|Mount Rainier above wildflowers on the Naches Peak Loop|
Access: Paved road to trailhead, no pass required; in most years, the trail is snowed in all months save July to October
The Naches Peak Loop provides one of the highest return on investment for any hike in Mt. Rainier National Park. The trail is not at all difficult, with some uphills and downhills that are manageable for hikers of most abilities, but provides stunning views of Mt. Rainier, many lakes and tarns, and a wealth of wildflowers in season. Starting from Tipsoo Lake, the hike circumnavigates Naches Peak, passing through mountain slopes with views of the Chinook Pass peaks, meadows of lupine, and viewpoints above Dewey Lake in the William Douglas Wilderness. The hike ends with nearly constant views of glacier-capped Mt. Rainier towering up its attendant mountains.
I hiked this trail in late June during a low snow year, coming at just the right time to see the peak wildflower bloom. My friend and I drove down from Seattle by taking I-5 south, then Route 18 east to Auburn, then Route 164 south to Enumclaw and Route 410 east through Greenwater to the entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Once in the park, we continued on Route 410 to the parking lot for Tipsoo Lake, which was just before Chinook Pass.
From the trailhead at Tipsoo Lake, we followed the trail leading to the lake. Prior to looping around Naches Peak, we looped around Tipsoo Lake itself, taking the trail that followed the lakeshore. There is a maze of trails near the lake; any trail that appears to circle lake probably does. Once by the lake, we were astonished by the field of lupine and other wildflowers that bordered the lake itself. Wildflowers of all imaginable colors were densely packed in the lush green meadows.
|Lupine at Tipsoo Lake|
After crossing the pass, the trail followed a forested slope with occasional views of the mountains to the north, soon entering the William Douglas Wilderness. This section of trail was actually a little unpleasant: we found ourselves surrounded by bugs. Even after an ample application of bug spray, we were still continuously swarmed, with mosquito bites all over our arms, legs, and neck by the end of the day.
This was somewhat made up for by the patches of avalanche lilies that we found along the trail. These beautiful white flowers are usually the first to pop out after snowmelt and were at the end of their bloom in a low snow June.
|Fields of lupine|
|Western anemone, lupine, paintbrush|
|Tarn on the north side of Naches Peak|
|Dewey Lake in the William Douglas Wilderness|
|Tarn on the loop|
|Mt. Rainier, viewed near the end of the loop|
|Tipsoo Lake and Mount Rainier|