqually River. The creek is named for Army Lieutenant August V. Kautz who in 1857 made the first attempt to summit Mount Rainier. He was unsuccessful at reaching the summit, but the creek that bears his name has been pretty successful in a carrying out more than a few dramatic flooding episodes.

The Glacier-fed creek wreaked some serious damage to the trail and park road in 2006.  It’s most famous flooding episode DSC03547however, was in October of 1947. It was then that heavy rainfall caused a jokalhaup (from the Icelandic, meaning a glacial outburst) on the Kautz Glacier causing a huge flood. This flood moved 1.4 billion cubic feet of rock, dirt and till for more than 6 miles burying the Nisqually-Longmire Road. The flood also created a canyon more than 300 feet deep. You can learn about this event and the creek in general at the short little nature trail at this trail’s start.

Then start hiking on a mile near level stretch of forested trail alongside the graveled former creek bed coming to a log-bridged crossing of Kautz Creek. Catch a glimpse of big white Rainier, and small but prominent emerald Tumtum Peak. This is a good turnaround for hikers out for a short and easy excursion. Beyond the bridge, the trail gets down to business climbing steeply through old-growth forest above the Kautz Creek Valley. The grade eventually eases with a few switchbacks higher on the ridge.

Eventually the way leaves forest  as it approaches a 5,300-foot knoll adorned with bear grass. The views are good—especially west to nearby Mount Wow and Gobblers Knob—and south to Mount Adams in the distance. The trail then slightly descends to traverse a beautiful meadow that explodes with blossoming wildflower throughout the summer. Rainier is now in full view luring you to come closer.

Enjoy a fairly level stretch before steeply climbing to a 5,600-foot shoulder of 6,010-foot Mount Ararat. Ararat was named by James Longmire’s son Ben who apparently thought the mountain with its strewn boulders and debris looked like the place where Noah’s Arc had landed. Just to the south of Ararat is 5,577-foot Satulick Mountain. It was named by P. B. Van Trump (who along with Hazard Stevens became the first two climbers to successfully summit Mount Rainier) for Indian Henry (an alteration of his native name So-to-lick).

Walk a little farther down the trail skirting a few ledges and Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground soon comes into view. With Mount Rainier acting as a magnificent backdrop, the view is breathtaking. It’s expansive too. Look south and east to the Tatoosh Range, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens.

Now continue hiking descending 300 feet and reaching a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Head a short distance left and then right on a short spur to a 1915-built patrol cabin, the oldest remaining patrol cabin in the park. After taking a break at the cabin, wander a short distance left or right on the Wonderland Trail passing reflective pools and fields of flowers. If you have the time and energy, hike .3 mile north on the Wonderland Trail to the Mirror Lakes Trail. Then follow this 0.7 mile trail to a series of small ponds that reflect Mount Rainier. The view from the small lakes was used on the three cent Mount Rainier stamp in the US Postal Service’s 1934-1935 national park series.

So, who was Indian Henry? He is believed to be of Nisqually, Cowlitz or Klickitat origin. He became known as Indian Henry among the non-Native settlers. He was equally comfortable with Western customs as he was with his Native customs. He was fluent in English and several Indian languages. Indian Henry became known as an excellent woodsman and guide. He led several climbing parties to Mount Rainier, but never summited the mountain.

Indian Henry became fairly well off. It was believed by many of the area settlers that Henry had a gold mine somewhere on Mount Rainier. He always paid for his supplies at the local mercantile with gold nuggets. Aside from the gold, Henry made a decent living by providing travelers lodging and supplies at his farm.  Indian Henry often left his farm for periods of time to hunt and gather food for the winter; keeping within his native routines. One of his favorite spots for hunting mountain goats is a beautiful alpine meadow area splotched with sparkling tarns—a beloved place by hikers today known as Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park including the Wonderland Trail , pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0

 

 

 

 

Cora Lake– Emerald lake cradled beneath craggy High Rock

 

DSC01624Quick Facts:

