Spray Park (Sep 24, 2011)

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spray_park_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Mowich Lake
Area: Mount Rainier National Park
Reference: Day Hiking Mount Rainier
Stats: 8.6mi, 2510' gain (round trip)

You gotta love this trip. I'm baffled why the Mowich Lake to Knapsack Pass to Spray Park section of this loop is no longer maintained. Doing this trip as a loop is a real classic trip. I've done it before. I'll do it again. It's so worth it...

The trail starts just behind the Ranger Station. The sign clearly says the trail is no longer maintained and they aren't kidding. At best it's rocky. At it's worst it's a muddy mess.

The "trail" is steep at first when it departs from the ranger station. It's pretty direct in that it just goes uphill. Some big rocky steps. A couple of large trees to crawl around. But once into that first open area...I know why I'm here. I hardly ever see anyone else back here. It's a gorgeous, beautiful, stunning, jaw dropping area. Once past the first steep bit the trail enters the huge basin / meadow area below Knapsack Pass. I've seen goats here before. Not today...just solitude and lots of wildflowers. From the basin the "trail" continues up a series of steep switchbacks all the way up to the pass. No snow on this side. Just before the pass...right before it...watch the trail...walk slowly...then there it is...the shoulder of Rainier peeking around the back side of Fay Peak. I love this view each time I see it. I did this route the first time with Steve when we day hiked this trail, went up Echo and Observation Peaks, and then came out Spray Park. I loved it then. I still love it.

On the back side of Knapsack Pass the trail is steep and gravelly. Yuck. It as a short stretch and then the former trail is hidden under snow. I don't recall ever doing this back section of the trail when there wasn't at least some snow. Lots of tarns back here and huge granite boulders. I love this stuff! I keep telling myself that one of these days I should check with the park rangers about getting a backcountry permit and camping on the rock back there. Wow.

The former trail was faint in some places, gone in others. I was familiar with the route so I just tried to stay level and not drop down too much. Seems to work for me each time. I end up crossing a snow patch and hitting the faint former trail on the north side of the east ridge of Mt Pleasant at just the right spot each time. Sweet! From there the trail goes over that ridge and then drops down a steep set of switchbacks before eventually joining up with the Wonderland Trail at the north end of Spray Park.

Views are incredible. The flowers....OMG! Gentian, bistort, lousewort, lupine, bear grass....

I found a nice rock on the edge of the trail in Spray Park to plop myself on and have lunch. I usually do this loop clockwise so that I hit that north end of Spray Park early in the morning. That way...I feel like I have the place nearly to myself before the crowds arrive from the normal route (coming up from Grant Creek). U have plenty of time to enjoy the sights and sounds and by the time I'm at the bottom end of the park and the crowds are arriving...I'm on my way out anyway.

I had a quick visit to Spray Falls then the long forested walk back to the campground to complete the loop.

This trip is a 10+ in my book. Can't wait to return.
Spray Park Slideshow

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Copyright 2013 Janet M. Putz
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