Hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail begins and ends with the iconic view of Tipsoo Lake with Mount Rainier in the background. This photo shows a family enjoying a stop at a small alpine pond. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail begins and ends with the iconic view of Tipsoo Lake with Mount Rainier in the background. This photo shows a family enjoying a stop at a small alpine pond. Photo by Kevin Hanson

Naches Peak Loop Trail: mountain lakes and stunning Rainier views

This is the fifth article in a series about local hikes.

This is the fifth 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, Black Diamond Open Space and Flaming Geyser State Park.

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.

One more gorgeous alpine lake and one more spectacular view of Mount Rainier – that’s the storyline when hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail.

And, as an added bonus, the trek begins and ends at Tipsoo Lake.

Taking all that into account, it’s no wonder the Naches Peak Loop Trail is one of the more popular hikes within the boundaries of Mount Rainier National Park. Hikers are aware that “popular” and “crowded” are synonymous and that’s certainly the case here. Even on a recent Tuesday morning, there was plenty of interaction with others enjoying the loop. If it’s solitude you’re looking for, perhaps a different hike is in order.

As an overview, the Naches Peak Loop Trail is 3.5 miles long, wraps around Naches Peak and features approximately 700 feet of elevation gain. Everything begins will a fairly steep (but not too long) climb from lake level and ends with a gradual descent as hikers return to Tipsoo.

That assumes visitors tackle the trail in a clockwise direction. That’s clearly the recommended route, as it provides head-on views of glacial Mount Rainier; it’s a loop trail so it can also be traversed counter-clockwise just as easily. Taking that latter approach, however, leaves the most awe-inspiring mountain views at the hiker’s back.

Sure, it’s simple to turn around, but that doesn’t compare to rounding a turn and being greeted by a so-close Rainier view.

Other natural attractions include mountain valleys, fields of wildflowers and pristine lakes. The largest body of water is Dewey Lake, which sits well below – but is easily viewed from – the Naches Peak Loop. There’s a rugged trail to the lake that, naturally, requires a notable grind back to the top.

Those who complete the loop around Naches Peak spend part of their time on the Pacific Crest Trail, the 2,653-mile route that stretches border to border. It’s a north-south route that follows the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges between Mexico and Canada. Also notable is the historic footbridge over state Route 410 shortly before entering the William O. Douglas Wilderness.

The Naches Peak Loop isn’t extraordinarily difficult for those of average conditioning. There is plenty of up-and-down action, making things interesting, and the fact that the trail’s highest point is 5,849 feet adds to the mix.

BEGIN AND END AT TIPSOO

Tipsoo Lake, sitting at 5,298 feet above sea level, can be considered a destination of its own, earning that distinction with its iconic view of Mount Rainier and seasonal displays of wildflowers.

There’s a trail around the lake that is not at all challenging. It’s simple to follow and is relatively flat.

During an Aug. 25 visit, the Tipsoo shoreline entertained young visitors with an impressive display of chubby pollywogs.

There’s a large parking lot at the lake, complete with restrooms.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Enumclaw, get on SR 410 and head uphill. You’ll motor through Greenwater, pass the Silver Springs and The Dalles campgrounds and cruise past the entrance to Crystal Mountain Resort. You’ll soon enter the national park and it’s about 10 miles to Tipsoo Lake.

As mentioned above, there’s paved parking at Tipsoo that quickly fills during busy times. A short distance past the parking lot, there’s a turnout that can accommodate perhaps a dozen vehicles.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

• Hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail means spending time on U.S. Forest Service land and in Mount Rainier National Park – and for the portion in the park, that means no dogs. Canine friends are off limits in the park as their natural scent can upset the delicate ecological balance. Also, some can be aggressive when encountering wildlife.

• About the mosquitos: hikers who have left reviews of the Naches Peak Loop have left plenty of comments about the hordes of buzzing insects. But in nature, timing is everything. On a sunny Tuesday visit last week, there was not a mosquito to be seen or swatted; the worst of the insect trouble had passed.

• Remember, this is a seasonal hike. State Route 410 is closed at the national park entrance when winter weather dictates, so optimal visits are July to October.


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