Trail of the Week: Ranger Falls and Green Lake at Mount Rainier National Park

Get to Ranger Falls, as seen Dec. 16, from the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park.
Get to Ranger Falls, as seen Dec. 16, from the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. chill@thenewstribune.com

Green Lake and Ranger Falls at Mount Rainier

Hike description: The Carbon River Road corridor at Mount Rainier National Park is loaded with worthy destinations, and the trail to Ranger Falls and Green Lake is one of the most rewarding.

There are two ways to go about making this trip that was a less-than-4-miles jaunt before the flood of 2006 washed out the road. Now, the trip covers nearly 10 miles.

The first option is to hike the extra 6 miles on the retired road. This is easy walking with a gentle uphill grade. Option No. 2 is to knock out these 3 miles in a matter of minutes by using a mountain or cyclocross bike. This is one of the few off-road areas in the park where bikes are allowed. A bike rack is available at the trailhead to chain up your ride before the hiking portion of the trip.

From the trailhead, the route climbs uphill most of the way and at one point passes under a huge downed tree. About half way to Green Lake, Ranger Falls can be heard before it is seen. Follow a sign for the short (about 200 feet) side trip to a spot that brings hikers face to face with the dynamic cascading section of Ranger Creek.

From here, the trail gets a little steeper as it continues to Green Lake. Shortly before the lake, the trail crosses the creek by a log footbridge. The trail ends at the edge of the lake. The scenic view might tempt you to stay awhile, but give yourself time to get safely back to your car. Camping is not permitted at the lake,

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).

Miles round trip: 9.6.

Elevation gain: 1,150 feet.

Best time of the year: Year-round, but you might need snow shoes in winter.

Map: Green Trails 269: Mount Rainier West.

Pass: A Mount Rainier pass ($25 and good for seven days) is required for each vehicle. A season pass or national park pass also can be used.

Also: Other side trips along the 5-mile Carbon River Road include an old mine, Chenuis Falls, the Boundary Trail near the park entrance and Ipsut Falls at the end of the road. There are vault toilets at the Carbon River entrance. The ranger station is before the park entrance. A permit is required to camp at the Ipsut Creek camp, about 3 miles beyond the Green River trailhead. 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.

Info: nps.gov/mora.

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497