Mount Rainier National Park: Glacier Basin

This 8-mile out-and-back, less than four miles northeast of Mount Rainier, leads to stunning views of glaciers, expansive valleys, and Washington's signature mountain.
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This 8-mile out-and-back, less than four miles northeast of Mount Rainier, leads 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. In summer and fall, black bears forage for huckleberries in these meadows. A half-mile walk farther up the valley leads to five-star views of The Wedge and the entire basin.

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: 12.9

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, -121.702002

The maintained trail ends here. In summer and fall, black bears munch huckleberries in the subalpine meadows of Glacier Basin. Optional: Hikers can pick up the use trail, which continues 0.5-mile to The Wedge, and beyond to Inter Glacier and climbing camps. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Lakelet in Glacier Basin

Location: 46.889821, -121.701387

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: 46.901169, -121.649278

Emmons Glacier

Location: 46.898571, -121.668735

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

Glacier Basin

Location: 46.888819, -121.701923

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