After I need to hike a much less busy path in mid-summer whereas nonetheless getting nice views, I head to Pinnacle Peak Path at Mt. Rainier Nationwide Park. When the mountain is “out” as we are saying right here, there’s a gorgeous panorama of the Paradise Inn and Meadows, the street up from the Nisqually entrance, and the glaciers that stream down the higher half of the height.
It’s gorgeous. And when the mountain decides to not come “out”? That’s when a foggy or cloudy day brings an opportunity to note what is correct at my toes as I hike up the 1,150 toes of elevation to the Pinnacle Peak saddle.
Attending to the Path Head
The path head is situated immediately throughout from Reflection Lakes on Steven’s Canyon Street. There are parking areas alongside the street however do be considerate about waiting for pedestrians and automobiles.
This a part of the park can get busy because of the straightforward stroll all the way down to the closest lake. Guests with restricted mobility take full benefit of the well-maintained path by the lake, and that signifies that on a sunny day, there are many people about.
You will get to the trailhead from both the Nisqually entrance on State Route 706, the primary entrance from the west, or from the Steven’s Canyon Entrance on State Route 123, a lesser frequented space. Do notice that the Steven’s Canyon Entrance on the southeast aspect of the park is just open through the summer time months, often beginning in late June.
When the climate appears to be like prefer it is perhaps sunny, and hopefully clear, I pair this hike within the afternoon with the path to Bench and Snow Lakes early within the morning. Between hikes, I can sit on the rock wall overlooking Reflection Lakes and eat a chew of lunch earlier than heading as much as the saddle, the bottom space between two excessive mountains, between Pinnacle Peak and Plummer Peak.
Anticipate to Climb
The path map firstly is a reasonably honest illustration of the out-and-back as much as the saddle slightly below Pinnacle Peak. Pinnacle is one in all a number of peaks alongside the highest of a ridgeline that makes up this portion of the Tatoosh Mountain Vary.
The standard brown park service path signal says it’s 1.3 miles to the saddle, whereas the posted map suggests will probably be 1.5 miles. The saddle is the tip of the maintained path and is at 5,920 toes. Previous the saddle is the Butter Creek Analysis Pure Space, which is presently restricted to scientists who’re monitoring the realm, so plan to show round on the saddle.
Do anticipate the hike can be a big climb up after which a steep drop again down. Nowadays, with my wonky knee and barky joints, I anticipate to cease often alongside the way in which to soak up the views, look ahead to wildlife, and provides myself loads of possibilities to relaxation.
On this sunny day, I spent a stable 3 hours on the path. It’s potential to do the path sooner, particularly when heading again downhill, however when Mt. Rainier comes out of the clouds, this can be a hike to savor, slightly than rush.
Decrease Path Part
The primary quarter of a mile on this path is huge and properly maintained, with steps and culverts to permit for strolling over streams with out getting toes moist.
Household teams are typical right here, as even going a brief distance up can provide some beautiful views. The voices of kids and teams calling to one another echo by the timber.
As a result of this path begins on the Reflection Lakes, the beginning is a well-liked location for strolling only a portion of this path. Quickly sufficient the path begins to slim, whereas turning into steeper and rockier, and there can be fewer individuals on path.
The rest of the decrease part climbs over stairs and up inclined sections of huge gravel that curve round excessive meadows.
Earlier within the season, snow collects right here, and by the tip of June there are small ponds that slowly disappear because the summer time warms them. Songbirds and small blooms on the heather are considerable. And thru the timber, if the clouds dissipate, glimpses of Mt. Rainier peak by the forest.
Wherever the snow melts away, Glacier Lilies bloom in patches of vivid white in opposition to their inexperienced foliage. Right here on Mt. Rainer, they’re white, with vivid yellow facilities in every bloom.
This subspecies is typically known as Idaho Fawn Lily. They develop from bulbs, that are a favourite meals for bears as they arrive out of hibernation. Lilies rapidly transfer by their life cycle, in order the snow melts away on the greater elevations later within the season, recent patches of lilies bloom. At decrease elevations they bloom and are rapidly changed with orange paintbrush because the dominant bloom.
As I climb, I understand I’ve reached the tip of the decrease part when the path turns into fragmented with massive rocks and uncovered tree roots. Patches of shade grow to be much less frequent because the forest begins to skinny.
