Port Angeles, Washington
November 8, 2001
My favorite backpacking trip at Mount Rainier (and I’ve done quite a few) was the Northern Loop trail. It is a 36 mile loop, with a TON of elevation gain and loss. My knees were aching after this one – but it was worth it! This trip leaves from Sunrise, and takes 3-4 days, depending on your daily mileage (remember the elevation gain and loss). A sample trip (I picked out what are the best campsites in my opinion, but there are many other combinations) would be to stay the first night at Grand Park. For the most part at Mount Rainier (and most national parks), there are designated campsites that you have to stay in. But in Grand Park, which is a huge meadow on flat mesa, there is a cross-country zone. You just have to camp a quarter mile off the trail, preferably hidden in the trees. Unfortunately, at certain times of year there are a lot of mosquitoes. Also, there are often many elk.
A good place to camp the second night is at Yellowstone Cliffs. To get from Grand Park to Yellowstone Cliffs you have to go through Windy Gap, which is soooo gorgeous. For the third night, hike to Mystic Lake. You will first drop down through some nice rainforest to the Carbon River. As you move up the trail along the river, you will get to the base of the Carbon Glacier. What an amazing sight! There is a huge wall of ice with big cracks in it and covered in rock. As you stand and watch it, pieces will fall off into the river. It is amazing. From there you go up to Mystic Lake. On the last day, hike from Mystic Lake back to Sunrise. It might be worth it to pay the $20 reservation fee to get these sites if you plan to do this trip. I think you can reserve up to 6 months in advance.
From journal Mount Rainier National Park for FREE