Mount Rainier National Park: Mirror Lakes via Kautz Creek

This ambitious 12.4-mile dayhike runs along a creekbed raged by two major floods, through fragile wildflower meadows, and visits a pod of backcountry lakes.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
This ambitious 12.4-mile dayhike runs along a creekbed raged by two major floods, through fragile wildflower meadows, and visits a pod of backcountry lakes.

The first mile-long stretch of trail travels across the Kautz Creek mudflow, which was formed in 1947 from sediment and boulders deposited by a glacial flood. Another flood-of-the-century charged through in November 2006. After a mile, cross Kautz Creek on a split-log footbridge—clear days reveal 14,410-foot Mount Rainier rising dramatically behind the creek.

The trail steepens at this point and climbs several switchbacks that zigzag above the creek. After five miles, cruise across wildflower-filled meadows beneath Mount Ararat, then head northwest on Wonderland Trail to the Mirror Lakes spur trail. Follow this 0.6-mile path to a small group of lakes tucked beneath South Tahoma Glacier. No camping allowed.

Editor's Note: Floods in 2006 might have slightly altered the route identified on our map.

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

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 20.0

Waypoints

MIR001

Location: 46.736183, -121.855736

Hike north on Kautz Creek Trail. This gentle stretch of trail runs across the Kautz Creek mudflow where sediment and 13-foot boulders were deposited by the Kautz Glacier outburst flood in 1947.

MIR002

Location: 46.747063, -121.84816

Cross Kautz Creek on split-log footbridge (use caution during high water). On clear days, you'll see 14,410-foot Mount Rainier rising dramatically to the northeast behind the creek. Trail narrows ahead.

MIR003

Location: 46.757011, -121.853188

Ascend several switchbacks that zigzag above Kautz Creek; prepare for steep climb through old-growth forest.

MIR004

Location: 46.766964, -121.853233

Hike northwest; terrain levels briefly.

MIR005

Location: 46.770397, -121.855362

Tackle 12 switchbacks that climb east. In 0.3 mile, head north to a narrow saddle.

MIR006

Location: 46.775383, -121.850754

Continue heading north past an unnamed 5,115-foot summit that rises on the right. Ahead, trail travels north toward Mount Ararat, passing through the expansive meadows of Indian Henrys Hunting Ground.

MIR007

Location: 46.793404, -121.84053

Turn left @ T-junction onto Wonderland Trail; hike northwest through an alpine meadow dotted with seasonal wildflowers.

MIR008

Location: 46.794994, -121.842972

Trail curves to the right, heading northeast.

MIR009

Location: 46.795528, -121.841637

Bear right @ Y-junction onto 0.6-mile spur trail to Mirror Lakes.

MIR010

Location: 46.801315, -121.834702

Mirror Lakes: This small group of aptly-named lakes is nestled at the foot of South Tahoma Glacier. On wind-free days, look for the reflection of Mount Rainier's glacier-covered slopes. To return to trailhead, retrace your route.