Hiking the Tatoosh Range
Mt. Rainier National Park is a national treasure where words fail to describe its grandeur. The massif is one of the most impressive geological features in the world, yet we are fortunate to have it sitting in our back yard. On a cerulean Northwest day, it stops us in our tracks to marvel at its' beauty.
While climbing to the 14,410’ summit of Rainier is an accomplishment most only dream of, hikes within the park to the “lesser” peaks are attainable for most and as mentioned above, provide remarkable views of the majestic Rainier.
The range of rocky crags just south of Paradise is the Tatoosh and is a great place for day hikes, scrambles and climbing or even an overnight backpacking trip. Access to the Tatoosh Range is at Reflection Lakes, Eagle Peak or Snow Lakes.
My favorite hike to take visitors on, which has a lot of bang for your buck, is Plummer Peak. The access point is Refection Lakes. The trail head is on the opposite side of the road from the lake and is marked “Pinnacle Peak”. This trail will take you to a saddle on the ridge (1.3 miles, between Pinnacle and Plummer Peaks), from this point turn right (west) on a boot path which will take you to the summit of Plummer Peak.
As with all the Tatoosh peaks, you will be afforded close up views of Mt. Rainier, other Tatoosh Peaks, and views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens in the distance. This is a great short and easy hike! Return to your car the same way you came, or if you want more, explore the other Tatoosh Peaks!
Other peaks may require some off-trail rocky scrambles, climbing or steep snowfield travel. Research routes, trailhead access and difficulty level when planning your trip.
A backpacking overnight trip is also a great option. One such route is connecting the Pinnacle/Plummer Peaks trail with Snow Lake. From the previously mentioned saddle, head east on a climbers' path just below the ridge past Pinnacle, Castle and Foss to the talus drainage above Snow Lake; Unicorn Peaks is just beyond this point along the ridge.
Along the ridge there are numerous picnic and campsite locations with dramatic backdrops. After passing Foss you will have a choice of dropping your packs and continuing on to “bag” the more challenging Unicorn and Stevens Peaks or starting the trip down off the ridge. Unicorn and Stevens will most definitely lengthen your trip and the decision to go or not should be a serious evaluation of your scrambling abilities; choose wisely!
Regardless of your peak bagging decision, the loop continues down the talus slope above popular, and beautiful, Snow Lake. (Note: The talus slope has an upper and lower section with a steep drop between the two halves. Most of the year abundant snow or no snow makes this section nothing more than steep snow or talus, however, during late season snow melt cascading water and the adjacent moats should warrant respect; and at no time of the year should you glissade without adequate runout.)
When you are able to tear yourself away from the stunningly tranquil setting at Snow Lake, just follow the trail back to the Stevens Canyon Rd. and hitchhike the short distance back to your car at Reflection Lakes. If a car ride is unavailable the walk back is not bad option either.
The Tatoosh Range hike is just one example of numerous day and overnight hikes within the park. We will highlight others as the summer unfolds. When planning your own adventure, be sure to make safety your highest priority. The Mt. Rainier Hiker's Safety guide can be viewed here.