Mount Fremont–Lookout among herds of mountain goats

 

 

Quick Facts:

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Round Trip: 5.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 900 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Maps: Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: National Park Entrance Fee or Interagency Pass; Dogs-prohibited

Access: From Enumclaw follow SR 410 east for 37.5 miles to Mount Rainier National Park turning right onto the White River Road. Continue for 15.5 miles to Sunrise.

Good to Know: kid-friendly, wildflowers, alpine views, historic fire lookout, wildlife watching, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Hike to one of the four remaining fire lookouts in Mount Rainier National Park. Perched on a rocky 7,181-foot knoll on Mount Fremont, this historic structure is the highest of the park’s lookouts. But don’t let Fremont’s lofty elevation intimidate you. You start your hike at Sunrise at 6,400-feet making this journey pretty manageable. Wildflowers along the way can be quite showy—but the real treat along this trail is catching a glimpse of the large herd of mountain goats that reside here.

Mountain goats in the parkland below

From Sunrise, there are three ways to get to Mount Fremont. The most direct way is to follow an old road—now a wide trail toward Sunrise Camp and then take the Wonderland Trail up a steep often snowy gully to Frozen Lake Junction (from where the Mount Fremont Trail departs). The longer quieter way is to follow the Sunrise Rim Trail to the Wonderland Trail. Then meander through meadows on your way to Shadow Lake before traversing Sunrise Camp and heading up that aforementioned gully to Frozen Lake Junction. The most scenic route and the one described here involves hiking to Frozen Lake Junction via the Sourdough Ridge Trail. Consider one of the other routes for your return to add a little variety to your hike.

Start your hike by following a wide nature trail leaving the big parking lot north. Bear left at a fork and reach a junction along Sourdough Ridge in a little more than 0.3 mile. Then head left hiking on the packed-with-panoramic-views Sourdough Ridge Trail. All along this trail enjoy sweeping in-your-face views of Mount Rainier. Savor breathtaking views too of Yakima Park’s emerald lawn rolled out below you with its frolicking deer, marmots, and ground squirrels. Pass the Huckleberry Creek Trail, one of the loneliest paths in the park. Reach busy Frozen Lake Junction at 1.4 miles. Here four trails converge.

Now head right on the Mount Fremont Lookout Trail descending a little across a plain of pumice and lichen-encrusted rocks. The way follows along a fence enclosing nearly perpetually snow filled Frozen Lake. This stark body of water is the water supply for Sunrise. It’s imperative that you do not cross the fence line. Enjoy viewing the lake from along the fence—your telephoto lens should work just fine for the close-up.

The trail reaches a small saddle and begins to climb. With each step, views of the barren windswept alpine tundra surrounding you expand. To the south it’s big barren Burroughs Mountain and craggy Skyscraper Peak. Rainier looms above them. To the west Old Desolate and Sluiskin Mountain provide a rugged backdrop to emerald Berkeley Park. Keep your eyes fixed on the flats directly below for moving white patches. Yep—those aren’t snowfields but mountain goats. A rather large herd hangs out here on Fremont, Burroughs and Berkeley Park. It’s not rare to see more than two score of these members of the Bovid family grazing, wallowing, napping, and skedaddling in the surrounding slopes, meadows and plain.

Continue climbing the open slopes punctuated by clusters of tenacious whitebark pines. The trail rounds a 7,291-knoll and then heads northward—the lookout now in view. Traverse steep open slopes and take in breathtaking views of the West Fork White River below. The grade is gentle but the rocky terrain will have you watching your step. The trail skirts below Fremont’s summit before emerging on a 7,181-foot knoll housing the historic lookout.

Definitely check out the lookout, still occasionally used by park personnel. Walk the catwalk and cherish the views. They’re jaw-dropping! Look north across the broad emerald plain of Grand Park.  Beyond is a seemingly infinite wave of verdant ridges succumbing to Puget Sound. The Olympics rise above the fog and haze in the Puget Trough. Look northeast and trace the Cascade Crest all the way to Mount Baker. Then turn south and try to keep your senses from exploding as you savor an in-your-face view of Rainier’s impressive Willis Wall and sprawling Emmons Glacier. Stay for a while. Keep your lunch from being raided by ground squirrels. Make a friend or two. And cherish the natural beauty from this historic landmark.

