Outdoors

Trail of the week: Naches Peak Loop at Mount Rainier National Park

Hikers take in the view of the valley below the Naches Peak Loop Trail on a cloudy day in early August.
Hikers take in the view of the valley below the Naches Peak Loop Trail on a cloudy day in early August. Staff writer

Naches Peak Loop

HIKE DESCRIPTION: The Naches Peak Loop is a good way to sample Mount Rainier National Park.

The hike is relatively short, not super hilly, easily accessible and offers views of alpine lakes, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and the foothills. Get a taste of the park, the William O. Douglas Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail all without having to pay a park entry fee.

From the parking lot at Tipsoo Lake, the trail, as the name suggests, loops around Naches Peak. You can travel in either direction, but on a clear day a clockwise trip is going to offer more views of 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. Not that you won’t be making plenty of stops to snap pictures in whichever direction you choose.

This trail (and the drive to the trailhead) can be a good place to spot wildlife. We saw nothing more menacing than chipmunks.

The trail crosses state Route 410 at Chinook Pass on a bridge that marks the boundary of the park and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

DIRECTIONS: From Enumclaw, follow state Route 410 east into Mount Rainier National Park. Continue to the Tipsoo Lake parking area just below Chinook Pass.

DIFFICULTY RATING: 2 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).

MILES ROUND TRIP: 3.4.

ELEVATION GAIN: 600 feet.

BEST TIME OF THE YEAR: June-October.

MAP: Green Trails 270: Mount Rainier East.

PASS: The trail is outside Mount Rainier National Park’s fee area.

ALSO: This area can be a colorful place when wildflowers are in bloom, but flowers were scarce on our Aug. 5 visit. Dogs are not permitted on this loop. Only experienced scramblers with the proper equipment should attempt reaching the summit of Naches Peak. A hike on this trail can easily be extended as it connects to the Eastside Trail, which leads into the park. It also uses a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada. Dewey Lake is a 1.5-mile (each way) side trip on the PCT. For geocachers, an Earthcache in honor of the National Park Centennial was established in May near Tipsoo Lake. For more information, visit geocaching.com.

INFO: nps.gov/mora.

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