For most perceptive Seattleites, Mount Rainier is a familiar sight. On a clear day the picturesque mountain graces our views. Mount Rainier National Park is a fabulous location for day hikes. Some of the In My Backyard team members went there for a day of hiking and research. There are several visitor centers at the park that serve as good starting points for hikes. We went to the Sunrise Visitor Center for our trip, but the Paradise Visitor Center is also a great location to begin a hike. Both of these visitor centers are starting points for many hiking trails that range in difficulty. Some of the hikes are super easy (even for me) and some of them are more challenging. At Sunrise, many of the hikes intersect so you can jump from hike to hike if you want to go to multiple locations.
We began our day by touring the Sunrise Visitor Center. There are several small exhibits inside and extremely helpful rangers that will aid you in planning your hike or answer your questions. There is also lodge at Sunrise that has a snack bar with tons of good post-hike food and an amazing gift shop. After we checked out all that the visitor center had to offer, we embarked on our hike. Our hike consisted of several different hikes combined. We would first venture to Frozen Lake, make our way to the top of the first Burrough, and then loop back towards the visitor center passing Shadow Lake along the way. Overall, the hike was about 5 miles and ranged in difficulty from easy to difficult.
If you are looking for a relatively short and simple hike, I would recommend just going to Frozen Lake. The hike there is only about 1.4 miles one way. There is a decent amount of uphill in the beginning of the hike, but it was manageable for me (and that’s saying something). Although, the Frozen Lake trail is easily accessible, the lake itself is not the most picturesque location in the park. This trail would be best during the prime wild flower meadow season because the area looked a bit barren without the meadow. The wildflower season varies from year to year depending on the winter, but Ranger Renee at the Sunrise Visitor Center said that late July to early August is a good window to shoot for. You can always call the visitor center ahead of time to ask for more up to date information.
From Frozen Lake, the trail to the Burroughs can be easily identified. It is only about .7 miles to the first Burrough but it is a strenuous .7 miles. It is steep and there is no shade, but the view from the top is stunning. To one side, Mount Rainier dominates the view as it towers over the site. The view from the other side of the Burrough looks down on Frozen Lake and is a view that rivals Mount Rainier. On the way up the Burrough there were marmots and chipmunks scuttling around. Fact: Marmots make really strange sounds. It almost sounds like a bird caw, but squeakier. I would recommend this hike for intermediate hikers. For the advanced hikers, I would recommend that they continue to the second Burrough. The hike includes much more uphill, but the view from the top is worth it.
The people that are content with only hiking the first Burrough, can continue to Shadow Lake. It is about 1.3 miles to Shadow Lake, but it is all downhill. Some parts of this hike can be strenuous on your knees, so I would recommend taking it slow. Shadow Lake is beautiful and quiet. It would make a good location for lunch as it is well covered by trees giving you a nice shady spot to rest. The shaded parts of the trail felt amazing. The breeze was very refreshing.
The final 1.3 miles back to Sunrise are uphill, but tolerable because the trail has lots of shade. All of the hikes available at Sunrise are spectacular. During every moment of each hike, the grand Mount Rainier can be seen looming over you.
Unfortunately Mount Rainier is not easily accessible by public transportation. There are bus routes that will take you to Enumclaw, but there is still a lot of ground to cover after Enumclaw. I would highly recommend that you gather a large group of friends and carpool to the mountain.
The bus routes to Enumclaw:
Take bus 578 to the Auburn Station then transfer to the 915 bus to the Wells Street and Griffin Avenue stop.
Internship/ Volunteer Opportunities:
Each year Mount Rainier hires several different interns and volunteers. None of the positions are paid, but some do have stipends included.
- Student Conservation Association (SCA) – Like the Klondike, Mount Rainier hires SCA interns. There are many different positions and tasks available each year, but most of them are filled for summer. Some previous SCA jobs included: Backcountry Intern, Environmental Education Intern, and Trails Volunteer Coordinator Intern. Check the SCA website for specifics. These positions are available for high school and university students. Stipend included.
- Geologic Society of America (GSA) – These internships are only for university students. These interns educate the public about geology and natural resources. Previous positions have included: Astronomy Interpretation, Education Specialist, Geology Technician, and Interpretation Specialist. Check GSA website for more information. Stipend included.
- Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) – You must be 18-25 to join one of these crews. The crew will mainly do trail work. Check the WCC website for details.
- Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) – This program hires high school students for 8-10 week summer positions.
– Claire, SCA Intern