For more information on other great hikes in Mount Rainier National Park and throughout the state,

refer to my best selling 100 Classic Hikes Washington

Greenwood Lake–Serenity in the shadow of High Rock

Quick Facts:

Location: Nisqually River Valley

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Round Trip: 4.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1450 feet

Contact:  Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station (Randle), Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Green Trails Maps: Randle, WA no. 301

Notes: Road to trailhead can be rough. Trail is open to motorcycles but sees little use as it receives little maintenance.

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 FR 84 and follow for 6.8 miles bearing right onto FR 8440. Continue 2.7 miles to trailhead for High Rock. Park here; Greenwood Lake Trail begins on old road spur south of the High Rock Trailhead.

Good to Know: solitude, wildlife viewing opportunities, trail open to multiple use, trail sees little maintenance, dog-friendly, good mountain views, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

 

High Rock and Mount Rainier from Cougar Gap.

One of the region’s least traveled trails, a handful of surprises awaits those who venture upon it.  Hike along a high ridge admiring big trees, showy wildflowers and far reaching views. Good chance too, you’ll have it all to yourself. Lying just to the south of the popular High Rock Trail, very few people hike the Greenwood Lake Trail. For one thing, most folks don’t even know it exists. There are no signs and the approach isn’t obvious. Secondly, the area surrounding the lake was intensely logged in the 1980s and 90s. But pockets of old growth and mature timber still grace the way. And the areas that were cutover a couple of decades ago—they now sport brilliant wildflowers come mid-summer and excellent views from Mount Rainier to Mount Adams any time of the year.

From across the road from the High Rock Trailhead, locate a closed to vehicles spur road taking off south. Follow it. On a double track lined with bear grass admire a nice view of Mount Rainier and the Tatoosh Range to your left. Stop for a minute too to cock your head back and enjoy a good view of High Rock with its historic lookout teetering on its precipitous summit.

After about .25 mile the double track ends and real trail begins. Old growth forest too. Now start descending. The tread is good but be aware of face-whackers; vine maple branches creeping over the trail. The trail is a little brushy in spots too, so that’ll keep you concentrating on the way as well. Skirt beneath some ledges and a large fallen fir before crossing a small creek (el. 4,000 feet). Then begin grinding upward beneath a canopy of big hemlocks.

The way steepens in spots, but that’s the worst of it—the rest of the trip to the lake is pretty enjoyable.  At 1.5 miles reach an old logging road  at Cougar Gap (el. 4,460 feet). The Allen Mountain Trail takes off from the road a short distance to the left. The Greenwood Lake Trail continues right staying just below a ridge crest and traversing an old cut. Enjoy excellent views north of High Rock, Sawtooth Ridge, and Mount Rainier.

At .4 mile from Cougar Gap pop up on an old logging road spur. Turn right and pick up trail again shortly afterward. Continue to climb traversing an old cut draped in bear grass and gorgeous wildflowers. Enjoy excellent views south of nearby Purcell Mountain and Whalehead Ridge and to Mount Adams, Mount St Helens and the Goat Rocks in the distance. Reach a small gap on the ridge crest (el. 4,800 feet) and once again enter mature forest. Now on smooth tread, begin a downward journey into cool old growth forest.

At 1.8 miles from the trailhead note a spur left dropping to a nice camping area and great access to the forest flanked Greenwood Lake (el. 4,460 feet).  Small and placid, the lake’s waters reflect the surrounding primeval evergreens. Take a break or continue hiking. The trail continues west crossing the lake’s outlet on a slanted bridge that’s close to collapsing for good. It then slowly ascends and traverses a steep side slope before ending at 3.5 miles at FR 8511 at the edge of an old cut.

For detailed information on many other great hikes (including High Rock) in and around Mount Rainier, pick up a copy of my best selling 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring some of the best trails in the state!

Get your copy today!

Eastside Trail — Big trees, big waterfalls, and lots of tranquility

Quick Facts:

Location: Mount Rainier National park

Land Agency: National Park Service

One way: 9.0 miles

Elevation Loss: 2,200 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park 

Green Trails Maps: Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: National Park entry fee; Dogs prohibited; Keep children nearby around waterfalls and creek sides as a slip or fall can lead to injury or worse.

Access: For Hike Start at Owyhigh Lakes East Trailhead: From Enumclaw, follow SR 410 east for 41 miles to Cayuse Pass. Turn right and continue south on SR 123 for 4.9 miles to trailhead on right—parking at small turnout on the left.