Location: Nisqually River Valley

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 1.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Contact: Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Green Trails Map: Randle, WA no. 301

Notes: no pass needed; creek crossing might be challenging early in the season; trail is open to mountain and motor bikes

Access: From Elbe, follow SR 706 east for 10.1 miles. Turn right onto Skate Creek Road (FR 52) and follow for 4.7 miles. Turn right onto graveled FR 84 and follow for 4.2 miles tuning right onto FR 8420. Continue 1.5 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, old-growth, waterfalls

To hikers who have peered out over the Nisqually Valley from various summits in the area, the serrated Sawtooth Ridge just

Waterfall along the trail.

Waterfall along the trail.

south of the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is a familiar sight. The jagged ridge is quite distinct; and more than a handful of hikers have made the grunt to the High Rock Lookout on the aptly named Sawtooth ridge and marveled at its sweeping and dramatic views. But that is about the extent of what most hikers have experienced and know about of this finned ridgeline within the shadow of Mount Rainier.

While all of the Sawtooth summits are off limits to trails except for High Rock, a network of trails traverses the ridgeline. Hike these trails and you will soon discover that beneath the imposing triangular peaks, lie tranquil lakes, primeval forest, cascading creeks and plenty of other natural delights. One of the easiest of hikes within the Sawtooth Ridge is the one to Cora Lake.

It’s a mere .7 mile hike along Big Creek and through groves of big trees to the fairly decent sized Cora Lake. After the snow melts and before the autumn rains swell Big Creek, this hike is ideal for young children. The scenic and wild payoffs are big for such a short hike.

Immediately enter an impressive forest of big and old trees. Come to your first crossing of Big Creek—a ford early in the season—a rock hop afterward. Delight in the creek cascading both above and below you. Now continue upward on a wide switchback and come to your second crossing of Big Creek. Here the crossing is wider and poses the same challenges in high water.  And here there is a waterfall too, but a much more impressive one fanning down a wide ledge hemmed in by giant hemlocks.

Cross the creek at the foot of this cascade trying to keep your balance on rocks and logs and trying to keep your boots dry! Once across—you’re in the clear. The trail makes a short steep climb to the basin cradling Cora Lake. A short spur splits left from the trail for the lakeshore passing some inviting campsites.

A shallow lake not appealing for swimming (except for dogs), Cora does offer some fair fishing and some excellent scenery. Surrounded by towering old-growth conifers and situated at the base of cliffy and imposing High Rock, the setting feels quite wild and remote. Look straight up High Rock and see if you can locate its teetering Lookout. It’s hovering over 1,600 vertical feet above! When the winds are calm, this impressive sight is reflected nicely on the lake’s waters.

Linger long or if you desire more exercise, you can continue following the Big Creek Trail farther. Reach the junction with the Teely Creek Trail after .6 mile. This trail takes off right rounding basins and ridges on its way to Granite and Bertha May Lakes. It’s a rewarding up-and-down romp through beautiful forests to beautiful lakes.

The Big Creek Trail takes off left across brushy avalanche slopes beneath the cliffs of High Rock. The going is a little rough, but negotiable. Follow the trail for just over a half mile to a 4,580-foot gap where you can take in a great view of Mount Rainier. Beyond this point the trail continues for .9 mile dropping 500 feet through gorgeous old-growth forest reaching FR 8440 about .8 mile north of the High Rock Trailhead.

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park, pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0

 

Green Lake and Ranger Falls –Towering trees and a three-tiered cataract

 

IMG_3147Quick Facts:

Location: Carbon River Valley, Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 9.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,350 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Map: Mount Rainier National Park 269SX

Notes: National Park entrance fee; Dogs Prohibited; Practice Leave No Trace Principles; camping only in designated spots and with a permit

Access: From Buckley, follow SR 165 south. At 10.4 miles (just beyond Fairfax Bridge) bear left onto the Carbon River Road and continue for 7.7 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, exceptional waterfall, exceptional old growth forest, bike-hike possibility

 Roam through miles of some of the largest and oldest trees in Mount Rainier National Park to a placid lake and a stunning waterfall. While Green Lake is a pretty sight—it’s triple-tiered Ranger Falls and the surrounding primeval forest that are the real treats on this hike. Amble up the Carbon River Valley before briskly climbing to the small lake tucked beneath Tolmie Peak. And try to keep your neck from straining while constantly tilting your head upward admiring towering firs, cedars and hemlocks.

