Top 5 Mt Rainier NP Hiking Trails? Those could be words for an argument.
These trails however, we picked for showcasing Mount Rainier. Two are very hard. One is long. And the rest are easy. You might just see Tahoma from a new perspective, and see her in a way you haven’t before. Summer is coming, and the time is now for planning!
If I were to give one trail my favorite reward, it would be Grand Park. There are two ways in. Both are very long. But the best way is via forest service roads, then a hike through forest to subalpine, to the splendor of Grand Park’s meadows. You pass lakes, a million wildflowers, and then the amazing views. I have also done it from the Sunrise side, where you hike down into Berkley Park and back up. It is nowhere as pretty. It isn’t a hard hike, but it is a long day. Pack your backpack, and take your best truck!
This near-loop is unforgiving, brutal, and worth every step you take. You can do in and out as well, however, if you have 2 cars it is well worth. While steeper, Kautz Creek Trail gets you there as fast as you can (sweatily) walk up a hill. It is about 5¾ miles one way, with a gain of 3,000 feet. However, this way you avoid the creek crossings of the other way. The second way in, is to take The Wonderland Trail from Longmire. It has many more ups and downs, and more water to deal with. It is about 6½ miles each way, so a little bit longer. It is technically easier, but I found Kautz to be considerably prettier in the last mile.
An unforgiving trail, it starts uphill from the moment you step onto it (over 3400 feet gain, in 4 miles uphill). It is exposed much of the way, with no shade. But if you time the visit right, the beargrass in bloom is something that will leave you speechless. The views of Rainer don’t stop, they just get more incredible. There is a seasonal creek in the last mile to grab water from (but don’t count on it!). Just as you think you can’t go on, the trail pops onto the ridge, and there is a fire lookout, along with 2 tiny campsites, at the edge of the ridge. I was lucky to sleep a night up there. The view of the mountain is different from most angles. You are far enough away (it is literally on the edge of the park) that the mountain looms so big. It is also incredibly quiet up there, especially at night, when the only sound is the wind.
Located on the eastern side of the park, on the edge, this trail is a subalpine bliss to walk. It isn’t hard, and children will do it just fine. As long as the snow has melted there is nothing unsafe (no streams, etc) to cross. It passes 2 unnamed lakes, plus the Tipsoo Lakes at the trailhead. Bonus? If you park at Tipsoo Lake it is free to park there! My favorite route is to walk it counter-clockwise from Tipsoo. Take the trail from the parking lot, that hugs the hillside, above the lakes, come out at the highway, cross on the bridge. This puts you on the PCT, and you will gently wind up the backside of Naches, passing a lovely tarn, then crossing the pass. As you curve around, look down to see Dewey Lakes way below, and enter the park once again. The hike back has gentle up and downs, and passes another lake. The mountain is in your eyes for much of the second half. The blueberries ripen earlier on this side, so keep an eye out.
The easiest of the hikes, small children will enjoy it. Yet, it is vastly under used. Visit the Sunrise complex, at the end of the road, at 6400 feet, walk across the parking lot, and take the trail towards the Wonderland Trail. Not far down, Silver Forest is well-marked to the left. Visit the overlooks with educational signs. Walk as far as you like, very few go beyond the overlooks. The trail meanders across the side of Yakima Park, and loses the subalpine forest quickly. The trees left are mostly silver snags, from a long ago fire. The views are phenomenal, especially as you return, Rainier is in your eyes. It is gentle and rolls gently, with no scary drop offs. The trail ends at “end of maintained trail” (it used to go up to the road). This is a place to sit back and enjoy staring across at the mountain, big as can be. It’s quiet and feels a lot farther away from everything than it is.
Hiking Guides For Mount Rainier: