Ranking: 3/5 A great loop style trail that encompasses all that is beautiful about the Sunrise area. You will hike on part of the Storied Wonderland Trail, and pass one of it’s backcountry camps, as well as see the beginnings of the White River, from the snout of Emmons Glacier, and in your face views of Mt. Rainier’s east side slopes, where Little Tahoma is most prominent.
Difficulty: 5/10 There is not a lot of elevation gain here, so it should be enjoyable for the beginner, as well as the expert. The trails are well marked, and easy to follow, so most of your time will be spent admiring the views, rather than worrying about getting lost, or stumbling over obstacles.
Permits: For a day hike, there are no permits required, other than paying $15 to get into the park. For more info, go to the Mt. Rainier Natl. Park website, click on Day hikes, and look at the trails around Sunrise.
Maps: I used the Trails Illustrated map by National Geographic for Mt. Rainier Natl. Park. Also, upon entering the park, they will give you a paper map of the day use trails around Sunrise that is also helpful.
This is a great dayhike that will encompass some of the best the Sunrise trail system has to offer. It covers 6.2 miles, and at the halfway point, you will have gained a little over 1000ft, making it a moderate hike up to the high point at 7400ft. The parking lot at Sunrise is already at 6400ft.
…everything was boarded up, in preparation for the coming winter…
You’ll start at the very southwest corner of the Sunrise Parking lot, near the Sunrise Ranger Station, which reminds one of an old cavalry fort’s blockhouses. On this weekend, it was the last weekend for the summer, and they would close the gate for Sunrise for the year, so everything was boarded up, in preparation for the coming winter…
From the trailhead, you walk down to the Sunrise access road ( a gravel road for service vehicles) and follow it for about .35 miles to where the road branches in a “Y”. Stay to the left, and follow the signage to Shadow Lake. The road leads gradually downhill through alpine meadows and views southwest to Mt. Rainier, which dominates the views here at Sunrise. The road ends, and you will come to a trail junction, at .9 miles, with signs and mileage to different destinations in the park.
…From this viewpoint, on a clear day, you will spend several minutes, taking it all in. The mountain looms large here, and you can make out all the distinguishing features…
For this loop trail, stay to the left, and follow the signs to Shadow Lake and Sunrise Camp. The camp is at about the 1 mile mark from the parking lot, and it is a large backcountry camp, with several campsites and a covered shelter, good for groups. Just past the last campsite, you’ll come to another trail junction. Stay right, and from here you will be going uphill to the first great view area, the Emmons Glacier overlook, in about a half mile. From this viewpoint, on a clear day, you will spend several minutes, taking it all in. The mountain looms large here, and you can make out all the distinguishing features, little Tahoma, the massive Emmons Glacier, the largest on the mountain, and Steamboat Prow, a triangular formation of rock that divides the Emmons and Winthrop Glacier.
…as you near the edge of Burroughs Mountain, you can see for miles and miles in every direction…
Somewhere, just above it, is Camp Sherman, the base camp for summiting from this side of the mountain. Below you, stretching out for miles is a small ribbon winding down from the snout of the Emmons Glacier, the headwaters of the White River. Continue up the trail that side hills along the ridge to the top of the first Burroughs Mountain, the top which is flat like a table top at 2.4 miles in. Again, the views from here are impressive, not only towards the mountain, but as you near the edge of Burroughs Mountain, you can see for miles and miles in every direction, looking north you’ll see Berkeley Park nestled between Skyscraper and Fremont mountains. Just to the left of Skyscraper, you’ll see Skyscraper Pass, which the Wonderland Trail crosses over.
Beyond Skyscraper Pass, Old Desolate is visible, with long furrows leading vertically down its side, as if a large bear claw raked it from top to bottom. You’re not done yet! At the edge of the first Burroughs Mt, at 2.7 miles, you’ll come to another trail junction. Stay left, and continue uphill to the top of the second Burroughs. Now, at 7400ft, and a little over 3 miles in, you’ve come to your turnaround point at the very tip of the second Burroughs Mountain.
There are several places here to stop and relax, sitting on rocks that keep you off the ground, but the best place is a round throne built out of the local rock, facing directly at the mountain. It provides some protection from the wind, which seems to be constant here on top of exposed and barren Burroughs Mt. The trail continues here to Glacier Basin, and further on, the East side climbing camp, Camp Schurman, base camp for climbing this side of Mt. Rainier. But, for this day hike, this will be the turnaround spot. Retrace your steps to the last trail junction, and instead of going back the way you came, this time stay straight on the trail, and follow it down the other side of Burroughs Mt, to a 4 way trail junction at 4.65 miles. This is where you will once again cross paths with the storied Wonderland Trail that encircles Mt. Rainier.
…If you don’t have a lot of time to visit, this is definitely a noteworthy hike, allowing you big views of the park, and all this area has to offer…
Trails lead in every direction from here, including down into Berkeley Park, and up to the Mt. Fremont lookout atop Mt. Fremont, which you should be able to see from the trail that you just descended. At the 4 way intersection, continue straight through, following signage that says Sourdough Ridge Trail, and Frozen Lake, which you will come to in short order, if you’ve followed the right path. During the early part of the year, Frozen Lake has a nice ledge of ice and snow on its banks, but by the end of the hiking season, it’s not very impressive, just bare ground all around its edges…This is the fresh water source for all of Sunrise, so it is fenced off to keep people out.
Continue along the Sourdough Ridge trail another 1.4 miles back to Sunrise, easily seen from the trail, as it leads back through the meadows surrounding the main facilities. If you don’t have a lot of time to visit, this is definitely a noteworthy hike, allowing you big views of the park, and all this area has to offer