For a fun adventure with astounding views, take a hike to Spray Park and escape the busier Sunrise and Paradise areas of Mount Rainier National Park.
Chris & Mac
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Length: 8.6 Miles Round Trip *
Trailhead(s): Spray Park Trailhead at Mowich Lake
Elevation Gain: 1,850’
Trail Type: Out & Back
Dogs: Not Allowed
Permit Required? Yes – $35 National Park Entry Fee or Annual Pass
Considerations: Lingering Snow
* The entire Spray Park Trail is roughly 14.5 miles round trip
A hike to Spray Park offers solitude and gorgeous scenery – minus the summer crowds of the busier Sunrise and Paradise areas of Mount Rainier National Park.
At 14,410 feet above sea level Mount Rainier is the tallest of the volcanic peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range, and this gorgeous giant has an astounding 25 major glaciers. Within the continental United States no other mountain has as many glaciers as Mount Rainier. Besides its beautiful glaciers, Mount Rainier also has many permanent snow fields. This gorgeous mountain gets a lot of snow. It gets so much that many of its roads close as soon as the snow comes in the fall, and they stay closed until they are once again safe to travel. The snow closes the trails too, and it is often into the summer before they are open again, especially at higher elevations.
Even though it takes more time for the snow on the roads and trails at the higher elevations of Mount Rainier to clear, the lower elevations clear faster. As such, they are the first areas of Mount Rainier National Park to open. Once they do, visitors start flocking to Mount Rainier because it is a majestically beautiful mountain that adventurers and nature lovers can’t wait to explore each summer.
Hiking Mount Rainier
The easy to get to trails at lower elevations get a lot of foot traffic as soon as they are opened by park staff. As the snow melt moves up the mountain, more trails become accessible. Some of these trails are short, others are long. Some are easy, some are hard. No matter what type of adventure they have in store for visitors, the one thing that many of them have in common is that they are easy to access. As such, these trails get very busy.
Unfortunately, this popularity compromises the wilderness experience sought after by many who visit Mount Rainier. Thus those seeking solitude often seek out remote areas of the park which are not as easy to access and therefore don’t attract as many visitors. One such area which is incredibly beautiful, and peaceful, is Spray Park.
HIKE TO SPRAY PARK
Visitors access this trailhead after entering the park at the Mowich Lake Entrance and traveling about 6 miles on a rough and bumpy gravel road. After arriving at Mowich Lake, the hike to Spray Park starts off on the Wonderland Trail where it passes through the entrance to the campground.
Eagle Cliff & Spray Falls
After a short walk out from the Mowich Lake trailhead, the Wonderland Trail intersects the Spray Park Trail. The Wonderland Trail continues off to the right, so take a left here to hike to Spray Park. Because the trail runs entirely in the forest initially there aren’t any views at all until hikers reach Eagle Cliff. A spur trail there leads out to stunning views of Mount Rainier. Do not miss this! After a little under two miles, at the start of a series of switchbacks, there is a short (.1 mile) spur trail which leads out to Spray Falls. Check it out if you like, and then return to the main trail.
Echo Rock, Observation Rock and Mist Park
After Spray Falls, the trail quickly switchbacks up about 300 feet alongside Grant Creek for about a quarter of a mile. Although the switchbacks disappear quickly, the ascent continues another 1,300 feet or so before the trail tops out. Before long, however, the trees finally give way to higher elevation meadows, the ascent stops, and the views are spectacular.
The sight of Echo Rock and Observation Rock, with Mount Rainier looming large in the background behind them is unforgettable. For identification purposes, Echo Rock is the one with a very jagged crown like top whereas Observation Rock is a smooth triangle jutting up. After about 4 miles out from the trailhead, a side trail on the left leads down to views of Mist Park. We opted to stop here, enjoying the gorgeous views while eating our lunch before turning around to head back to Mowich Lake. The trail does continue on for roughly 3 more miles, however, to where it intersects the Wonderland Trail near the Carbon River Campground.
The meadows encountered on our hike to Spray Park are beautiful. They are also extremely fragile and easily damaged by careless footsteps. When hikers tromp off trail in search of a better view they walk on these fragile plants. The views they find on these side jaunts are no better than those from the main trail, and these off trail wanderings have caused damage to these meadows. Because stopping the footsteps allows these wounds to heal, park rangers have taken measures to block off these foot paths. We hope everyone who hikes this trail will do their part to help nature repair these wounds by staying on the main trail through these meadows.
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Additional Information (Click below to follow links.)
Spray Park Trail Slideshow
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