Flaming Geyser State Park: wide open spaces for the family, trails offer solitude

This is the fourth in a series of local hikes.

Flaming Geyser State Park is gorgeous this time of year, particularly off the beaten path where trails welcome hikers. The trek to Bubbling Geyser involves a decent climb but the view along the way, including this tiny waterfall, is worth it. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Flaming Geyser State Park is gorgeous this time of year, particularly off the beaten path where trails welcome hikers. The trek to Bubbling Geyser involves a decent climb but the view along the way, including this tiny waterfall, is worth it. Photo by Kevin Hanson

This is the fourth in a series about local trails, campgrounds, parks, etc., simply about places to enjoy the outdoors without traveling too far. Ideally, this will encourage folks to get outside, get some exercise and forget that we have been cooped up for months.

The focus will be on destinations in our own back yard and all will be of the “day trip” variety. Previous visits have included the Melmont Ghost Town, the Old Mine Trail, and Black Diamond Open Space.

The target audience is the novice or, at least, not a seasoned veteran of the woods. Thing here will involve summiting Mount Rainier or spending days trekking the Wonderland Trail.

If you have a suggestion for a hiking adventure, pass it along. Just email khanson@courierherald.com. Offer a brief description from our personal experience.

Family-friendly Flaming Geyser State Park offers something for nearly everyone – and, perhaps, that’s why it draws big crowds.

Far from a hidden jewel, the varied landscape is a destination for hikers, river floaters, plenty of families and, well, the list goes on.

That doesn’t mean Flaming Geyser should be ignored by those seeking solitude. It just means timing is everything. On a Thursday visit last week, crowds were sparse before noon. By 2 p.m., things were definitely busier.

By contrast, on a gloriously sunny July Saturday, the park was packed. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes lined both sides of Green Valley Road, resulting in some creative maneuvering for those just passing through and some near fender-benders among those just arriving or leaving.

So, a lesson was learned. The gorgeous park that hugs the banks of the Green River is better appreciated during the week.

Flaming Geyser is popular for plenty of reasons, primary among those the easy access for Plateau residents. Take state Route 169 north from Enumclaw or south from Black Diamond and turn west onto Green Valley Road just a bit north of the Kummer Bridge over the Green River. It’s not too many minutes to the park entry (but slow down on the winding road).

Remember, this is a state park so a Discover Pass is required and can be purchased at an automated pay station just inside the entry. A day pass is $10 and an annual pass runs $30.

TWO TRAIL SYSTEMS

While many (most?) of Flaming Geyser’s visitors are there for the wide-open spaces along the river, the park also provides opportunities for solitude. The quiet times are found on either the River Trail or the Rim Trail.

The River Trail, as expected, roughly follows the Green River, though parts will lead away from the bank. Other parts hug the river’s edge and there are many side trails leading to the rocky riverbank.

It’s easy to spend a couple of hours on the not-too-difficult River Trail, covering a path that is wide in some places and single-file narrow in others. It’s an in-and-out venture that provides plenty of side-trip options.

Before heading upstream into the heart of the River Trail, visitors might want to divert to Bubbling Geyser on Christy Creek. It is well-marked and leads directly off the main trail.

Be aware, however, that it’s quite a climb. It is all uphill, including a flight of man-made stairs shortly before the destination. There’s a quick drop to the Bubblng Geyser viewing platform. It’s 32 stairs up and 30 down, for those who count such things (guilty as charged).

Bubbling Geyser gets its name from the methane that seeps to the surface and can sometimes be visible. What’s really noticeable, though, is the spread of gray leading away from Bubbling Geyser. The creek discolorization occurs when methane combines with calcium in the water to create calcium carbonate.

At Bubbling Geyser there’s a magnificent old tree with an exposed root system. The roots provide natural hand-holds to continue up a steep grade, where a circular path leads back to the stairway.

It’s less challenging to simply turn back at Bubbling Geyser.

The Rim Trail takes guests up and over a portion of hillside at the park’s western edge. It offers maybe a mile of clear trail and the only real exertion comes with the initial climb.

The two trails are separate entities, so hikers can easily tackle one, or both, during a Flaming Geyser visit. There’s no “best way” to combine the two, but a logical approach is to park in the middle, near the play area.

MOST ARE THERE JUST TO PLAY

Flaming Geyser is a day-use park that boasts more than 500 varied acres and three miles of river shoreline. There are picnic tables aplenty, fire pits, playground equipment for the younger set and numerous wide-open spaces. Remember, this is 2020 to not everything is available.

The Green River is a destination for the fishing crowd as well as those looking for a leisurely float or kayaking outing. It’s a top-notch spawning ground for migrating salmon and the shoreline is dotted with informational signage.

The park even boasts a good-sized patch of land dedicated to model airplane enthusiasts.

NOW, ABOUT THE NAME

The park earned its name due to an interesting geologic feature. During exploratory drilling for coal in 1911, prospectors hit a pocket of natural gas and water. As a result, methane seeped to the surface. It burned for years, sometimes blazing to several feet in height. The flame eventually dwindled to inches, not feet, and is now just a history lesson. The methane source is depleted and the flame is gone (though, at times, some can detect the methane odor).

This information is well-documented but website visitors commonly note their disappointment that the geyser no longer burns. The lesson: a little research goes a long way when planning a visit anywhere.


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