Glacier Basin Trail

Glacier Basin Trail at Mount Rainier National Park had eluded me for years. The first time I attempted to hike it was the early summer of 2003. Ford and I got turned around in snow near the mining relics, after I punched through rotten snow to my hip. I decided it would be there for another day.

Well….sometimes trail are not there when you try again. It blew out in the floods that fall. And then again in 2006. So that trail got set aside for far too many years. We tried in the late summer of 2010, as the WTA had been rebuilding the trail in the destroyed areas, but it wasn’t done yet. With time on my hands, and time slipping by far too fast, a friend and I set out to do it when it was announced it had just reopened. (*At the time I was pregnant with my youngest son, Alistaire, in the start of the second trimester, and I knew I would be severely anemic within weeks, and it was my last chance that year to hike it. It would end up being my last hike till summer of 2012.)

The trail is easily reached via the White River road entrance off of Hwy 410, and is at the end of the road in the car campground. This parking lot fills up early on weekends as this is the entrance for climbing Rainier on this side.

Follow the well marked trail to get onto the Glacier Basin Trail. The trail is 6.5 miles round trip making this a trip many can do.

The trail takes off in cool forest, following the White River for a bit, offerring peek-a-boo views. On a short bit the trail begins to follow the Inter River, which comes from the Inter Glacier, near Emmons Glacier (which feeds White River).

The trail is well built, and the hiking is easy. The switchbacks are easy as well.

The turnoff to the Emmons Moraine Trail comes up quickly, with good views of the Mountain.

The side trail to the Inter River is quick.

Back on the main trail more forest hiking then the tail opens up right above Inter, then you do your huge switchback.

The elevation gain (which is never awful, around 1600 feet) pulls you up to better views of Tahoma.

And looking down into the river valley of Inter. Inter is a creek in summer, but it can run hard with rain and melting out.


The views get amazing as you near the end.

We were so glued on the views we walked to the end of the trail – passing the turn off into the Glacier Basin camping area (backcountry campsites) in the woods. Oopsies.

We backtracked and walked through the campsites (only slightly awkward, as the social trail is narrow in the trees and lots of gear overflow). Climbers use it as a camp area so they can leave at night to do the climb. It’s also the end of the “maintained trail” but the trail continues on, heading up The Wedge on the mountain. But does one need to go any farther? I didn’t feel the need that day.

The views looking back included the small lake on the edge of the forest and of  in the far distance the ridge of Burroughs with its three summits.

Tahoma peeking out just a tiny bit in the valley surrounded by so many high tops.

We walked out into the meadows and followed it a bit to get even better views of Burroughs. We had lunch in the shade of evergreen trees.

Hiking back down we took it relaxed, enjoying the views you miss while hiking up of the peaks leading up to Sunrise, far above.

As we were dropping down into the last subalpine meadows we watched a fat black bear (which was brown as it often happens) happily digging up tubers and having a quiet lunch. From a safe distance we checked it out and then headed down.


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