RSVPs open on July 3rd.
Spray Park is one of my favorite places in Mt. Rainier National Park. Most of the hike is in the cool, shady forest. There are a few short side trails along the way: one takes you to a great viewpoint of Mt. Rainier and the other to Spray Falls. The payoff is when you get to Spray Park. You have been surrounded by trees the entire way. You walk across a small log bridge, suddenly the trees come to an end, and bang! There are wildflowers everywhere! As a bonus, Mt. Rainier looms in the background. Wow!
In many ways, you never recover from your first walk into Spray Park. The trail isn't difficult to follow. It's just difficult to forget. The 3.5-mile walk leads to seemingly endless open meadows of heather and alpine blossoms that tease the nose, ease the mind, and tickle the imagination. The place is a virtual lily factory. The so-called park itself--actually a vast corridor of open meadows interspersed among rocky moraines, lingering snow patches, whistling marmots, and sun-basking hikers--is a wonder to behold in the summer, truly qualifying as one of Rainier's most magnificent day-hike destinations. Even though the Mowich entrance to Rainier is a lesser-used, backdoor way into the park, this trail also can be (understandably) quite crowded. But Spray Park is a broad enough area, rife with so many hidden pockets of meadow between rock formations, that it's still possible to grab some solitude among the blossoms.
From Mowich Lake, the trail drops quickly (less than 0.1 mile) to a junction with the Wonderland Trail and then climbs gradually for the next 1.7 miles through sun-filled forests. At this point, you'll find a broad side trail on the right leading a short 0.25 mile down to Spray Falls, a worthwhile side trip (seriously, do not skip this side trip).
After your 0.5-mile excursion to the falls, continue climbing as the trail turns steeply upward through a series of switchbacks. At about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, you'll climb out of the switchbacks and move across Grant Creek. The forest opens onto increasingly broad clearings and meadows, providing views of Hessong Rock (6385 feet) to the north and the hulk of Mount Rainier to the southeast. The trail continues to climb, more gradually now, through broad fields of flowers. Stop anywhere along here--there are endless options for picnic spots with grand views. To find the best views, though, push on to the spine of the rocky ridge separating Spray Park from Seattle Park to the east. Here, at around 3.5 miles out, you'll find a cool rock garden at 6400 feet.
Mileage (round trip): 7.5
Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft
Maximum Elevation: 6,400 ft
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Pass: Mt. Rainier Park entrance fee - $15 per car. Note that you have to pay by cash or check. You put the payment into an envelope, and place it into a payment slot. There is no way to use plastic. Obviously, an annual Mt. Rainier pass will work.
Trailhead coordinates: [masked], [masked]
Chuck's cell:[masked] Chuck's car: Black Chevy Volt
Disclaimer: Trailside is not a professional guide service. Our leaders function, as facilitators only, to enhance your outdoor experience. Reports of trail and weather conditions are based on best available information, are subject to change, and are no guarantee of fitness for any particular purpose. You may join us on this hike at your own risk. Keep in mind that hiking involves risks and weather changes quickly in the mountains. You are responsible for your own safety and the more prepared you are, the better the chance you will remain safe.
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