During the trip to Mount Rainier National Park, we took two very different hikes, both rewarding and perfect in their own ways. As little is now capable of hiking a little father and higher, we try to hit easy to moderate hikes that won’t last more than three hours. The fact is, mom and dad aren’t in the best shape and this seems to be the perfect amount of hiking for us all.
Day One, Natches Peak Loop Trail: (https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/natches-peak-loop.htm) This 3.5 mile loop is often listed as easy but we would classify it as a more moderate hike. There is a bit of elevation gain at the beginning and we had to take a few breaks. Once you are high enough and through the tree line, the trail evens out for nice couple miles. It’s accessible July – mid October and is a very popular trail for families. Late July and into August the real show is the spectacular wildflowers – fields of color popping with the gorgeous alpine setting behind. Even in late July we were able to find a few patches of snow!
The trail provides wonderful views of Mount Rainier and Dewey Lake. We met up with a group of horseback riders that were coming up the mountain as well as a few people headed over to the PCT, as the trail joins up for a short amount of time. We were tempted to head down to Dewey Lake but there were a few other Alpine lakes we hiked by. In total we spend just over 3 hours hiking the loop, but that included a wonderful lunch break on the rocks watching the mountain come out of the clouds. A great hike and one we will definitely do again.
Day Two, Boulder Cave Trail: (http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/boulder-cave)
This short and sweet trail was perfect for littles. With less than 300 feet of elevation gain and only 2 miles round trip, it was an easy hike with a very cool highlight: Bat cave! After hiking about a mile, we entered the cave which is only about 500 ft long/5 minutes hike. There is a very clear trail to follow. Don’t forget your headlamps and flashlights! We were very excited to spot Pacific Western Big-Eared Bats but alas, we didn’t spot a single one. According to the little guy, that didn’t matter – heading into a dark cave was adventure enough. At the end of the cave, the trail points you back to the trailhead.