Mount Rainier National Park: Burroughs Mountain via Glacier Basin Trail

Washington's iconic 14,411-foot peak rises just five miles southwest of this route, and you'll get in-your-face views of it on this 12.5-mile loop in Mount Rainier National Park.
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Washington's iconic 14,411-foot peak rises just five miles southwest of this route, and you'll get in-your-face views of it on this 12.5-mile loop in Mount Rainier National Park.

Although this 12.5-mile loop can easily be done in a day, savor it over the course of a weekend. The numerous side trips along this route lead to stunning views of glaciers, expansive valleys, and Washington's signature mountain. Start at the Glacier Basin trailhead in the White River Campground, and hike west on a wide, smooth trail that was reconstructed after the 2007 washout.

At mile one, fork left at the junction with Emmons Moraine Trail for a .4-mile (one-way) detour to a viewpoint overlooking the 4.3-square-mile Emmons Glacier (the largest glacier in the Lower 48). Backtrack to the main trail and turn left for a gradual climb up the valley. At mile 3.2, continue straight at the 3-way junction with Burroughs Mountain/Sunrise Trails, and continue another 0.7 mile to the Glacier Basin Camp. A half-mile walk farther up the valley leads to five-star views of The Wedge and the entire basin.

The next day, return to the junction with Burroughs Mountain/Sunrise Trails, and turn left. It's a grueling, two-mile climb, first on short, forested switchbacks, then on open slopesides with stunning views of Rainier’s northeast flank. The grade lessens for the last 0.75-mile stretch to the summit of Second Burroughs. Drop your pack for a snack or early lunch, and soak up the views; clear days offer 360-degree views of Rainier towering to the south, and north to Glacier Peak and beyond.

Next, descend Burroughs Mountain, passing through alpine tundra for the next mile; fork left at a junction to Frozen Lake. Here, more side trip options are available (descend 2.2 miles west to Berkley Park in the next valley, or hike 1.3 miles north to the Mt. Freemont Lookout). To continue the loop, turn southeast on the Wonderland Trail, following signs for Shadow Lake. The trail descends a mile through pleasant alpine meadows. Spend the second night at Sunrise Camp.

The next morning, hop back on the Wonderland Trail, and follow it east, then north, curving around Shadow Lake to a junction with the Silver Forest Trail. Turn right, staying on the Wonderland, for a 2.6-mile, bone-jarring descent that drops 2,000 feet in elevation back to the White River Campground.

INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-camping-and-hiking.htm.

PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations requests accepted by fax or mail, starting on March 15th of each year ($20/reservation). Download form at nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/wilderness-reservation-information.htm.

CONTACT Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/mora

-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, Bosco Mountain Photo

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 20.2

Waypoints

GLA001

Location: 46.901595, -121.645968

The loop begins at the White River Campground. Hike west up the valley on the newly rebuilt Glacier Basin Trail, a smooth, wide path (based on 1930's CCC standards).

GLA002

Location: 46.900939, -121.658156

Stop at this switchback to watch a cascading waterfall through the trees.

GLA003

Location: 46.900561, -121.66307

Cross a cascade.

GLA004

Location: 46.9, -121.665234

At mile one, bear left on Emmons Moraine Trail to a viewpoint of the Emmons Glacier. At 4.3 square miles, it's the largest glacier in the Lower 48.

GLA005

Location: 46.899363, -121.664684

Turn right to reach the viewpoint of Emmons Glacier. Look down for views of a milky blue lake.

GLA006

Location: 46.898047, -121.670752

Stop for more wide-open views of Emmons Glacier. The trail continues up the moraine, then descends to the toe of the glacier; explore at will, then return to the Glacier Basin Trail to continue the loop.

GLA007

Location: 46.89987, -121.668136

Cross a rockfall slope and a wide creek.

GLA008

Location: 46.896859, -121.678471

Pass debris from leftover mining ruins.

GLA009

Location: 46.894515, -121.692298

Continue straight at the 3-way junction with Burroughs Mountain Trail for an out-and-back into Glacier Basin.