Often, a breeze picks up about right here, and because the openings within the cover grow to be extra frequent, the view of Mt. Rainier makes a shocking look.
From right here on, Mt. Rainier soars to the north, revealing its greater than 14,000-foot peak when the clouds half. That is the spot to sit down on the frequent, massive trailside rocks and take within the view.
The Paradise Inn and Customer’s Middle at 5,000 toes are straightforward to identify to the proper, on the base of the Paradise Meadows. The terminus of the Nisqually Glacier seems as a large gash to the middle, and above, the huge rock and ice patterns are laid naked on the highest 7,000 toes of the mountain. The street again all the way down to the Nisqually Entrance winds away to the left.
The Higher Part
Lastly, the timber fall away and open fields of rock rise above and beneath the path. Swap backs are the order of the day, and the steep ascent is fixed. Free rock covers the path, so I’m at all times glad I’ve acquired good boots on by right here. It’s straightforward to knock rocks unfastened.
Shifting rocks go skittering down, so taking the time to watch out you don’t bathe a decrease hiker is necessary. It’s a good suggestion to concentrate on the rocks above, as properly.
Climate, wind, in addition to wildlife passing by can get rocks falling. There’s nothing to sluggish them down, so paying consideration is a good suggestion.
After the final change again there’s a part the place a rock wall has been constructed to shelter the path. Many of the path upkeep work within the park is finished by volunteers, some organized by the Nationwide Park Service, and others a part of the Washington Trails Affiliation, in addition to different native volunteer teams.
It’s a great place to pause and mirror on all of the work that goes into holding trails open and as protected as potential for public use.
Pika and Chipmunk
Admittedly, my favourite motive for taking this hike is the prime pika territory on the higher part. Pika stay within the avalanche rock fields. They spend the summers “harvesting” grasses and greenery that they then stash away in underground burrows to eat through the lengthy winter.
They dart out and in of the rocks, all of the whereas utilizing their loud “EEP” name to warn different pika of approaching risks, like hawks and eagles from above or foxes and weasels who hunt the rock fields.
They’re lively throughout sunlight hours, making them straightforward to hear for and enjoyable to look at. Typically known as “rock rabbits,” they’re associated to rabbits and hares.
As a result of a lot of this path is above tree line within the rock fall areas, there are plentiful alternatives to look at pika. I cease a number of instances alongside the way in which and sit nonetheless, listening and waiting for them to make an look, and on this path, endurance is at all times rewarded.
This little pika popped out to miss the realm proper subsequent to me. A nonetheless, quiet human just isn’t a menace, and pikas often seem close by since an in depth human retains most small pika predators at bay.
They’re additionally fairly territorial, so I’ve often noticed them utilizing my presence to sit down simply above me, have a look round, and vocalize their territorial boundaries to a different pika.
As soon as I attain the saddle, the welcoming committee is at all times there. Regardless of the altitude, I’m at all times met by a chipmunk. Yellow Pine Chipmunks enter a state of torpor by the winter, so they don’t seem to be deterred by the cruel, chilly season.
They’re pretty frequent at excessive altitude in the summertime on Mt. Rainier. Additionally they have discovered that hikers relaxation on the saddle earlier than going again down.
You will need to do not forget that they’re wild animals and shouldn’t be fed, irrespective of how cute they appear. Yellow Pine Chipmunks don’t construct a fats layer for winter. They do have caches of meals to get them by the winter, but when we people are feeding them meals that’s not good for all of them summer time lengthy, they’re much less more likely to survive the winter months.
To the south on clear days Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and, generally, Mt. Hood are seen from the highest of the path. I’m consistently amazed at how even scattered cloud cowl will disguise these three peaks from view.
On today, they have been properly hidden. However that’s to be anticipated when climbing within the Cascade Mountain Vary. The ocean to the west and excessive desert to the east make for unpredictable, changeable climate.
As I turned and began again down the path, Mt. Rainier soared above me, and I regarded ahead to variations on this view all the way in which again to my parked automobile at Reflection Lakes. In a few hours, I’d be headed again dwelling, making a cease alongside the way in which on the normal retailer at Longmire for a stretch and an ice cream bar.
You might also like:
Subscribe to Our E-newsletter