West Boundary Trail near Mowich Lake
Hike description: An old trail along a portion of the west boundary of Mount Rainier National Park gives hikers a chance to wander where few have in recent decades.
The West Boundary Trail once stretched from the Mowich Lake Road all the way to the Carbon River entrance to the park. The trail was used by hikers and rangers patrolling the area. However, the trail has been retired for many years and is no longer maintained.
It should be mentioned that this trail is a bit different from the more popular routes inside the park. It has additional hazards and rotted footbridges. Use caution crossing in the area of these bridges. Route-finding and backcountry skills are recommended for this hike even thought it is relatively easy to follow.
Hikers aren’t rewarded with epic views for navigating this old trail, but they do get a quiet retreat that can sometimes be hard to come by in the park.
The trail, hard to spot from the road, starts with a quick climb. Along the way, you’ll get one of the more interesting views on the trail. A massive rock juts skyward above the trees. Some say it resembles a howling wolf.
The trail wanders through the woods, visits a marshy area and then abruptly ends at a saddle below August Peak. Beyond here the trail is overgrown and impassable for several miles. (Although a section of the trail at the Carbon River Entrance is in good shape thanks to volunteer trail work.)
Here, return the way you came.
Directions: Follow state Route 165 past Carbonado and over the Fairfax Bridge, then turn right following the sign directing you to Mowich Lake. After entering the park, look for a sign that reads “Turn Lights ON For Safety.” Find parking on the side of the road and look for the unmarked path across the road. It is about 100 feet up the road from the sign.
Difficulty rating: 4 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 6.
Elevation gain: 1,900 feet.
Best time of the year: May-October.
Map: USGS Golden Lakes.
Pass: National Park Pass.
Also: The trail is used to access several peaks inside the park boundary, but those who attempt August, Berry, Martin and Virginia peaks should have experience scrambling and traveling off trail. The climbing routes can be found in the 2013 book “Guide to 100 Peaks of Mount Rainier National Park” by Mickey Eisenberg and Gene Yore (The Mountaineers Books). Dogs are not permitted in the national park. There are no geocaches hidden along this route.