Tag Archives: Mt. Rainier National Park

Silver Forest Hike in Mt Rainier National Park

A fun camping weekend and an easy relaxing day hike on the Sunrise side of Mt Rainier National Park. A perfect day hike if you are out of shape or short on time and want some great views of Mt Rainier.

Paddy and I have been to Mt Rainier National Park a few times, but only to the Sunrise Side once and that time we didn’t actually go to the visitor’s center. Every time we go to Mt Rainier National Park we are blown away by how beautiful it is. On this trip we camped outside of the park at Silver Springs Campground, and did a quick and easy trek on the Silver Forest hike from the Sunrise Visitor Center in the park.

The Sunrise side of Mt Rainier National Park is the northern side of the mountain, and is a little less visited then the popular Paradise visitor center. At 6,400 ft above sea level, it is the highest elevation point in the park to visit by vehicle. There are several great hiking trails that start at the Sunrise visitor center parking lot.

Day 1: 

We left Seattle a little before 3:00 in the afternoon on Friday, headed to Silver Springs Campground. We had made a reservation there early in the spring through www.recreation.gov, so our site was all ready and waiting for us. We camped at Silver Springs the last time we visited the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier, and we like the campground. It is a good close proximity to the mountain and sites can be reserved ahead of time.

*Camping tip: Even though spring  seems way too early to make summer camping plans, the recreation.gov website allows you to make camping reservations up to six months in advance, starting in January. Weekends in July and August fill up fast, so I like to get a reservation in for a good site (you get to pick your site out) around March. If your plans change and you have to cancel, you get a full refund minus the $10 reservation fee as long as you cancel at least two days before your arrival date.

Silver Springs Campground
Silver Springs Campground

The campground hosts have firewood for sale (cash only) or you can purchase it at the Greenwater General Store about 15 minutes away. This is the closest store with provisions, so if you find that you have forgotten something, stock up here.

We set up camp, sprayed ourselves with bug spray, and cooked hot dogs, beans, and corn for dinner with the campfire.

Camping at Silver Springs Campground
Camping at Silver Springs Campground

Day 2:

I set the alarm for 7:00, as it is best to get an early start when hiking at Mt Rainier on a summer weekend. We made coffee with our camp stove and french press, ate hard boiled eggs and granola for breakfast, and set out up the mountain.

Not far down on the 410 highway heading south from the campground is the Sunrise Park Road. The White River ranger station will collect your national park entrance fee of $25.00, good for one week. After passing the fee station, the visitor center is another 40 minutes up the mountain. It is a beautiful drive.

Sunrise visitor center Mt. Rainier National Park
Sunrise visitor center Mt. Rainier National Park

We arrived at the Sunrise Visitor Center at around 9:00 AM. There were lots of cars in the parking lot already, but still a lot of spaces left. The Visitor Center building wasn’t open yet, but a park ranger was standing outside and answering questions from the hikers. He provided lots of helpful info on trail conditions. Even though it was July, some of the higher elevation trails had too much snow still and weren’t suitable for hiking in certain areas.

Everyone there was gung-ho about going up the high elevation trails, but we opted for the easy-breezy Silver Forest hike. The Sunrise elevation is pretty high for us sea-level dwellers with desk jobs, and we prefer to do uphill hiking at lower elevations. The Silver Forest hike is fairly even the whole way. The trail starts from the left side of the parking lot facing the visitor center building. The trail is an out-and-back hike, so you have to hike to the end and then turn around and return back to where you started.

Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park

For such an easy trail, the Silver Forest hike offered amazing views of Mt. Rainier. If you’re not very in shape or are short on time, this hike offers big bang for your hiking buck (so to speak).

Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Wildflowers, Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park

After a (too) short amount of time, we reached the end of the maintained trail (about a mile in). We weren’t ready to go back so we continued for a little ways on the not-so-maintained part of the trail, which was really more or less a ditch someone dug. It kept going, but was a bit difficult to walk in as it was deep and narrow. We stopped when we ran into some snow. We could have gone around, but decided to head back.

Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park

The way back had the best views, as you are facing Mt Rainier the entire time.