GLA010

Location: 46.894059, -121.694462

Cross several cascades on wooden bridges.

GLA011

Location: 46.888862, -121.700265

A side trail on the right (north) leads to a Glacier Basin restroom.

GLA012

Location: 46.888854, -121.700774

Glacier Basin Camp: Use designated sites; water is accessible via side trails.

GLA013

Location: 46.888811, -121.702006

The maintained trail ends here; backtrack to GLA009 and turn left onto Burroughs Mountain Trail. Optional: Hikers can pick up the use trail, which continues 0.5-mile to The Wedge, and beyond to Inter Glacier and climbing camps.

GLA014

Location: 46.895466, -121.695621

Begin a steep switchback climb to the Burroughs Mountain ridgeline. At the top of the switchbacks, turn around for big views of the White River Valley, Emmons Glacier, and Little Tahoma.

GLA015

Location: 46.90489, -121.695036

Continue straight (northeast) at the junction with Burroughs Trail.

GLA016

Location: 46.906272, -121.689827

Second Burroughs: Take in 360-degree views of Mt. Rainier and Glacier Peak to the north from this 7,402-foot summit.

GLA017

Location: 46.9108, -121.679855

Fork left and continue on Burroughs Trail at the junction with Rim Trail. Head northeast to Frozen Lake.

GLA018

Location: 46.91758, -121.668491

Make a hard right (southeast) onto the Wonderland Trail. Optional: Turn left (west) for a 2.2-mile side trip to Berkley Park; or continue straight ahead (north) for a 1.3-mile trip to Mt. Freemont Lookout.

GLA019

Location: 46.915697, -121.659272

Turn right (south) toward Sunrise Camp at the junction with the service road.

GLA020

Location: 46.911123, -121.660266

Sunrise Camp: Use designated sites (there are restrooms here). Side trip options: Hike west 1.3 miles for Rim Trail views; or backtrack to GLA019 and hike east on Sunrise Trail to visitor center.

GLA021

Location: 46.910611, -121.659995

Turn left (east) on the Wonderland Trail at this junction with Rim Trail.

GLA022

Location: 46.910706, -121.658853

Pass a spur trail on the left, which leads to Shadow Lake.

GLA023

Location: 46.912807, -121.65552

A large, picturesque meadow sits above Shadow Lake; watch for wildlife.

GLA024

Location: 46.914591, -121.650141

Turn right (south) on the Wonderland Trail at the junction with Silver Forest Trail. Prepare for a bone-jarring descent ahead (you'll drop 2,000 feet in 2.6-miles).

GLA025

Location: 46.912165, -121.649551

Caution: This cascade crossing is narrow, loose, and rocky.

GLA026

Location: 46.902225, -121.643779

Turn right to return to the trailhead.

Lakelet in Glacier Basin

Location: 46.889821, -121.701393

A small lakelet on the west side of Glacier Basin presents dramatic reflections of Mt. Rainier in the morning's still water.

Glacier Basin Trail

Location: 46.90117, -121.649272

Emmons Glacier

Location: 46.898575, -121.668735

From the Emmons Moraine Trail, get wide-angle views of the Emmons Glacier, Little Tahoma, and Mt. Rainier.

Glacier Basin

Location: 46.888838, -121.701779

The official trail ends in Glacier Basin, but a climber's route continues up the valley to The Wedge, and higher climber's camps.

Burroughs Mountain Trail

Location: 46.898472, -121.700149

After a series of grueling switchbacks, the trail to Burroughs Mountain passes through open meadows with views of Mt. Rainier.

White River

Location: 46.900495, -121.697574

From Burroughs Mountain, view wide panoramas of the White River Valley far below.

Burroughs Mountain

Location: 46.906067, -121.692767

Climb upward across alpine tundra to high viewpoints atop Burroughs Mountain.

Teddy

Location: 46.914818, -121.659154

Keep your eyes peeled for black bears rooting and munching on summer huckleberries in the meadows below Frozen Lake.

Mountain Meadow

Location: 46.913198, -121.659122

From the Wonderland Trail, view this wide meadow with meandering streams on the way to Shadow Lake.