Perfect for families with young hikers, this easy-going, 4.1-mile loop visits several mountain pools and showcases jaw-dropping views of Mount Rainier. From the parking area north of Chinook Pass, hike to a T-junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Turn left onto the PCT and head south to Chinook Pass. At the pass, bear left and cross a bridge over WA 410. The trail passes avalanche lilies, lupines, and paintbrush and enters William O. Douglas Wilderness after half a mile. Less than a mile later, skirt a picturesque tarn nestled between a few fir trees, then climb southeast toward a saddle.
Just past the saddle, the trail swings west and enters Mount Rainier National Park. Bear right at the Y-junction above Dewey Lake (mile 1.8) and climb west. Keep your camera handy: Mount Rainier makes its first appearance 400 feet past the junction. Continue another 0.3 mile and take a break at a popular viewpoint overlooking Rainier and colorful wildflower meadows. From here, the route gradually descends to WA 410. Cross WA 410 and hike along the shores of Tipsoo Lake. Finish the hike by climbing the open slopes above the lake and following the trail back to Chinook Pass. Turn left onto the PCT for the short hike back to the parking area.
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 Alan Bauer, Alan Bauer Photography
- Distance: 6.6
Location: 46.8750557, -121.517871
Leave the trailhead parking area near Chinook Pass and hike south past the readerboard area to a T-junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Turn left onto the PCT, heading southeast past impressive displays of avalanche lilies.
Location: 46.8720138, -121.5159827
Chinook Pass: Bear left @ Y-junction and cross the wooden bridge over WA 410. After crossing the highway, hike east across slopes blanketed with avalanche lilies, lupines, bistort, and paintbrush.
Location: 46.8722849, -121.5114771
Hike into the William O. Douglas Wilderness (marked by wooden signposts). Ahead, the trail winds through open, grassy slopes ablaze with brilliantly-colored wildflowers. Naches Peak looms directly to the south.
Location: 46.8673726, -121.5005922
After hiking past lush meadows and granite boulders below Naches Peak, you'll reach a picturesque tarn nestled between a few fir trees (perfect camp spot for families). From here, the trail climbs southeast toward a saddle.
Location: 46.8625125, -121.4954654
Just past the saddle, you'll find places to sit back and enjoy the view down to Dewey Lake. Next, the trail swings to the west and enters Mount Rainier National Park.
Location: 46.8621864, -121.4962792
Bear right @ Y-junction, leaving the PCT; the trail starts to climb to the west. Views of Mount Rainier are 400 feet away.
Location: 46.8621443, -121.4979348
Keep your camera handy, Mount Rainier makes its first appearance as you climb up a gradual, open slope. Keep an eye out for elk and marmots.
Location: 46.8619737, -121.4996588
Photo op: Mount Rainier rises behind lush meadows, firs, and a photogenic tarn.
Location: 46.8615702, -121.5033066
This popular viewpoint looks out onto meadows filled with wildflowers and the glacier-covered slopes of Mount Rainier. Raptors circle the skies above and western tanagers hang out in nearby trees. Ahead, begin the gradual descent back to the highway and Tipsoo Lake.
Location: 46.8669472, -121.517989
Cross WA 410 and pick up the trail leading to Tipsoo Lake on the other side.
Location: 46.8697639, -121.5194106
After hiking along the shores of Tipsoo Lake, turn right at the northern end of the small lake (heading away from the parking area). Ahead, the trail climbs steeply across the open slopes above the lake. Follow the trail back to Waypoint 2, then turn left onto the PCT for the short hike back to your car.
Location: 46.8621644, -121.4978027
Mount Rainier rises over crimson huckleberry fall colors.