Silver Forest Hike Mt Rainier National Park (Sunrise side)
Silver Forest Hike Mt Rainier National Park (Sunrise side)
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest Hike Mt Rainier National Park (Sunrise side)
Silver Forest Hike Mt Rainier National Park (Sunrise side)
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park
Silver Forest hike, Mt Rainier National Park

Overall, the trail was shorter than I would have preferred, but the views were excellent. If you are visiting Seattle and want to do a day trip to Rainier and don’t have time for a big hike, the Silver Forest hike is perfect for a quick dose of “Mt. Rainier-lite.” Your photos will look like you did some major hiking, and all your friends will be jealous.

When we arrived back at the parking lot we checked out the information displays at the visitor center, and then began our descent down the mountain. We left at a little before 11:00 AM, and rangers were already directing traffic into the overflow parking on the side of the road.

Snow pile next to the Sunrise visitor center parking lot
Snow pile next to the Sunrise visitor center parking lot

*Tip: If going to Mt Rainier on a Saturday or Sunday in July or August, GET THERE EARLY. If you are doing a day trip from Seattle, I’d recommend getting on the road around 7:00 AM at the latest to make sure you get a decent parking spot and get on your hike before the trails get crowded.

We stopped at a lookout a short ways down the mountain that provided views of some alpine lakes and Mt Adams in the distance.

Scenic lookout on the way to Sunrise in Mt Rainier National Park
Scenic lookout on the way to Sunrise in Mt Rainier National Park
Scenic lookout on the way to Sunrise in Mt Rainier National Park
Scenic lookout on the way to Sunrise in Mt Rainier National Park
Scenic lookout on the way to Sunrise in Mt Rainier National Park
Scenic lookout on the way to Sunrise in Mt Rainier National Park
Mt Adams
Mt Adams

At the bottom of Sunrise Park Rd, we passed a very long line of cars waiting at the entrance fee station. It looked like about a half hour wait just to enter the park. Again, GET THERE EARLY.

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing at the camp site, and listening to the White River. Living in the city near the airport makes us really appreciate the sounds of nature whenever we are able to get away.

The Silver Forest hike wasn’t my favorite hike in Mt Rainier National Park, but it was a nice and easy scenic jaunt. If you are able to do a longer hike that is slightly more challenging at a lower elevation, I’d recommend the Naches Peak loop hike. It is also on the Sunrise side of the park and one of our favorites.

 

Mt Rainier National Park 2014: High Lakes Loop Trail

Mt Rainier National Park 2014, Paradise Side: Camping at Big Creek, High Lakes Loop Trail Hike

I love Mt. Rainier National Park. There are just so many good easy day hikes with incredible views. There is also no shortage of challenging hikes for more experienced and in-shape hikers. This trip we went camping to celebrate our anniversary, and had time for one hike in the park. We chose the High Lakes Loop Trail and it was a good one.

Day 1:

We left Seattle around 1:00 PM on a Friday, headed towards Big Creek Campground just outside the south west corner of the park.  Traffic was a little sluggish, but not too bad. The worst part of this drive is getting through the town of South Hill, which is just one big long strip mall with a million stop lights. That stretch of the 161 is particularly infuriating, but once you break through it is pretty smooth sailing from there to Ashford.

We pulled over to check out the swim beach area of Alder Lake off the highway in Elbe. The lake is a beautiful blue-green color and the water seemed nice for swimming. Another trip, perhaps.

Alder Lake
Alder Lake
Alder Lake
Alder Lake

We arrived around 3:30 and set up camp. We’d reserved and picked out our site online back in May, and it ended up being the same site (number 22) that we’d camped in back in 2012. It had mediocre privacy, but plenty of trees and shade. We like Big Creek because of it’s close proximity to the National Park entrance (only 5 miles), and the woodsy natural setting. The campground has only pit toilets, and several water spigots with potable water.

Road 52 to Big Creek Campground
Road 52 to Big Creek Campground

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier
Campground loop road

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

There are some trails off of the forest roads in the area that we’d like to check out sometime. The campground has a large billboard map of them. One leaves from the campground itself–the Osborne Mountain trail #250. It looks pretty difficult. You can find more information about these trails here. We are curious about Bertha Lake and Granite Lake, which can be accessed off of a primitive forest road near the campground. Next time.

