Mount Rainier National Park: Glacier Basin - Backpacker

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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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.

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