Before 2007 the hike to Green Lake was a mere 3.4 miles roundtrip. But late in the autumn of 2006, heavy rainfall caused theIMG_3160 Carbon River to flood and washout large sections of the Carbon River Road. Rather than reopen this prone-to-washouts road, park officials decided to permanently convert it to a trail. The bad news—many popular short day hikes became much longer and the Ipsut Creek Campground was no longer car accessible. The good news is that the Carbon River road-trail makes for a pleasant hike year round and is also open to mountain bikes. Consider biking the first 3.1 miles of this hike to the old Green Lake Trailhead. Here you’ll find a bike rack and a much shorter hike to the lake.

The trailhead has limited parking, so plan to possibly park on the side of the road leading to it. Now start walking up the old Carbon River Road. The road-trail pulls away from the roaring glacier-fed river, but never far enough away that you lose sound of it. The walking is easy with very little elevation gain. The surrounding forest is stunning—an emerald cathedral of towering ancient conifers. On sunny days, the thick canopy will do its best to keep you well shaded. And on overcast days the layered tree crowns will spare you from a soaking. At about 1.2 miles you’ll come to a junction with the indiscreet Washington Mine Trail. This path takes off south on a steep short jaunt to an old copper mine on the northern flanks of Florence Peak.

You want to continue east on the road-trail soon coming upon a channel of the Carbon River. Pass through more groves IMG_3116of impressive arboreal giants and cross Falls Creek on a wide bridge. Continue upriver eventually coming to a bank high above the raging river. Here enjoy excellent views of the cloudy silty pounding river below and of Tirzah Peak across the wild waterway. Just after leaving the open river bank you’ll come to the Green Lake Trailhead. Now 3.1 miles into your hike, you’ve climbed a mere 350 feet. You’ll now subdue close to a 1,000 vertical feet in almost half the distance.

The well-built trail immediately climbs darting around massive old-growth giants. Some of the trees here are more than 800 years old—mere saplings when the Crusades were in full swing in Europe and Genghis Khan was sweeping across Asia. You’ll pass beneath a few fallen giants too—just as impressive as their vertical kindred. The trail marches up steep lush slopes undulating between short switchbacks and short traverses.

Eventually come to a junction. The way left is a short spur leading to an up-close and sure to get mist in your face viewpoint of Ranger Falls. By far the prettiest waterfalls in the Carbon River Valley, in early season they are mesmerizing. Here Ranger Creek plunges down mossy ledges for more than 170 feet. The falls are triple tiered and fan into twin falls before converging back into one. Your view of them is unobstructed. Stay for a while—especially on a warm summer’s day.

Then continue hiking commencing up another stretch of switchbacks. The climb then eases followed by a slope traverse before coming to Ranger Creek. Cross the creek on a high log bridge—then make one last climb—before descending a tad and coming to Green Lake. Here next to the placid lake’s outlet is a small opening graced with several large weather-bleached logs. Prop yourself up on one, grab some snacks, take a break and enjoy the view.

The lake sits in an emerald basin. Its green tinted waters reflecting the surrounding verdant forests. No surprise—though quite unimaginative where this lake got its name. Much of the lakeshore is lined with thick vegetation—so don’t expect to find a sandy beach or sunning area. Instead hang out for a little while on one of the logs and watch for resident birds. Then make your return—with a mandatory second viewing of Ranger Falls.

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park, pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!9fe142a9-db8e-4f6f-aaec-ce9adf30c1e0