For Hike Finish at Ohanapecosh Campground: From Packwood, follow US 12 east for 7.5 miles. Turn left onto SR 123 and continue 3.6 miles. Turn left and proceed to Ohanapecosh

Good to Know: kid-friendly, exemplary old-growth, impressive waterfalls, solitude, Practice Leave No Trace Principles, Backpacking possibilities (permits required)

One of the longest trails within Mount Rainier National Park, the Eastside Trail is also one of the park’s quieter trails. Spanning the park’s eastern reaches from Chinook Pass to the Ohanapecosh Campground, the Eastside Trail traverses alpine meadows, primeval forest and a valley that thunders from catapulting creeks and crashing cascades.  With several trailheads and access points, the 13.4-mile trail can be hiked in sections. The lower two-thirds of this trail makes for an excellent early and late season hike when the numerous waterfalls along the way are at their finest. If you can arrange a shuttle, do this hike as a downhill one-way.

Starting from the eastern trailhead for the Owyhigh Lakes, enter thick forest and immediately begin descending. Via tight switchbacks the trail steeply loses elevation. Soon reach the first of several impressive waterfalls. From a precipitous (use caution) overlook, peer down on 60-plus foot Deer Creek Falls crashing down a tight rocky cleft.        Now continue hiking, losing more elevation and coming to a junction at .4 mile. Here the lower Eastside Trail heads left down valley—your route. The Owyhigh Lakes Trail continues straight, crossing Chinook Creek near its confluence with Deer Creek. The upper Eastside Trail diverges from this trail 0.1 mile west. Definitely walk upon the bridge spanning the crashing waterway before beginning your hike down valley.

Then begin sauntering down miles of rarely hiked trail passing groves of towering ancient firs, hemlocks and cedars. Pass the Deer Creek backcountry campground—a great place to let the sound of crashing water serenade you to sleep. The Eastside Trail winds gently down the valley following alongside Chinook Creek. The creek is often visible and always audible. The trail is a pure delight. Most of the way is a gentle descent—but there are a few little uphill sections here and there.

At about 1.4 miles come to the next big attraction. Here the trail reaches a high bridge spanning Chinook Creek at a thundering chasm. From the bridge stare down at roiling and swirling waters in rocky potholes and flumes. Then continue hiking through breathtaking primeval forest paying attention left bot to miss Stafford Falls. While only 25 feet tall, these falls roar. The plunge pool below is also stunning with its glacial blue tint.

Keep hiking passing impressive cathedral groves of towering timber. At 3.3 miles reach yet another highlight—Ohanapecosh Falls. Here walk across another sturdy bridge spanning high above a crashing waterway. Look right up an impressive chasm and catch cool breezes riding above the glacier-fed river. Then look left at the lip of a double tier waterfall. Here the river plunges 50 feet over a shelved ledge. A little farther down the trail you can get a sneak peek frontal view of this pretty cascade. This is a good spot to turn around if you couldn’t arrange a shuttle. Otherwise, keep following the trail downriver.

The trail now follows the Ohanapecosh River, often high above its floodplain which is prone to autumn flooding. While the river is often out of sight, it is always heard. And while the trail remains away from the river, it continues to cross numerous tumbling creeks. At 6.7 miles reach a junction—and lots of fellow hikers. Your lonely roaming is now over. Here a trail leaves left for a suspension bridge to the Grove of the Patriarchs; one of the most impressive old-growth forest groves in the park—and one of the park’s most visited attractions.

Now follow a well beaten path coming to the Grove of the Patriarchs trailhead parking lot on the Stevens Canyon Road at 7.1 miles. If you have a car waiting for you here, you’re done! Otherwise carefully cross the road and continue on the Eastside Trail soon crossing a creek and passing the Cowlitz Divide Trail. Then come up to a series of ledges hemming in a furious Ohanapecosh River. It’s quite a dramatic scene—only to be topped by Silver Falls just down river.

At 7.6 miles come to a junction. You can go left for an up-close and personal view of Silver Falls. Then continue on a busy path passing the historic Ohanapecosh Hot Springs returning to the Ohanapecosh Campground. You’re other option is to go right on a quieter path returning to the Ohanapecosh Campground at 9.0 miles. Cross the river one more time for one last satisfying view of this beautiful waterway before heading home.

 

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 some of the best trails in the state!

 

Corral Pass –Challenging snow shoe trip to high pass on Castle Mountain

 

Quick Facts:

IMPORTANT CLOSURE NOTE: UNFORTUNATELY DUE TO SUMMER WILDFIRE DAMAGE THIS ROUTE AND SURROUNDING AREA WILL REMAIN CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC UNTIL DECEMBER 31, 2018.

