Mt Rainier Weekend Dayhikes

Tim Valentine

May 24, 2015
My daughter, Holly, going to school in Seattle, had the great idea that I should come up in the summer and we could explore Rainier National Park. Our research led us to the Wonderland trail, so we decided to apply for the hard to get camping permits that would take us all the way around the mountain on the 97 mile loop. What we did not realize was that this year was the centennial anniversary of the trail. They had a record number of applicants and were all booked in record time by April 10th. We decided to go the park anyway in early August and do a couple of day hikes in the areas that seemed the most appealing. I told her as a consolation prize we would then drive to Glacier National Park and spend a week up there. She had never been to GNP and had no idea what a great consolation prize was awaiting us. Our GNP trip can be found on the backpacking forum since we did some overnighters on that portion of our trip. This posting is all about the Mt Rainier Sunrise area hikes and a 2nd day hike over the Panhandle gap to Ohanapecosh through Summerland.
After having viewed Rainier as a dominant mountain landscape feature looming over Seattle it was great to get up close to it and start to learn the names of the individual features. Hiking over 20 miles on the North and East perimeter of the mountain exposed us to a great sampling of what the area has to offer in the summer.

We started at the popular Sunrise day hike parking area. Since we had slept nearby the early morning parking lot was quiet as we set out on a days worth of hiking. We quickly came to Shadow lake and a resident Cascade frog in the shallows.

Cascades Frog

From the Burroughs Loop trail we had good views of the summit before the late morning clouds formed.

The marmots up there had some choice sunning overlooks.


As I was wondering out loud if they ever get tired of the views up there this one answered with a long yawn.

It takes a lot to startle me in the outdoors but the adult marmot achieved it when she let out her piercing shrill warning call to her 3 younger marmots. We were only 15 feet away and the young ones were only 20 feet away but when a hawk appeared in the sky above she nearly knocked Holly and I off the mountain with her call! It hurts my ears now just thinking about it! :)

We hiked further on to a second Burroughs overlook as the cloud ceiling was already starting to lower.

Good view of some blueish ice looking down on Emmons glacier

Lunch thief

There was a big herd of goats on the way down, it was good to have the binoculars.

We watched one of our favorites, the Pika

Further down we saw some goats in a more classic setting.

Closer to the parking we were fortunate enough to find a young Black bear grazing to round out our first hike in the park.

The parking lot was over flowing as expected for a summer Saturday as we returned. Good thing we got an early start.

The next morning we started our hike up the Panhandle gap from the Fryingpan Creek trailhead. Having already seen the major wildlife items on our first hike this hike was going to be icing on the cake. This is one of the major climbs on the Wonderland trail but without the full weight of backpacks we were really looking forward to getting back up high on a trail that was not as accessible as the Sunrise hikes of the previous day.
Classic Wonderland bridge over the white waters of the glacier runoff.

Never hurts to try for a photo endorsement picture

Views from the Summerland meadows. Not blooming much but still green after the northwest had an early spring.


Flowers still present at the waters edge


Holly aptly described these colorful tarns as something from an artist easel. Viewed from Panhandle Gap

Goats posing further above the gap.

More goats on the ridge trail.

This goat had dug out a wallow.

Showing the lamb how to take a dirt bath in a wallow.

Goats coming down from the pass area.

We continued hiking beyond the gap into Ohanapecosh Park. We saw another distant herd of goats.

It seems there is always a marmot lurking nearby.

Mt Adams looking south from Ohanapecosh Park

A colorful Green Cricket on the trail.

On the way back only Little Tahoma remained visible for the down climb.

Brown creek draining one of the colorful tarns.

We completed our hike and then had to decide where to go next. Should we drive 8 hours north to another park?

Rainier had been so good to us it was not an easy decision. We had shown up in a dry year with no hiking permits or campground reservations and still been blown away by two great hikes during one of the busiest weekends of the season. Glacier Park already had one fire going at the time and the main thoroughfare, the Going to the Sun road, was partially closed. I remembered the primary adage from all of our days of windsurfing "never leave wind to find wind". But.....having visited Glacier many years before, the attraction to return to the grizzly high country was too great. Even in a dry year, with few berries, snowfields or flowers we had to get to the the park, as soon as possible. I wanted to share the next chapter of our father daughter summer trip with Holly in a place she did not know much about, and had no preconceived images of. We hopped in the car and drove all night to Kalispell, Montana.

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Nov 2, 2014
Love the goat pictures! What a memorable trip and it's not all bad doing day trips without having to carry all that equipment. Rainier was the first mountain I ever saw and it wasn't until I was 18. It's pretty awesome.


May 3, 2013
Those wildlife shots!! What zoom are you using? 300mm?


one step at a time
Jul 29, 2013
the goat who dug out a wallow defiantly doesnt understand "Leave No Trace". =D
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