Ways to Make
Mount Rainier National Park
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This is our family's favorite park for hiking, and that is saying a lot. Somehow we convinced the kids to do 37 miles of hiking in 4 days.
4 mi RT
Relatively easy hike with a steep section at the end. Wonderful views as long as Mt. Rainier isn't socked in (but we were happy to have done the hike regardless). The trail starts at the parking lot at Sunrise behind the restrooms. Take the large set of stairs towards Sourdough Ridge and take a right (east). Follow the trail up the ridge for about 2 miles and then take the spur trail to the left up to the summit. This summit has a flat area and some rocks, a great place for a picnic.
This was our family's favorite hike of the whole trip, minus the wrong turn we took that landed us at the bottom of Lakes Trail, facing 2 extra uphill miles we didn't plan on hiking the day after doing Third Burrows. After we finished the hike we went back to Myrtle Falls along the real end of the trail.
There was a lot of snow on the trail, so be prepared for that, which is how we got off course. This is a well traveled hike that starts at the Paradise Visitor Center. It starts with a pretty steep ascent, the whole time facing the amazing Mt. Rainier. After a scenic view at Glacier Vista you continue on to Panorama Point. Aside from having a pit toilet, this stop offers a beautiful view but it gets better and better as you continue your climb. After you reach the top and enjoy the amazing views, you start to head back down toward the parking lot, passing the Stevens Van Trump Historic Monument and then the junction with the Lakes Trail - proceed WEST at this point to avoid going out of your way. A little over a mile later you should reach Myrtle Falls and then a half mile later you will reach the parking lot again.
Grove of the Patriarchs
1.5 mi RT
This hike has its own parking lot, however we chose to add it on to the Silver Falls Hike for a total of 5.5 mi RT. It starts with a well traveled path along the river with a few ups and downs but nothing strenuous. You cross a fun suspension bridge to the boardwalk loop hike through a forest of some of the oldest and tallest trees in the state.
Eat at the Paradise Inn Dining Room
They had excellent food, we particularly liked the Skyline Salad with tofu, quinoa and eggplant.
Third Burrows Mountain Trail
10 mi RT
We had considered going just to Second Burrows, a 7 mi RT hike but Uncle Dick said "you just have to get there," in reference to Third Burrows. He said it several times, unable to contemplate being so close and not getting out to Third Burrows. He said it was close to hiking Mount Rainier without actually hiking it. We ran across the same sentiment as we rested at Second Burrows, overlooking the trail down and back up to Third Burrows. Two fit hikers said to us "well, you got this far, you might as well go for it." We were SO GLAD WE DID.
The route we took for this hike was the southern route due to slippery conditions on the north route. It starts at the parking lot at Sunrise but on the other side from the restrooms. The trail begins going downhill to a small lookout called Emmons Vista. From there it hikes up to beautiful Glacier Overlook and then down to Sunrise Camp where you can find a pit toilet (they don't stock toilet paper at that one). From there follow the signs up to First Burrows Mountain and then up another 0.6 miles to Second Burrows Mountain. You can stop there and contemplate the hike down and back up again and then GO FOR IT. It is another mile but it goes quickly. As you hike down you intersect with Glacier Basin Trail. Take the trail to that veers right up to Third Burrows. Put in a little extra effort scrambling up the rocks to reach the 7800 foot rocky top.
Silver Falls Hike
3 mi loop
This hike starts at the visitor’s center or from Campground B. Along the trail are the hot springs, each one getting progressively warmer as you get closer to the source of the hot springs. Continue along the trail to the thundering Silver Falls. The loops returns back to the campground.
Camp in the park
We stayed two nights at Ohanapecosh Campground. Site D3 would have been PERFECT but they reassigned us to H17 because of fallen trees. It didn't really have a tent pad so I wouldn't recommend it for tent campers.
Then we spent three nights at Cougar Rock Campground - site D25 and it was fine.
They don't have showers, but if you don't stay too long, or find another way to shower (message us for details), it's great to start your day from inside the park to beat the crowds hiking.
Carter and Madcap Falls
2.2 mi RT. The best part of the hike in our opinion was right at the beginning hiking over the Nisqually River. After that it was a very steep uphill hike to the waterfalls which were not as scenic as Silver Falls and Myrtle Falls.
Several additional hikes we did that were NOT must do's:
Nisqually Vista. 1.2 mi loop. It starts at the far end of the additional parking lot for the Sunrise Visitor Center. It is nearly flat, paved and has a few scenic lookouts, but we felt the other hiking at Sunrise was much more scenic.
Trail of Shadows and Rampart Ridge Trail, 5.2 mi RT. It starts across from the Longmire Visitor Center with the Trail of Shadows Hike that connects you to the Rampart Ridge Trail. There are several switchbacks up through a forest, then across a ridge and back down several switchbacks to the Trail of Shadows Loop. There were two areas with mountain views but again, nothing like we had already seen. We decided we would have rather redone the Skyline Trail the correct way than hike this one.
There weren't any showers or laundry at the campgrounds in this park. We were able to find ice at the Crystal Resort on our way into the park from the north and at the Longmire camping store by Cougar Rock.