Old Mine Trail at Mount Rainier
Hike description: The rich mining history of the Carbon River corridor doesn’t stop at the Mount Rainier National park boundary.
On a wooded hillside just off the beaten path sits a retired mine that’s as old as the park itself. The Washington Milling and Mining Co. mined there for copper and other metals.
It’s usually relatively easy to reach the mine, but more difficult in winter. Snow could make the steep 0.4-mile final push to the mine slippery. Check conditions before heading out.
Even if snow keeps you from the mine, there is plenty more to enjoy at Mount Rainier National Park’s back door.
Arrive at the Carbon River entrance by driving up the corridor that offers several additional opportunities to explore the area’s coal mining history.
The hike (or snowshoe trek) starts at the park entrance with a short walk up the old Carbon River Road, closed to vehicles since the flood of 2006. This road alone is a worthy outing in winter.
The road starts in the woods before visiting the river’s bank. The turnoff to the mine comes after about 1.3 miles.
A makeshift sign marks the short spur tail. From here, you’ll be heading up for about 0.4 miles. After a few switchbacks, you arrive at the entrance to the mine.
Tracks for mine cars are still in place, but a sturdy gate inside the mine keeps visitors and large wildlife from exploring too deeply.
Watch your step if you enter the mine. There is sometimes a large puddle inside, and on cold days it could freeze into an icy welcome mat.
When finished checking out the mine, return to the road the way you came. Here you can continue up the road for as many as 3.7 more miles.
Directions: From state Route 410 in Buckley, follow state Route 165 over the Fairfax Bridge, then keep left on the Carbon River Road and follow the road until it ends at the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.
Difficulty rating: 3 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest) but varies in snowy conditions.
Miles round trip: 3.4.
Elevation gain: 350 feet.
Best time of the year: Year-round.
Map: Green Trails 269: Mount Rainier West.
Pass: A Mount Rainier pass ($25 and good for seven days) is required for each vehicle.
Also: Hiking farther up the Carbon River Road (beyond the mine trail) offers the best views of the river. The road continues to the Ipsut Creek Campground, a 10-mile round trip. For a hardier side trip, Ranger Falls is about 1 mile off the road, but expect deep snow. Determining if it is a safe option is up to each individual hiker. On a Dec. 16 visit to the falls, the snow was knee deep, and we (traveling without snowshoes) opted not to push on the additional mile to Green Lake. Dogs are not permitted in the park. Traditional geocaches are not permitted in the park, but several are located near the park entrance, according to geocaching.com.