We spent most of the Summer doing day hikes from home so that we could be back in time to give our elderly cats their daily medicines which put a limit on how far away we could go, but we had purchased tickets to the Seattle Seahawks/New Orleans Saints game prior to Buddy getting ill so my parents graciously took over for a day. We took the opportunity to drive up the day before the game and stop for a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park.
This would be our second visit to the park having hiked the Northern Loop on a 4-day backpack in 2015 (post). For this visit we were looking for something on the SW side of the mountain that would be a good late Summer/early Fall hike. A little research led us to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground from Longmire.
We arrived at Longmire just after 8am and prepared to set off on the Trail of Shadows.
Our trail was located across the park entrance road from the National Park Inn.
Also across the road was the shear cliffs of Rampart Ridge and the snow capped summit of Mt. Rainier.
We were excited to see the mountain as it had been raining for several days and more rain was forecast for the next few, but a partly sunny forecast had at least given us some hope.
The Trail of Shadows is a .7 mile interpretative loop around Longmire Meadow. We followed this trail clockwise for a quarter mile where we arrived at a junction with the Rampart Ridge Trail.
We turned left on the Rampart Ridge Trail which promptly began climbing via a series of switchbacks to the top of the ridge. The trail climbed through an old growth forest with lots of mushrooms this time of year and a bit of fall color showing on the maples.
The trail gained the ridge after a little under 1.5 miles and began to follow it to the NE. One and three quarters of a mile from the junction we forked right to a signed viewpoint overlooking Longmire.
The position of the Sun wasn’t ideal, even with some clouds around, but Eagle Peak was also visible (albeit through some trees) rising above Longmire.
Less then a quarter mile from the viewpoint we came to a turn where the trail began to descend, but before we started down we followed a short path to a rocky viewpoint where we got a better look at Mt. Rainier.
Mt. Rainier was the main attraction but to the NW behind the clouds was another interesting and colorful peak, Mt. Wow.
We spent quite a while at the viewpoint before starting down on the Rampart Ridge Trail which we found turned back toward the mountain and provided another spectacular view.
We were soon back in the mushroom filled forest grateful for having gotten such a nice view of the mountain already. We figured if the clouds moved in, at least we’d gotten to see that .
After 2.9 miles on the Rampart Ridge Trail we came to a signed junction with the Wonderland Trail.
Here we turned left following the pointer for Indian Henry’s (Hunting Ground)
We had gained over 1400′ climbing up to Rampart Ridge and now we began to lose 400 of those feet as the Wonderland Trail dropped to Kautz Creek in 3/4 of a mile. Mushrooms remained a main theme of the hike as we descended through more green forest.
As we neared Kautz Creek the mountain once again came into view.
We dropped into the washed out canyon of Kautz Creek where, you guessed it, there were some more interesting mushrooms amid the rubble.
The crossing of Kautz Creek was fairly easy as far as glacier fed streams go. The creek was split into three channels which were small enough to rock hop across dry footed.
The third channel was the largest but still relatively small.
Mt. Rainier from the far side of Kautz Creek.
The trail then reentered the forest and shortly arrived at Pyramid Camp.
Yet another big mushroom.
After a brief stint in the trees we emerged at another washed out creek bed. According to the map this was Pearl Creek (which later becomes Pyramid Creek after merging with a couple of other streams).
This creek would have been a little trickier to cross had it not been for the presence of a pair of footbridges.
After crossing the creek we popped back into the forest and almost immediately came to a clear spring.
Beyond the spring the trail began to climb steeply gaining over 400′ in a half mile before becoming a bit more gradual as it traversed up the hillside crossing a few creek beds along the way.
There were quite a few coral fungi present as well.
Fishers Hornpipe Creek
The mushrooms in the back had exploded.
A few red huckleberries left to eat.
Approximately one and three quarters of a mile from the Pearl Creek crossing we arrived at Devil’s Dream Creek.
This creek flowed through a narrow slot canyon that looked (and sounded) really interesting.
Although the trail briefly climbed uphill along side the canyon there were no views to speak of save one look down to the water below. From that spot it sounded like there was some sort of waterfall just upstream but there was no angle available to see anything so we settled for more colorful mushrooms.