Location: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 11.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,800 feet

Contact: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Green Trails Maps:  Greenwater no. 238, Lester no. 239, and on Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: When snow level is low, parking here can be a challenge. Do not block access to any of the cabins. Best to park at power substation and walk additional .5 mile up road to hike start. Route is open to snowmobiles but their use is light.

Access: From Enumclaw follow SR 410 for 32 miles turning left (just past Milepost 56) onto FR 7174. Park at (but do not block gate) power substation if snow level is below 3,000 feet; or continue .5 mile on FR 7174 to where road turns north away from cabins. Park here, being sure not to block road or cabins.

Good to Know: avalanche danger low, dog-friendly, good backcountry skiing option, backcountry camping possible

 

Challenging and exhilarating, the trip to Corral Pass is not for novice snowshoers. You climb 2,800 vertical feet to this high pass set in subalpine meadows on the Cascade Crest.  But you’ll reap some visual just rewards for your toil. Enjoy glimpses of Rainier, and a nice all-out panoramic view of the surrounding Norse Peak Wilderness high-country.

While the climb is long and steady, the grade is moderate. Following a Forest Service Road up a thickly timbered shoulder of Castle Mountain, the way crosses no avalanche chutes making it a fairly safe route into the high country. It makes for a good ski route too and an excellent destination for backcountry winter camping.

Follow the frozen roadway and after .2 mile come to a gate. In spring, it’s possible to park here saving yourself a few more steps and a little elevation. Two trails diverge from this spot also making for good snowshoeing options. The White River Trail (signed) takes off directly north for its nearly 6 mile journey down the White River Valley. The Forest Trail Loop (unsigned) heads northwest to the Alta Crystal Resort.

Pass the gate and start winding upward. Notice all of the hoof prints in the snow. During the winter and spring months, elk are prolific here and throughout the White River Valley. Once the high country snow melts, most of these majestic members of the deer family will return to the sprawling meadows at Corral Pass and surrounding open ridges and basins.

At .6 mile you may want to divert north off of the road a couple of hundred feet and climb to a nice viewpoint of the heavily timbered White River Valley. It may be easier to take your snowshoes off to visit; as it is a steep little jaunt and the viewpoint’s southeastern exposure (hence the manzanitas growing here) often leave it free of snow. Pick out Slide Peak across the valley. You can see too, the Crystal Mountain Highway winding up to the ski area base. In the distance to the right is the easily recognizable Sun Top; another excellent snowshoeing destination.

Now resume climbing winding up a steep thickly forested ridge. At about 3.9 miles the canopy thins providing teaser views to the north. Keep going and soon round a ridge providing unobstructed views of Deep Creek Valley, Mutton Mountain and Dalles Ridge. With opening views and an easing grade, you can begin now to more fully enjoy your snowshoe trip. At 4.3 miles, come to a high basin (el. 5,400 feet) tucked beneath open and craggy Castle Mountain. Sporting flowering meadows in the summer, this basin now rolls out a white carpet inviting you to explore it with your snowshoes. This is also a good turning around spot if you’re too spent to continue. However, you’ve gotten the brunt of climbing over with it, so if you still have some energy, keep plodding along.

The way makes a final climb over a small ridge, then skirts beneath a crag to traverse a beautiful grove of old growth subalpine fir. At 5.6 miles reach 5,700-foot Corral Pass. Try to locate the Noble Knob Trail. Depending on the snowpack, its signpost may or may not be visible. Now walk another .15 mile to a large opening in the forest—site of the Corral Pass campground. The kiosk and privy can be located sticking out of the thick winter blanket of snow. This is a great spot to break out the thermos and refuel. Enjoy views east down into the Greenwater River Valley and south to Castle Mountain and Fifes Peak.

If you have more energy and time is on your side, consider snowshoeing a short way up the open slopes of Castle Mountain. The view of Mount Rainier and Norse Peak is wonderful from this peak. Another excellent option for strong snowshoers or those planning on spending the night camped at Corral Pass is to walk a mile north to the open slopes of Mutton Mountain. From this peak along the Cascade Crest savor sweeping views to the Olympic Mountains, Mount Stuart and the Snoqualmie Pass peaks and Mount Rainier hovering over the Sourdough Mountains. If you packed up skis, enjoy the quick and exhilarating trip back to your vehicle. If snowshoes are your only mode of travel, enjoy the much easier return descending 2,800 well-earned vertical feet.

 

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!

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