Sep 05, 2010
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Spray Park
- Region: Mt. Rainier -- NW - Carbon River / Mowich
- Agency: Mount Rainier National Park, Carbon River Ranger Station
- Avg Rating: 4.00
- Why You Should Go Now
- Wildflowers blooming
- Ripe berries
The trail head had 30-40 cars parked at it, at 10:45am. Because of this I was expecting a crowded trail, but to my surprise I had numerous periods of solitude.
The day was overcast with the clouds sitting around the 5,000 foot level. I hoped that by the time I had reached Spray Park the sun would have burned off the clouds or they would have lifted. Once on the trail, the clouds moved in and out through the trees and blanketed all of the foliage with a layer of dew.
The first mile and a quarter of the hike was across well groomed trails over rolling terrain. It seemed every foot of elevation I gained, I lost two. Just after a rock debris field the trail begins a vertical climb. This section of the trail has been groomed into a staircase which makes the climb easier. As you reach the top of the climb and short level walk there is a side trip that you can take to the Eagles Nest lookout. When I reached the lookout visibility was cut down to roughly 20 feet due to the clouds.
Once back on the trail most of the elevation I gained up the staircase, I lost on my way down to the junction with the Spray Falls trail. The .25 mile hike down to Spray Falls is well worth the effort. The falls tower above you as it cascades off of the top of a cliff and then fans out like a spiderweb on a lower rock face below.
Once back on the Spray Park trail there is a .8 mile climb to the entrance to Spray Park. This section of the hike reminds me of what the term "Switchbacks" truly mean. You going to go a short distance, and its going to take you a long time, but you will go really high. The .8 mile hike does not offer much on sights, but at this point I was just focusing on keeping one foot in front of the other so I didn't mind.
As soon as the switch backs flattened out I crosses a small footbridge and into a small meadow, which is the entrance to Spray Park. I choose to continue up the park to see what it had to offer. The further up the Park I went the more it opened up. All along the way are little pockets of seclusion, each with its own special feature. One would have an Ansel Adams photo worthy reflection pool, while another would have Marmots chirping at you. I made my way about half way up the park and found a nice rock overlooking a rock field and a mirror pond to make my picnic bench.
Unfortunately for the hour and a half spent at Spray Park, the clouds never lifted and the visibility was at best a quarter mile. This along with not seeing anyone for more than 45 minutes gave Spray Park an almost haunted feeling.
The foliage in Spray Park was beautiful, but does seem to be on the downturn for the season. In another few weeks most of the wild flowers will be out of bloom. I talked with a few passing hikers who had been on a multi-day overnight hike in the area who had stated that they had seen a black bear on one of the huckleberry patches on the ridges to the North West of Spray Park.
After holding out hope that the clouds would break I made my way back to the trail head. Just before reaching the trail head I ran into a couple who was just finishing up a 13 day trek around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. Being that this is one of my bucket list hikes I talked with them for a but, hearing about there trek and further fueling my desire to make this hike myself someday.
Once back at the trail head roughly 20 cars were still in the parking lot. Given the amount of cars I was pleasantly surprised at how much solitude, and how quiet the hike had been.
This was a great hike to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and recharge the batteries before the winter sets in. I can't wait to return to this hike when the weather allows for views of all of Spray Park and Mt. Rainier.