These posts will cover all the areas I'm visiting in the confines of Mt. Rainier National Park in celebration of 35 years exploring here, including new places with a smattering of old.
This loop entails forging east via the Laughingwater Creek trail to the PCT northbound, turning back south at Chinook Pass and returning via the Eastside trail. I had never hiked the Laughingwater Creek trail before, and found it to be very pleasant. It climbs gradually to 3 Lakes through old growth forest. Unfortunately, the creek wasn't flowing enough to hear any laughing. Lots of swearing though, as I had to contend with skeeters through most of the day. The only other detriment was rather high temperatures, but overall this loop is a winner. Wild flowers were still in bloom, the views towards the mountain were frequent, and there was very little traffic on the trails....just a few hikers on the PCT. I don't count the tourists that I ran into on the Naches Loop trail near the Chinook Pass parking lot, and once back on the Eastside trail I was solo for the last 11 miles. Remarkable considering it was Saturday in the summer. Compared to the rest of the park, the east side is not frequented by the summer crowds. In fact, in the myriad times over the years that I have found myself on the Eastside Trail, I don't remember encountering even one other person. I mention it in the linked Blog post, but it's worth repeating here; this loop is an excellent choice for a fall outing, when the air is crisp and the bugs are gone. Although the flower season will be long past, the reds and yellows will more than compensate late season. Trail runners should definitely consider this loop as a trainer or just a leg tuneup; the 31 miles with modest elevation gain (6,600') make for a perfect day outing without exceeding 12 hours.
Other trails I can tick off on this trip: the PCT, Naches Loop trail, and the Eastside Trail between Chinook Pass and the Owyhigh Lakes turnoff.