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Laughingwater Creek

Difficulty: strenuous

11.9 miles

Elevation gain: 3160'

Max elevation: 4820'

Camps: Three Lakes

First hiked by me: 2020

What a delightful name for a trail! I defy anyone to hear this mentioned and not immediately want to hike it.

Unfortunately the name is, while not quite a lie, definitely an exaggeration. There is indeed water, and it does laugh, but the creek is the opposite of a 19th century child as it is heard but not seen. This is not a river hike at all, but a quiet forest trail which climbs up the northern side of the valley and offers an unusually good chance of solitude.

Luckily, the forest is more than lovely enough to make up for lack of proximity to the promised laughing water. It is open and light, packed with delightful glens, dells, and glades. The trail climbs steeply for the first mile, then settles into a gentler gradient alternating with flat sections (yes, you heard that right. Flat trail sections on Mount Rainier. Whodathunkit!) The pace is relaxed enough that you won't realize how much altitude you are gaining until your quads start complaining.

The distance shown here is roundtrip to Three Lakes, which did much to restore my faith in the naming of things because these truly are lakes, and there are three of them. There's a campsite and ranger patrol cabin by the first two lakes, which are close together. The third lake is slightly further and outside of Mount Rainier National Park (look for the boundary marker nailed to a tree). If you continue past here, 1.5 additional miles and a thousand feet elevation gain will take you to the Pacific Crest Trail (see: Eastside PCT Loop).

Unusually for a Rainier trail, horses are allowed here. So there's no need to worry, that massive pile of poop on the trail is not from the largest ever bear :-)

Trees along the trail

Trees in the mist

Forest glade, with wildflowers just starting to open

Bear grass is by far the most like a Dr. Seuss character of all wildflowers

One of the Three Lakes

Misty reflections