Set off into the misty shoulders of Mt. Rainier to discover a beautiful gem hidden within the folds of Washington’s most notorious mountain. The hike along the Spray Park Trail is beautiful any season, particularly when the spring and summer wildflowers are in bloom, and when the autumn leaves light the pathways. While Spray Park is a very popular and often bustling during the summer, the autumn affords a respite from hiking crowds, allowing you to enjoy the pristine silence of the park’s wilderness.

©Orion Ahrensfeld

Set off from the Mowich trailhead, located beside Mowich Lake, and follow the narrow trail as it drops down to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Take a left onto the Spray Park Trail (if you turn right you’ll end up going on a longer high to Paradise. The trail climbs slowly, twisting and turning through trees adorned with moss. The trail wraps around Fay Peak and Hessonog Rock, loosing elevation as it passes over several talus avalanche chutes. Roughly 1.5 miles into the trail, Eagle Cliff rewards hikers with spectacular views, including glimpses of the Mowich Glacier. Soon after passing the Eagle Roost backcountry camp, start looking for a sign and a side trail that leads off to Spray Falls.

 

Spray Falls is the pinnacle of many hikers’ visit to the Park, offering up-close-and-personal views of a gorgeous waterfall towering 80 feet in height and 50 feet in width. Because the trail to the falls itself is only .25 miles, it is well worth the side trip. Head back to Spray Falls Trail and continue the steep climb towards Spray Park’s lower meadows. Continue just a few minutes on the trail to reach a beautiful meadow hidden beneath Mount Pleasant. On a clear day the open meadow affords views of Mount Rainier and the North Cascades.

 

Season: Autumn

Length: 3.5 miles (each way)

Difficulty: Easy

Variety: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 2,200 feet
Highest Point: 5,800 feet

Maps: Green Trails Mount Rainiers West No. 269

Open to: hikers, dogs

Passes and Permits Required: NW Forest Pass

Directions: Drive 13 miles east from Puyallup on State Route 410 towards Buckley. Take a right onto SR 165 and drive through Carbonado. Bear right just after the Carbon River Gorge Bridge onto Mowich Lake Road. Follow the partially-paved, partially-potholed road 17 miles to the Mowich Lake Campground.

©Orion Ahrensfeld

 

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