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. As I near the completion of hiking every maintained trail in Mt. Rainier National Park, the stats (2018) so far including this outing: 503 miles/100,600 feet of elevation gain/loss.
I had planned a 13 mile loop centered on Crystal Mountain that would include the Crystal Mountain trail, which tickles and enters park boundary in a few spots. However, the weather was not cooperating, with rain showers in the forecast and snow levels @6000’. I was joined by my buddy Craig and as we finished breakfast at the Alpine Inn, any hope of clearing skies soon vanished. This is another hike that would be best done with the immense views towards Mt. Rainier that dominate this high ridge walk. However, we were already here so to expedite the process we took the gondola up and walked the trail to shorten the approach and get right to it. This was a very pleasant walk along the ridge that we ski in the winter, so we know how good the views are. It was still cool to walk to the north back country and see the terrain without its white blanket. We returned to the Summit House with snow showers and ate lunch to see if this was a temporary condition. Alas, the visibility only decreased as the snow and rain increased, so we skipped the hike past Hen Skin lake to our waiting vehicles and rode the gondola down. It was still an enjoyable day with maximum chilling….any day outdoors is a good day, regardless of the weather. This was such a short hike I didn’t record anything, but the Crystal Mountain Trail out and back surely did not exceed 5 miles.
We drove around to the other side of the park up Stevens Canyon and stopped at Reflection Lakes. It seemed like there was a weather window in the making so we made arrangements to meet at the Cougar Rock campground. I practically sprinted up the Pinnacle Peak trail (1.3 miles) to its end at the saddle, and contemplated bagging a few peaks that were right there (Pinnacle, Plummer, Lane). However, I didn’t want to keep Craig waiting too long and those peaks deserved good views. Despite rainless skies, the cloud deck was low enough to obstruct views of Mt. Rainier so I ran back down the trail to call it a day. Stats: 2.7 miles/1,000’ elevation gain/loss. 1 hour. One more trail to go to finish this project, the Eagle Peak trail, which I will save for good weather.