|Distance:||9.6 miles, RT|
|Hiking Time:||4 hrs|
|Elevation Gain:||1,120 ft|
|High Point:||3,185 ft|
|Snow Free:||May - November|
|Trailhead Pass:||National Park Pass Required|
Trailhead: N 46° 59' 33", W 121° 51' 00"
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Carbon River Road is now closed due to the Flood of 2006. This trail now begins 0.5 miles after the Carbon River Ranger Station. Three miles of the former Carbon River Road is included in the hiking mileage. Be prepared to cross washouts. Wear sturdy shoes and carry the ten essentials. For another option, bring a mountain bike, carry a bike lock, and bike this three miles to the Green Lake Trailhead.
Because Mount Rainier National Park is loaded with outstanding forest trails and clear lakes, it is difficult to pick out a diamond. But Green Lake on Mount Rainier's northwest side certainly is a shining crystal.
It's a great family hike that will keep kids interested all along the trail, and particularly at Ranger Falls and the lake itself.
How to get there: From Puyallup, travel 13 miles east on Highway 410 to Buckley, turn right (south) onto Highway 165, and proceed through Carbonado. Continue to the Carbon River Entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Start your hike on the former Carbon River Road. Devastating flooding in 2006 washed out the Carbon River Road in multiple places. Some sections of this three mile stretch are on the wide gravel surface of the former roadbed. In several places, cross new pedestrian bridges and follow recently constructed trails. Walk through this lush river valley and take in the surroundings of the temperate rain forest. View areas where the river now flows along the former roadbed. This walk provides an excellent example of nature's extreme power.
Upon reaching the Green Lake Trail, move through a grove of 800 year old Douglas fir trees towering like ancient sentinels, which have, perhaps, stood guard for a hundred years or more. For the first mile, take time to look down to absorb the richness of the forest floor, as evidenced by the numerous ferns and devil's club you'll see before you.
Three huge trees bridge the trail. You go underneath them, one at a time as the trail winds on, giving you time to wonder in awe at these immense natural bridges. Can't you imagine your kids wanting to climb and walk on these bridges? Then asking them to think about what forest animals use these for their walkways.
Not quite a mile into the hike, there's a way trail at one switchback leading to a low cascading falls. No, that's not Ranger Falls. Continue one full mile from the trailhead for the REAL deal. Ranger Falls is a refreshing treat.
From the viewpoint, return to the trail. Continue climbing in switchbacks, then traverse a hillside to a foot-log crossing of Ranger Creek at 1.5 miles. Cross the creek, ascend to the high point of the hike before dropping steeply to Green Lake's north shore at 2 miles. That's the end of the maintained trail. But you can hop on logs and follow the shoreline to check out more of the lake.
Enjoy a lunch at the lake; cool your ft or brave a swim on a hot day. As you head back, take in the scenic beauty one more time.
The hike is most popular in the spring and summer. If you want to be more alone with nature, try this hike in September, when you'll encounter fewer people and just possibly have more chances of seeing elk and other wildlife. Another option to boost the likelihood of wildlife sightings is to do the hike in the early morning or evening, especially mid-week. But whenever you go, you're apt to have fond memories of a wonderful experience.
More...Karen Sykes writes about this hike and others near by for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.