by Diane Spicer
Mount Rainier hiking Glacier Basin is something you should consider if you like to get away from the crowds which gather higher up the mountain.
Exit Highway 410 and drive to the Mount Rainier National Park White River Entrance Station.
In a bit less than five miles, cross a beautiful bridge over the White River, then turn left into the White River Campground and drive up the winding road.
Park in the free day use parking lot on your left (north side of road).
After you get your boots laced up, exit the lot and turn left. Walk uphill on the campground road (east) through the upper campground area.
These statistics show you a moderate day hike, which you can check off your list in about 4 hours (not recommended but if you're in a hurry, go for it).
All measurements are approximate.
The trail starts off at a gentle grade on a rebuilt section of old road, but gets progressively steeper as you near the basin.
The White River will be your constant companion on your left as you ascend.
Glacier Basin Camp, a wilderness camping spot used as a launching point by mountain climbers, is tucked into forest.
It's reached in about three and a half miles.
You're almost to the sweet spot!
Keep hiking for a few more minutes to break out into the basin.
Here, your (somewhat limited) views of Mount Rainier, and the proximity of the roaring river and abundant flowers, will lull you into serenity.
If you're longing for solitude and the chance to bump into mountain goats, ground squirrels and climbers, keep hiking uphill along a beaten in route.
Views of Ruth Mountain and The Wedge, along with mountain goat spotting opportunities and lots of terrain to appreciate wildflowers, will be all yours as you push further into the basin.
This climber's route takes you to the headwaters of White River, and shows you where the climbers are headed:
In technical speak:
The White River entrance to Mount Rainier opens when the snow melts and closes when the snow flies.
In other words, you have a short window of time to enjoy Glacier Basin.
This trail is suitable for kids, with solid footing and nothing too steep. Take it slow and steady, bring water and snacks, and they'll love it!
Any time you're hiking along a wild river, it's tempting to rock hop and wade, but this water is extremely cold and dangerous.
History buffs will enjoy the (failed) significance of this hike.
Sharp eyes along the trail (remnants of a road) can spot the rusty remains of long abandoned copper mining operations from the late 1800's.
Here's a laundry list of why you should consider this one of the best Mount Rainier day hikes available to you on the Sunrise side of the mountain:
If you're up for a knee twinging challenge in order to gain even bigger views, you can begin your day at Sunrise with a hike up to Burroughs Mountain, then drop off all the way down to Glacier Basin.
And if your knees and attitude are in great shape, you can do the reverse:
You have another diversion option at the one mile mark:
Hook a well signed left for a quick quarter mile add on before you continue on to the basin.
Your reward: a stunning view of Emmons Glacier, which is the largest glacier in the 48 contiguous United States.
Make some time at the end of your day to walk down to the White River from the parking lot to access a perfect sitting spot.
The rocks should be warm, and your feet should be sore.
This is one athletic river!
The video and photos can give you a feel for the worthiness of this Mount Rainier day hike, but you may still have some questions.
Contact me, and I'll help you decide whether or not to add Glacier Basin to your Rainier hiking wishlist!
Rainier Hiking Glacier Basin
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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