Hiking spots in Washington: Mount Rainier

Chase Charaba, Online and Social Media Manager

Comet Falls

Comet Falls Puyallup Post
Water pours down the cliff side at Comet Falls in 2015. Photo by Chase Charaba.

The trail to Comet Falls is wonderful for hikers of all experience levels. Just past Longmire, the trail head starts at a parking lot just before Christine Falls, one of the popular destinations on the road to Paradise. The trail is nearly four miles long and takes hikers along forested switchbacks with marmots and chipmunks, all while providing excellent views of Christine Falls and the Van Trump Creek.

At the end of the hike, the 320-foot Comet Falls provides a resting place before the return trip, where the mist from the waterfall helps to cool the body. It’s also an excellent place for group photos. For those wishing for a longer hike, the trail does continue on to Van Trump Park and the Rampart Ridge Trail.

Mount Fremont Lookout

Chase Charaba Fremont Mtn
Mount Rainier from the Fremont Lookout balcony in 2014. Photo by Chase Charaba.

Fremont Lookout is a popular destination for hikers at Mount Rainier, and offers some of the most dramatic views of river canyons and steep mountains.

The hike to Fremont Lookout starts off on the same trail as Third Burroughs, beginning at the Sunrise Visitor Center near the restrooms. Once hikers reach a junction near Frozen Lake, they need only follow the signs to Fremont, not the Burroughs Mountain Trail.

The 5-mile Fremont Lookout trail follows tight ridges of compacted rock and interesting rock formations, until hikers eventually reach the wooden station formerly used by fire-watchers in the mid-20th Century. This is a great spot for hikers to rest before the return trip, and maybe have lunch while letting their legs dangle off the edge of the balcony at the station.

Third Burroughs Mountain

Mount Rainier hiking spots Chase Charaba Puyallup Post
The Burroughs Mountain trail with Mount Rainier in the background in July 2015. Photo by Chase Charaba.

The hike to Mount Rainier’s Third Burroughs Mountain is Washington’s premier outdoor experience.

At 7,800 feet, this trail takes hikers along ridges and three summits: First, Second and Third Burroughs. The trail begins at the Sunrise Visitor Center parking lot. The hike is without much vegetation, except for mountain wildflowers for part of the summer. This means that on a clear day, hikers are fully exposed to the sun with no opportunity for shade. But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of wildlife. Mountain goats roam across much of the trail, and marmots dash between rocks and down the hillsides.

The hike has extraordinary views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and the surrounding Cascade Mountains. At one point on the hike, people can also see the Puget Sound lowlands and cities such as Tacoma. Just for the view, the 9 mile hike is well worth it.

With an elevation increase of 2,600 feet, this hike isn’t easy. Many hikers stop at Second Burroughs because the path to Third Burroughs looks daunting, or because they want to loop back along the Sunrise Rim Trail. But for those really wanting to get the full experience, hikers should continue to Third Burroughs and then take the Sunrise Rim Trail back to the Visitor Center, which adds additional miles to the hike. Plus, hikers taking this detour will have plenty of lakes and ponds to stop at, and maybe even see a few frogs.

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Hiking spots in Washington: Mount Rainier

by Chase Charaba time to read: 2 min