Osborne Mountain trailhead from Big Creek Campground
Osborne Mountain trail head from Big Creek Campground
Big Creek trail map
Big Creek trail map

After setting up camp, we relaxed and read books in the tent for awhile. Unfortunately, the family across from us kept growing in size throughout the afternoon. With about 10 kids (all with bikes and skateboards), multiple tents, two giant RVs, babies, dogs, etc……the noise level in the camp wasn’t exactly relaxing.

We tuned them out and cooked our quintessential first night camping dinner: baked beans, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. All these things seem to taste so much better while camping.

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier
Forest behind our campsite
Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier
Forest behind our campsite

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

There had been a camping dessert recipe going around on Pinterest lately for chocolate campfire cake baked in an orange. I thought we’d give it a try. I pre-mixed brownie batter at home and kept it in our cooler in a plastic container. To make the orange campfire cakes, we hollowed out a couple oranges, filled them with brownie batter, covered them in two layers of tin foil, and baked them on the grill.

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier
Hollow out the inside of the orange
Scrape out the inside, kind of like scraping a pumpkin at Halloween
Scrape out the inside, kind of like scraping a pumpkin at Halloween
brownie batter cooked in an orange camping
Fill with brownie batter and put the top back on the orange
brownies cooked in an orange in campfire
Wrap in two layers of tin foil
brownies cooked in an orange in campfire
Bake on the grill for about 30-45 minutes or until done.

brownies cooked in an orange in campfire

brownies cooked in an orange in campfire

brownies cooked in an orange in campfire

I have to say, they turned out pretty awesome. A new camping dessert to give the s’more a run for it’s money.

We went to bed pretty early as we planned on getting up early to hike. I was glad I brought ear plugs, since our neighbors with the giant family blared country music until about 2:00 AM.

Day 2:

I set the alarm for 7:00 AM, and we got a pretty early start. After making coffee and granola and getting some hiking clothes on, we headed into the park at about 8:00 AM. There was little traffic, and we breezed right through the Nisqually entrance. The entrance fee for a vehicle for one week is $15.00.

Mt Rainier Nisqually Entrance
Nisqually Entrance

After about 30 minutes of winding roads (if you get carsick like me, I’d recommend being the driver, not the passenger), we reached the Paradise Visitor’s Center parking area, which was already full. Fortunately, we were headed to the Reflection Lakes parking area just past Paradise, so this wasn’t an issue.

**Note: If you are visiting Paradise on a weekend in July or August, shoot for getting there by 8:00 AM. The lot fills up fast and there are parking spaces down the road for several miles, although I wouldn’t want to have to walk that distance and then hike afterward. There used to be a shuttle service between Longmire and Paradise on the weekends, but the National Park website mentioned budget cuts and I couldn’t find any information on it, so it might be discontinued.

We arrived at the middle Reflection Lakes Parking lot (there are three) and were pleased to see many spaces still open. Our guidebook recommended the middle parking lot for the High Lakes Loop Trail.

Mt Rainier Paradise road
Winding road down from Paradise to Reflection Lakes
Mt Rainier Reflection Lakes parking
Reflection Lakes parking

Reflection Lake is an easy roadside stop for a great postcard-worthy photo of the mountain. Most people seem to do just that– stop, take photos, and move on. Swimming or fishing in the lake is prohibited, but I read that neighboring Lake Louise allows fishing and swimming.

Reflection Lake Mt Rainier
Reflection Lake

Reflection Lake Mt Rainier

We were hiking the Reflection Lakes/High Lakes loop trail, a relatively easy 2.7 mile loop. Our book recommended hiking counter-clockwise for easier elevation gain, and we would definitely agree.

The High Lakes Loop Trail starts from the left side of the lake facing Rainier, and heads towards the mountain. “Easy” wasn’t exactly the word coming to mind while I huffed and puffed up the steep side of the hill, but it wasn’t so bad. There were a lot of steps built in and the trail is well maintained. Fortunately, Paddy is patient with me while I take frequent breaks on the long hills.

Reflection Lake Mt Rainier
Reflection Lake
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
Dry creek bed

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
Steps built into the trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
Wildflowers
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
Wildflowers

After about 0.75 mile of hill and steps, there is a big reward. We reached Faraway Rock, a clear lookout that provides great views of the Tatoosh Mountain Range and Lake Louise directly below.

