The mileage is minimal on this route—only about 8 clicks roundtrip—but they’re steep miles with huge vistas of Mt. Rainier to the north and neck-craning views of the Tatoosh Range’s jagged spires all around you. The best time to visit is from mid-August through September when the huckleberries are ripe and the weather is most stable. The best way to experience this country is to keep hiking past the designated campsites at Snow Lake (they’re beautiful, but lack Rainier views) and camp high in the backcountry zone below Unicorn Peak or The Castle.
These are two of the major summits in the eastern half of the Tatoosh Range, and their ridges and drainages offer plenty of exploring on faint climbers’ paths and through sparse forest pocked with wildflower meadows. With solid navigation and scrambling skills, you can also complete a full traverse of the Tatoosh Range; usually done east to west, it’s a high, spectacular, and very arduous hike that’s worthwhile (and safe) only with a good forecast. Note: Use caution when climbing the talus-filled gulley that leads from Snow Lake into the Unicorn Creek bowl; the footing is steep and loose, and it’s easy to dislodge rocks onto hikers below you.
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.
ROAD CONDITIONS Go to nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/road-status.htm, or call (360) 569-2211, then press 1.
CONTACT Mt. Rainier National Park, (360) 569-2211; nps.gov/mora
Multiday Gear List
Waterproof/breathable jacket and pants
Fleece and down jackets
Synthetic T-shirt (2)
Hat and gloves
Wool/synthetic socks (3)
32 oz. water bottle (2)
Headlamp and batteries
Down bag (15° to 40°F) and sleeping pad
Compass, map, GPS unit
Gas stove and fuel bottles
Lighter and matches
Cookset, bowl, insulated mug, eating utensils
Toilet paper and trowel
611 S. Meridian Ave.
203 Center St. E
54109 Mountain Hwy. E
30027 SR 706 E
BARNEY’S CORNER MINI MART
40512 Meridian Ave. E
-Mapped by Jonathan Dorn
TO TRAILHEAD: From the Longmire entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park near Ashford, Washington, follow signs to the Longmire Visitor Center. Follow signs to Paradise, but stay straight at the final left-hand turn to Paradise on Stevens Canyon Road. You’ll soon pass Reflection Lakes, a spot that rivals Rainier’s summit as the most-photographed scenic point in the park. Just beyond, turn right in the parking area for Bench and Snow Lakes.