Mt. Rainier National Park Take a shortcut to the splendors of Seattle’s local giant.
Sure, Rainier sometimes seems like Seattle’s communal weekend home. But you can avoid the throngs if you bypass the park’s two main visitor centers, Paradise and Sunrise, in favor of its less visited northwest corner. There, you can skirt around the base of Mother Mountain in a 17-mile loop that combines a stretch of the Wonderland Trail–Rainier’s classic 93-mile circumference route–and the Spray Park Trail, a shortcut favored by veteran Wonderland thru-hikers. From Mowich Lake Campground, head south on the Spray Park Trail, which offers better views of Rainier than the parallel stretch of the Wonderland. You’ll get your first glimpse of the 14,410-foot peak at the Eagle Cliff vantage point, then arrive at a short spur for 300-foot Spray Falls. Next comes Spray Park and the first of its extensive wildflower meadows. With each ridgeline, the views of Mt. Rainier get enticingly fuller. At the high point, you’ll traverse a seasonal snowfield spackled with white avalanche lilies and, after a series of switchbacks, arrive at the forested Cataract Camp (mile 7) to bunk down. In the morning, continue on to the Wonderland Trail as it descends gently to the northwest (paralleling the Carbon River) and then angles up the mountain, with a homestretch elevation gain of 1,200 feet.
Get There Mowich Lake Campground is 70 miles from Seattle. From Carbonado, follow State Route 165 until it ends at the lake.
Get Info Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211, ext. 3314; www.nps.gov/mora