Naches Peak Loop Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park

Monday, September 28, 2009

We’ve always loved this trail, so even though it was late in the afternoon, we decided to go for it.  It was our 15th wedding anniversary, and we thought it was only fitting that we do one of our favorite trails.  And, as it turned out, it was a wonderful time to day to go!

We like to start the trail on the Wenatchee National Forest side and hike it clockwise to that we get wonderful views of Mt. Rainier for its last half.  To get to this starting point, just follow Highway 410 East until you go under the overpass that says Wenatchee National Forest.  There’s a parking area just about 50 yards further on the right.  Park there, and then walk back to the start of the trail.  (If you’re facing the overpass, the trail starts off to the left.)

We had heard from many guests that the wildflowers were beautiful, but we fully expected them to be a little past their peak—so we were amazed at the abundance of lupine and bear grass still blooming on the first (eastern) section of the trail.  (This section of the trail is more in the shade and melts out later than the western side, so the flowers bloom later.)  There’s a beautiful little lake about 1/2 mile in, and we actually met some people who had gone for a (very cold) dip in the lake.  Since you’re in the national forest on this section of the trail (not the Park), you actually are allowed to swim!

We climbed to the crest of the trail where we got incredible territorial views, and actually saw some snow patches across the valley from us.  We came to the turnoff for Dewey Lakes (two absolutely gorgeous lakes about a mile further) but it was late in the day so we decided to stay on the Naches Peak Loop.  Right past this turnoff, you enter Mt.Rainier National Park.  This section of the trail was in the sun so, even though there were still wildflowers, they were past their prime and not as abundant.  We passed a couple of other small lakes, came around the corner and voila—there was Mt. Rainier in all its glory!  (In fact, the only negative to hiking the trail this late was that the sun was behind Mt. Rainier, making it a little more difficult to get pictures.)

We hiked further, past another small lake, until we came to Tipsoo Lake, where we got more incredible views—and photos—of Mt. Rainier.

We had taken so many photos (believe it or not, we edited the photo gallery on this page) that we decided to take a shortcut back to our car by walking along Highway 410.  Officially, the Naches Peak Loop continues another mile around Tipsoo Lake and takes you back to the overpass and your car.  But it was 8 p.m. by now and we were pretty hungry!  We actually headed just 1/2 hour east on 410 for a wonderful late dinner at Whistlin’ Jacks.

All in all, it was a magical way to celebrate 15 years.  By hiking this late in the day, we avoided lots of other hikers and, in fact, only saw 6 other people total on the trail. 

A footnote:  it’s now September and the flowers are gone, but the huckleberries are ripe and the fall colors are coming out.  In fact, Chinook Pass and the Naches Peak Look have some of the most incredible colors in the state.  Why not make plans to come up before they’re all gone?!