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
View from Faraway Rock
High Lakes Loop Trail view from Faraway Rock
View from Faraway Rock
High Lakes Loop Trail view from Faraway Rock
View from Faraway Rock
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
View from Faraway Rock
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
View from Faraway Rock
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
View from Faraway Rock
Lake Louise High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
View of Lake Louise from Faraway Rock
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
View from Faraway Rock

We continued on, checking out Fairy Pond to our right as we left Faraway Rock.

High Lakes Loop Trail Fairy Pond Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail–Fairy Pond

There was a little more uphill after that, but not as steep. We soon turned west through beautiful sub-alpine valleys, with peeking glimpses of Mt. Rainier through the trees. The trail was relatively level for the westward portion.

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
Snow!
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail

It was August, and the wildflowers were in full bloom, peppering the hills and valleys with little splashes of color.

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail

We continued through more gorgeous valleys and over dry creek beds. We intersected with a trail leading back up to Paradise for one mile, but opted to continue on the High Lakes Loop Trail.

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail

After the trail fork, we began our descent southward back towards Reflection Lake. The trail had some water erosion causing a large rut in the middle of it for a ways, and it was quite steep. There were no steps built into the trail on this side. We were really glad we followed our guidebook’s advice and hiked counter-clockwise. We left the valleys behind and descended through the forest.

The trail leveled out a short distance before Reflection Lake.

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail
High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier
High Lakes Loop Trail

High Lakes Loop Trail Mt Rainier

As we got closer to the parking lot, more and more people were milling around, taking photos, and starting out on the trail. The parking lot was completely full by then, and we were glad we got up early. We made sandwiches and sat by Reflection Lake and had a picnic.

On the way out of the park we made a quick stop at the Longmire Visitor Center to pick up a couple souvenirs at the gift shop and use a real bathroom (with sinks, soap, and water) before heading back to camp. We saw some backpackers getting ready to set off on the Wonderland Trail, which circumnavigates Mt Rainier. I’m sure it’s amazing, but is way past my athletic ability.

It was about 1:00 PM, and cars were lined up at the park entrance, pouring in at a steady rate. Parking at visitors’ centers and trail heads is pretty cut-throat by the afternoon. I have to wonder if they all know that.

Afternoon traffic at the Nisqually entrance
Afternoon traffic at the Nisqually entrance

Back at camp we rested in the tent for awhile. I attempted a nap, but our neighbors with the giant family were playing a homemade cornhole game with metal discs instead of bean bags filled with corn, right in front of our campsite. It pretty much sounded like someone throwing horseshoes at a brick wall every 30 seconds for about three hours.

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

For dinner Paddy made some sausage gnocchi with mushrooms and onions and pre-made pasta sauce. We cooked garlic bread on the fire and made a salad. It was a satisfying meal after a good hike.

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier
Camping in style

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Big Creek Campground Mt Rainier

Day 3:

The next morning we weren’t feeling the granola, so we packed up camp early and drove about a mile back up towards the park entrance to have breakfast at the Copper Creek Inn. We noticed a large amount of cars parked outside of it the morning before so we figured it must be good.

I had the Sunrise Breakfast, which came with two eggs cooked to order, crispy hash browns, and homemade toast. The homemade bread was fantastic. Paddy had biscuits and gravy with a side of scrambled eggs. Service was good, and the place is cute. They also have some nice looking cabins for rent there as well, and is open year-round.

Copper Creek Inn
Copper Creek Inn

Copper Creek Inn

Sunrise Breakfast--Copper Creek Inn
Sunrise Breakfast–Copper Creek Inn
Biscuits and gravy--Copper Creek Inn
Biscuits and gravy–Copper Creek Inn

We headed home to Seattle, and made good timing with little traffic. There is so much to see at Mt Rainier, and so many great hiking trails. We will keep coming back. The High Lakes Loop Trail is a great one, and pretty easy. We’d recommend it.

