We went to Mt Rainier in September –

-on a midweek getaway, to a self-contained cabin in Packwood, Washington, with our own food, following all Covid-19 precautions. We have seen the stunning wildflower displays of summer a few times, and had long been wanting to see the the mountain in fall colors.

Mount Rainier area hikes.

September 29, 2020 – Comet Falls/Van Trump Park

This trail, west of the Nisqually River and Paradise, follows Van Trump Creek all the way up to the stunning Comet Falls, then farther up the slopes to magnificent views of Mt Rainier from Van Trump park. (P.B. Van Trump  was one of the first to stand on the summit of the mountain, in 1870). A very challenging and satisfying hike (7 miles, 2500 feet).

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Smaller falls near the trailhead.

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Trail through the woods.

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I first thought this was our waterfall, then continued over the next ridge:

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Comet Falls! About 400 feet, counting smaller tiers above and below the main falls. Snow bank on lower right.

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With rainbows in the mist!

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Our trail continues up, with better views of Comet Falls.

The trail continued upward steeply, into Van Trump Park.

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Above the waterfall, the mountain came into view.

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Fall foliage on the slopes of Van Trump Park, glowing red!

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Mount Rainier from our lunch stop in Van Trump Park.

Views of the glaciers from a new angle:

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The trail down seemed steeper than the trail going up; that might just be my knees talking.

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Mt Adams on view beyond the Tatoosh Range.

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Glacial striations/polish and Mt Adams.

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Uppermost tier of Comet Falls.

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A particularly steep trail section.

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A few late gentians in the upper meadows.

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Vine maples just beginning to turn red.

We stopped at a couple of roadside viewpoints on our way out of the park.

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Highway bridge over the Nisqually River canyon.

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Nisqually River downstream.

We could not resist stopping to see the mirror image in Reflection Lakes.

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September 30 – Naches Peak/Tipsoo Lake Loop, smoke haze at Sunrise, Silver Falls.

We hiked this loop trail (4 miles, 600 feet), with our views increasingly shrouded in haze. Wildfire smoke began drifting diffusely in, creating a grayish white sky that was so startlingly blue yesterday.

We were almost alone as we walked around Tipsoo Lake, admiring the beautiful reflections in its mirror-like surface.

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Tipsoo Lake

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Yakima Peak

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Mt Rainier, slightly obscured by haze.

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Mt Rainier reflected in Tipsoo Lake.

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Yakima Peak – our trail rising along its base.

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Pasque flower seed head

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Meadow of huckleberry and aster seed heads.

Then we hiked the loop around Naches Peak – following the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Crossing Hwy 410.

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Hwy 410, headed down the canyon, to the east.

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A new wilderness area for us!

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Trail up over the shoulder of Naches Peak.

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Naches Peak.

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Looking back.

We passed a small lake with a friendly chipmunk.

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Once over the shoulder of Naches Peak, we could see the Dewey Lakes to the southeast as the smoke haze increased.

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One of the Dewey Lakes.

The trail circles back west,  with stunning views of Mt Rainier when there is no haze, as it passes more small lakes. 

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Mt Rainier is ahead through the haze.

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One of the trailside lakes.

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More beautiful meadows!

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Mt Rainier disappearing before our eyes!

We stopped to admire Upper Tipsoo Lake near the trailhead before finishing the hike.

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Upper Tipsoo Lake.

After lunch we drove up to Sunrise, elevation 6400 feet, but the smoke haze obscured views, so we didn’t stay.

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Dotted Blue line shows Mt Rainier skyline behind the smoke haze.

Instead we hiked to Silver Falls, on the Ohanapecosh River, through old and mossy forest, to see clear turquoise waters, and bright falling waters cutting through a slick rock gorge. All in all a lovely ‘recovery’ day from yesterday – the hikes being not so steep. We hope the smoke will blow out for tomorrow.

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Small fairy falls in the mossy old growth forest.

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Looking down on the blue waters in Ohanapecosh gorge.

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Overlook at the top of Silver Falls.

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Downstream view of the Ohanapecosh River below the bridge.

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Silver Falls.

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October 1 – Paradise, Golden Gate Trail, Panorama Point

The mountain was ‘out’ behind a thin veil of translucent haze! Smoke would gather throughout the day below us to the south on the flanks of the Tatoosh Range. 

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View from the parking lot at Paradise.

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Iconic gateway to the trail system.

We hiked across Paradise Valley, and up the Golden Gate switchbacks and granite steps, to the High Skyline Trail that circles the valley (6 miles, 1700 feet).

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Looking up toward the red huckleberry foliage on Alta Vista, which would be our return trail in the afternoon.

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Looking toward the Skyline trail on the east side of Paradise Valley.

We saw a black bear foraging in the meadows below, and at least eight marmots foraging and nest building on our way up.

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While looking across at the waterfall,

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I noticed a moving black spot in the valley below.

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Black bear.

The slopes were still green, and full of fading wildflowers with a few remaining blooms.

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Switchbacks of the Golden Gate Trail ahead.

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Up the last switchback to the Skyline Ridge.

Once to the ridge, stark, glaciated landscape dominated.

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High Skyline Trail

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A glimpse over the ridge to the east to the next glaciated valley.

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Our destination is around the cirque and above the snowfield – there are tiny humans on that ridge.

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Rocky trail.

A mountain goat was resting near one of the snow fields in the cirque.

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This is the closest we would get to the mountain goat (to the right of the snow field).

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Mountain goat, zoom lens.

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Looking down on the mountain goat after we climbed higher.

Over the rocky top above Panorama Point, near Pebble Creek, we sat on the rocks and ate our lunch with a full mountain view: 7000 feet of vertical relief, glaciers and sculpted rocks. We heard an occasional boom as something up there, heeding gravity, fell.

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Lunch view.

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Chipmunk on the rock.

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Glacier close-ups.

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We made our way back down the steep granite steps, past Panorama Point and more glacier views.

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Heading down to Panorama Point.

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Panorama Point, with views in all directions:

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East, where we have been.

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South, toward our starting point, and the smoky Tatoosh Range.

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West, to our downward trail and the Nisqually Valley.

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Continuing down…

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Rocky steps to Glacier View.

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We saw one late pasque flower in the meadow.

The bear was still roaming in the valley below.

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We crossed through the brilliant red huckleberry foliage on the flank of Alta Vista.

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After a last stop at Edith Creek and Myrtle Falls, I was done walking for a while. My legs were tired, my cup full! I have to agree with the sentiment carved in the steps at the trailhead. This is one of the most beautiful places I have been. I feel so lucky to have seen it in the fall!

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Myrtle Falls

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Edith Creek

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This hungry deer near the trailhead paid no attention to the people taking his photo!

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