Short on time, but want to experience all the beauty of Mt Rainier National Park?
Choose the Naches Peak Loop trail for ‘the most bang for your buck!’
Truth be told, I don’t think I’d even heard of Mt Rainier before I arrived in Seattle. And certainly not the Naches Peak Loop trail. But Lady Rainier (as the locals refer to ‘her’) is a beautiful and dominating icon of the Seattle landscape.
It’s easy to dominate a landscape that you’re not really part of, when you stand at 14410 feet. Viewing Rainier from downtown Seattle, it may be difficult to believe that to reach her, you’ve probably got a 2 hour drive ahead of you.
Why Naches Peak and not Paradise?
I asked a lot of people what was the ‘don’t miss’ parts of Mt Rainier. Paradise always topped the list. With a name like that, I’m sure it’s pretty special. But as a result of that, in the height of wildflower season, the crowds and issues associated with crowds are also notorious. And that wasn’t the experience I was looking for. Therefore, a little more research was required. That led to me discovering the Naches Peak Loop, where the wildflowers rival those at Paradise.
The Naches Peak Loop trail
Amongst our group we had 2 teenagers, 4 middle-aged Mummas, and one sprightly and amazing 80 year old! Yes, the Naches Peak Loop is not just a spectacular walk, it’s one that’s accessible to most.
Important trail logistics for you
The trail is just 3.2 miles long, and starts at Tipsoo Lake.
You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass to park in the carpark. You may also be pleased to know that there are two long drop toilets here.
Right from the beginning the wildflowers are in blooming abundance, around Lake Tipsoo.
Wildflower season is short – end of July through mid-late August.
It’d be easy to get carried away taking photos here at Lake Tipsoo, because it’s just so beautiful. According to www.visitrainier.com Mt Rainier reflected in Tipsoo Lake is one of the most photographed landscapes in the country. (I wish I’d read that before I left, because somehow I missed that shot!) But save some film!
A key decision as you begin is left or right, as the hike is a loop. My recommendation is to turn left (clockwise), as this way you’ll have Mt Rainier in all her splendor in front of you for the largest part of the walk.
To start the trail you’ll have to cross the highway via this bridge. It’s a great photo opportunity, because it also marks a grand entrance to Mt Rainier National Park.
Here you’ll start to climb the trail, it’s pretty easy going, and there are to die for views everywhere you look. Pretty soon you’ll arrive at a lake – its so small it’s unnamed, but is very pretty, and the view across the lake to Naches Peak is special. You might like to have a quick dip here, if you need to cool off.
From one lake to another – continue on to your next reward. The next big lookout point looks down onto Lake Dewey, with the Cascade Mountains silhouetted in the background.
If you’re up for a challenge, I hear Lake Dewey could be it! So far, we’ve been on the Pacific Crest Trail, but just after this viewpoint, it splits off – left to continue on the trail, down to Lake Dewey, or right to the Naches Peak loop.
We head right! And it’s not long before you round a bend and bam! There she is! Mt Rainier in all her glory.
Need I say more?!!
We stopped here to enjoy our lunch – because how could you not stop to enjoy this ‘million dollar’ view?
At this point all of the ‘climbing’ is done, and it’s a down hill run to the carpark. And all the way you have this beautiful vista in front of you, so take your time and enjoy it.
Naches Peak Loop delivered on all fronts for me as a most perfect day trip, an easy hike, and stunning scenery.
Should I also mention that to make this trip even more special, two of our group were Swiss ladies? They brought another element to the walk as they serenaded us with some traditional yodelling. If you can’t be in Switzerland to experience that, I can’t imagine a better destination than here. Simply magical!
You probably won’t get to experience the yodelling, but don’t let that stop you from choosing the Naches Peak Loop trail as a fabulous day trip hike from Seattle.
Please share when you do.