A half mile after crossing Devil’s Dream Creek we did spot a waterfall downhill to the right of the trail just before arriving at Devil’s Dream Camp. A path led down to the creek here. There wasn’t a lot of water flowing but it looked like it might be a pretty good waterfall when there was more flow.
After the side trip we passed through the 8-site Devil’s Dream Camp.
It was uphill through the camp but not longer after passing the group site the trail leveled out a bit and entered the first meadow as we neared Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.
A larger meadow followed with a view of Mt. Rainier hiding behind Iron Mountain.
Mushrooms in the meadow.
Gray jay in the huckleberries.
A quarter mile from the camp we arrived at Squaw Lake.
Iron Mountain from the lake.
We crossed Devil’s Dream Creek again as we passed around the lake.
I don’t know where the actual boundary of the hunting ground is but beyond Squaw Lake the meadows kept opening up more as we neared a backcountry patrol cabin.
Western pasque flower
Finally Mt. Rainier came back into view.
We spotted the patrol cabin approximately 8 miles (according to my GPS) into the hike. The cabin was set back in some trees overlooking the meadow with Mt. Rainier in the background. It couldn’t have been a more picturesque setting.
We had been playing leap frog with another pair of day hikers who had planned on turning back at the cabin. We had also considered that given the distance and elevation gain to get there, but the mountain was so visible we decided to push on to Mirror Lakes which was just under a mile away. From a junction with the Kautz Creek Trail near the cabin we followed a pointer for the Mirror Lakes Trail .3 miles down the Wonderland Trail.
The Wonderland Trail lost a little elevation before arriving at the Mirror Lakes Trail junction. Views of Mt. Rainier were plentiful along the .3 mile stretch.
We turned onto the Mirror Lakes Trail which was pretty wet in spots from the recent rains, as were the meadows alongside the trail.
There were a number of frogs in the meadow and they seemed to be enjoying the extra water.
Most of the flowers were long since past but a few stragglers were hanging on.
Butterfly on the remains of an aster.
While the Summer flowers were mostly gone the nearby hillsides were heralding the arrival of Fall.
We were glad that we’d decided to go on even before reaching the Mirror Lakes as the trail just kept getting us closer views of Mt. Rainier.
Pyramid Peak to the right.
The best was yet to come though. The largest (and first) of the little lakes that make up the Mirror Lakes had a perfect reflection of the still mostly cloud free mountain.
We lingered for awhile studying the mountains various features.
We would have loved to have stuck around longer but we still had a long hike back to Longmire and a 2 hour drive to our motel so we pulled ourselves away and started back. In the time it took to reach the patrol cabin the clouds had increased noticably.
The shift in the clouds did reveal more of Emerald Ridge to the north which had some interesting features.
We returned the way we’d come until arriving at the Wonderland Trail/Rampart Ridge Trail junction. This portion of the hike saw us spotting additional mushrooms that we hadn’t noticed earlier and a few more frogs, including one at the spring near Pearl Creek.
This guy was tiny.
Frog on a rock at the spring.
The clouds had really moved in by the time we were crossing Kautz Creek and Mt. Rainier was gone.
From the Wonderland/Rampart Ridge junction we stayed straight on the Wonderland Trail which, in addtion to being new trail, was at least a mile shorter route back to Longmire.
The trail lost elevation pretty quickly and was fairly steep in places. The mushroom theme continued here as well.
The trail did level out some as it passed below Rampart Ridges cliffs and over a swale on a boardwalk.
We crossed the Paradise Road and soon after turned at a pointer for Longmire.
Looking back across the road.
Our feet were sore and our knees tired but the 16.4 miles had been more than worth it. As we were loading up the car a gentleman asked if we would give him a ride out of the park. He had been on the Wonderland Trail but after 5 days of rain everything was wet and he hadn’t been able to cook some of his food so he was living to fight another day. His car was at Mowhich Lake though so we gave him a lift to Ashford and dropped him off at a motel/restaurant there before heading toward Seattle.
It was a great start to the weekend, if only Seattle’s play had been half as impressive as Mt. Rainier was maybe they could have pulled out a win. Ah well, we will take a beautiful hike over a single W any time. Happy Trails! (and GO Hawks!)
Flickr: Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground