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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.

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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

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

CONTACT Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211;

To Trailhead

From Seattle, take I-5 S to I-405 N to WA 167 S to WA 512 W to WA 161 S to WA 7 S to WA 706 E to Elbe, WA. Continue on WA 706 E for 13.6 miles to the Nisqually entrance. Continue straight on Paradise Rd. for 3.4 miles to trailhead parking on right.

Mirror lake (Photo by Jeff Gunn)

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