Documenting my Rainier obsession
about Mount Rainier where to start
about this site future plans
itinerary planner permits

Eastside Trail

Difficulty: easy to strenuous, depending how much of it you hike

11.3 miles one way

Elevation gain: 3850'

Max elevation: 5350'

Camps: Deer Creek

First hiked by me: 2021

Old growth lowland forests always put me in mind of fantasy novels:

Once upon a time, the One Forest stretched across the entire land of Wah-Chin-Toon. Travelers could pass all the way from its northern border by the Pea-Shartz to the estuary of Kolum-Bier in the south, without ever setting foot beyond an unbroken canopy of green. Over years beyond the ken of mortal man, these trees had grown wise and powerful, passing the tales of all that happened within their realm from one generation to the next: pinecone to sapling, nursery log to root. But one day came strangers bearing axe, fire, and saw. The ancient forest proved no match for these foreign wizardries. Only scattered remnants of the One Forest still survive...

Mount Rainier National Park preserves some of the finest old growth forest anywhere in the world. The Eastside Trail is longer and (mostly) flatter than other great forest trails, offering a unique opportunity to spend an extended period of time in this special ecosystem.

From its southern end by the popular Grove of the Patriarchs and Silver Falls, the trail gains just 1300 feet over 7 miles to an intersection near the start of the Owyhigh Lakes from Deer Creek trail. You'll enjoy giant ancient trees, fascinating rotting logs and stumps, several waterfalls, and likely solitude once past Grove of the Patriarchs. Highlights are Ohanapecosh Falls in the middle of this section, where the trail crosses a bridge immediately above a two-tiered waterfall, and Stafford Falls a mile and a half further north. The Stafford Falls viewpoint is reached down a short side path heading east, which is visually unmarked yet easily identifiable by audio volume as you near the falls.

Ohanapecosh means 'standing at the edge' in the Sahaptin language of the Taidnapam. This was the name of a Taidnapam settlement a few miles outside the current National Park boundary.

North of Deer Creek, the trail changes character as it sets in for some serious climbing over its final few miles. No more lollygagging through lowland forest: you'll be puffing for breath as the ecosystem changes with elevation, then out into the subalpine as you reach WA 123 near Cayuse Pass. The trail continues climbing past the far side of the road, offers views of Yakima Peak, briefly encounters a switchback along WA 410, and finally ends at a junction with the Naches Peak Loop just south of Tipsoo Lake.

Due to the length of this trail, few will want to hike the whole thing out and back. Other options:

A forest of green and red

Bridge over Ohanapecosh Falls

Nursery stump, horned horror monster, or Old Man of the Forest?

A sculptural stump

Stafford Falls

Dappled forest light

Yakima Peak, near Cayuse Pass