 

Mt. Rainier National Park: Naches Peak Loop Trail

Mt. Rainier National Park 2013 Sunrise Side: Camping at Silver Springs Campground, hiking Naches Peak

After our first trip to Mt. Rainier National Park blew our minds with it’s beauty, we thought we’d visit the Sunrise side of the park in the Northeast. The Sunrise side is less visited than the Paradise Side, which we were excited about. We always like to go where there are less tourists.

Day 1:

We made a reservation at the Silver Springs Campground through the Recreation.gov website, and were lucky enough to snag a spot on the White River. It was a little dry since it was August, but still a nice view and came with ambient creek noises.

Silver Springs Campground Mt. Rainier National Park (21)
Silver Springs Campground

Traffic through Seattle to Enumclaw on a Friday afternoon was brutal, and we arrived starving and cranky. We quickly set up camp and started a campfire. We had an easy meal planned: our traditional first night camping meal of hot dogs and baked beans.

Silver Springs Campground Mt. Rainier National Park (23)
Silver Springs Campground
Silver Springs Campground Mt. Rainier National Park (22)
Silver Springs Campground
Silver Springs Campground Mt. Rainier National Park (20)
Silver Springs Campground
Silver Springs Campground Mt. Rainier National Park (19)
Silver Springs Campground

After bug spray was applied, camp was set up, and we had some food and wine, we felt much better. We relaxed around the campfire and enjoyed the sound of the river.

 

Day 2:

Our main plan for the day was a good hike. I consulted our Best Easy Day Hikes: Mt. Rainier National Park book and decided on a 5 mile loop trail around Naches Peak. It promised stunning views of Mt. Rainier and seemed to be about our fitness level.

We got up at about 8:00  AM. We quickly got dressed, slathered on sunscreen, ate some granola and got going. Naches Peak Trailhead is about a 20-30 minute drive south on Highway 410 from Silver Springs Campground. It is also technically outside Mt. Rainier National Park, so you don’t have to go into the visitor’s center and pay the fee. It’s good that we got there when we did, we snagged the last parking spot in the lot.

Most people hike the trail starting out to the left, as you see Mt. Rainier as you walk forward and descend back down the other side of the peak. I read a review online that suggested going the other direction to the right, because you get all your elevation gain out of the way pretty quickly, and a view is a view, regardless of which way you’re going. We opted to hike the trail backwards and I’m glad we did.

We started out passing Tipsoo Lake, and ascended up a rocky trail through the forest. A little ways in we could see Mt. Rainier in the distance through the trees. I don’t know if I’ll ever get sick of looking at that mountain.

Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (2)
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (3)
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park

The hike was pretty tiring in the first mile, and I had to stop and catch my breath several times. Finally, we reached the top and the views were definitely worth it.

Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (5)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (4)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (11)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (12)
Naches Peak Trail

We stopped for a bit to enjoy it, and then continued on up around another small rocky point which was a popular place to picnic and enjoy a view. We had lunch with us but weren’t ready to eat yet.

Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (6)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (7)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (13)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (8)
Naches Peak Trail

After that, the rest of the trail was all downhill and Mt. Rainier was no longer in view except a little bit towards the end. The views of the valley, with wild flowers and ponds were still amazing.

Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (14)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (15)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (16)
Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Trail Mt. Rainier National Park (17)
Naches Peak Trail

When we arrived back at the parking lot, we were beat. All the picnic tables were full of families eating lunch, so we just sat down on the ground next to our truck and had lunch. We were thankful for the cold Gatorade in our cooler. Sometimes, water just doesn’t re-hydrate like Gatorade.

After we ate, we headed back to camp. Our parking space was quickly taken by a waiting vehicle. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading books back at camp.

For dinner we chopped up some carrots, potatoes, onions, and zucchini and combined it with some chicken breasts, cream of mushroom soup, and spices and put it in some foil packets. We cooked them in the campfire and they were delicious. I don’t know what it is about campfire cooking that just makes simple food taste so much better. Maybe it’s just the warm hot meal in the woods thing. I don’t know.

The next day we packed up camp and headed back to Seattle. I have to say, the Naches Peak trail was one of the best We’ve ever been on in Washington and I would highly recommend it. Our book has so many cool hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park, I think we’ll be doing another one or two of them this summer. It really is a beautiful place to visit and we feel very lucky to live so close by that we can easily visit for a weekend.