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.
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.
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.
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.
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.