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Naches Peak Loop

Difficulty: easy

4.2 miles

Elevation gain: 860'

Max elevation: 5900'

Camps: none

First hiked by me: 2021

Naches Peak is one of the most popular trails at Rainier, and for good reason. It circles around the sides (rather than ascending to the top of) a peak, making for an easy hike without too much elevation gain, at high enough altitude to offer views pretty much the entire way, and these views are constantly changing as you circle around the peak. Also, wildflowers. What's not to like?

Well, the crowds for a start :-) I began my hike at 7 AM, and had the trail pretty much to myself except for the last 15 minutes when the daytime hordes arrived...

If I were a better person, I would look past the shouting back and forth between widely separated members of a party, obliviousness when a faster hiker is wanting to pass, and failure to thank others who correctly yield the trail to uphill hikers, thinking hey, at least they're out here appreciating and sharing in this wonderful place. When someone tramples wildflowers or creates new erosion paths by cutting a switchback, I'd think it's good that they're hiking, developing a love that may someday deepen into knowledge and future conservation efforts.

I guess I'm not such a good person, though, because I find crowds of newbie hikers irritating! Get here early if you want to avoid them.

There are two access points to the loop: by Tipsoo Lake, or a half mile further up WA 410. Hiking clockwise will have you facing toward the best views of Rainier, including a ridiculously photogenic spot toward the southeast of the loop where the mountain is framed behind a small lake. For those not wanting to walk so far, there's a short, flat, and attractive loop around Tipsoo Lake right by the first trailhead.

Tipsoo means 'grassy, hairy' in the Chinook Jargon. Naches means 'turbulent water' in the Sahaptin language of the Yakama.

Only half of this loop lies inside Mount Rainier National Park, while the other half doubles as a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Say hi to any long distance backpackers you encounter here, and note that dogs are allowed on the PCT section but not inside the National Park.

View from the far side of Tipsoo Lake

Naches Peak behind Tipsoo Lake

Tipsoo Lake during the spring melt, when the trail is a pond but it is oh so important to stay on it regardless, to avoid damaging that 'dead ground' which will soon be glorious wildflowers

Along the trail

Unnamed lake

Dewey Lake, southeast along the Pacific Crest Trail

Iconic view of the mountain

I can't resist one more photo from this iconic spot