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Mount Rainier - Northern Loop Trail
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Mark DeWitt
(vhbmark) - F
Mount Rainier - Northern Loop Trail on 07/12/2009 18:39:36 MDT Print View

I just returned from hiking the Northern Loop Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. This was my first time to Rainier, I usually backpack in the Wind Rivers in Wyoming. This was a last minute trip, I was in Portland on business and had a rare 4 day window with nothing to do.

Day 1 (7/8): I left the Sunrise trail head at 10:30 in heavy fog. The parking lot was nearly empty. Getting permits wasn't an issue, the Range said I would have the trail to myself. I encountered my last group of day hikers at the Frozen lake view point. I had an enjoyable hike in a cool 45 degrees all the way to Fire Creek camp ground. Along the way, I saw a Mountain Goat on the trail just before Berkley Park and a herd of deer grazing in Grand Park. I stopped at Fire Creek for the night because I wanted to cross the West Fork White River in the morning when the water levels were at their lows. The Ranger at White River warned that the bridge was washed out.

Wonderland and Northern Loop Trail Junction

Day 2 (7/9): Crossing White River turned out to be quite an adventure today. The trail across the river bed was completely gone. Also, the river changed it route compared to the topo maps. I managed to find a big log across the river and walked across without too much difficulty. The problem was finding the trail on the other side. The river now runs on the west side of the channel right up next to the Van Horn Falls outlet. I continued on to Yellowstone Cliffs via a very snowy and beautiful Windy Gap.

Windy Gap

Day 3 (7/10): Wow! Today was the first time I've seen Mount Rainier w/o clouds. Very impressive. It made the climb up the Carbon Glacier valley very enjoyable. The log bridge over Dick Creek was washed out and held by a steel cable. I suggest hoping across the boulders. There was still quite a lot of snow approaching Moraine Park. The view from the meadow was awesome.

Snow in Moraine Park

Carbon Glacier

Mount Rainier from Moraine Park

Day 4 (7/11): I was awarded another clear day to finish my trip. I was treated with great views of Rainier throughout the day as I made my way out. I came across my first fellow backpacker at Granite Creek camp ground, then started to see day hikers at Skyscrapper.

Winthrop Glacier with Mount Rainier

Me with Mount Rainier in Background

This hike had very little flat trail, you were either climbing or descending. A heavy pack would have made this very difficult.

I had a great trip. I would highly recommend this hike to anyone considering it.

Jared Cook
(rooinater) - F

Locale: Northwet
Mount Rainier - Northern Loop Trail on 07/14/2009 01:10:56 MDT Print View

Great pics! I love the Rainier area.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Mt. Rainier - Northern Loop on 07/14/2009 13:53:33 MDT Print View

Nice photos Mark. I have a permit for the Wonderland Trail beginning on July 28th. I am hopeful a lot of the snow will have melted by then.

Russ Bunker
(rcbunker) - F
Crossing? on 07/20/2009 15:59:54 MDT Print View

Sounds like West Fork crossing has really changed since my last visit.

How did you get across? Logs? NPS site warns that a fall at either crossing site would be fatal but provides no context. Would be interested in learning what you found because am headed back that way in two weeks.


Mark DeWitt
(vhbmark) - F
Crossing on 07/23/2009 14:33:39 MDT Print View

I crossed on a log just north of Van Horn Falls. There were lots of logs to choose from. I choose the biggest log I could find.

Crossing in early morning was a significant factor. I could see the previous days water levels were much higher.

Once on the other side, the main problem was the thick brush.

Jared Cook
(rooinater) - F

Locale: Northwet
Re: Mt. Rainier - Northern Loop on 07/23/2009 14:37:53 MDT Print View

"Nice photos Mark. I have a permit for the Wonderland Trail beginning on July 28th. I am hopeful a lot of the snow will have melted by then."

Most of the large snow crossings near the sunrise area have shrunk a lot. from Frozen lake to Sunrise lake area there is still 2 small snow crossings. Very easy, and definitely not a navigational issue. We'll be headed up to Pan Handle Gap by Summerland Tomorrow (where there is usually a snowfield that stays until late into the summer), I'll post a trip report and let you know the conditions if you want before you leave.

Dicentra OPW
(dicentra) - F

Locale: PNW
Very nice! on 07/27/2009 11:40:11 MDT Print View

I think my friend, Drew was on the trail the same time as you! :)