Check the weather before heading out for this hike, and if it’s going to be clear, bring a camera. From the summit, it’s possible to see six (yes, six!) volcanoes spanning two states. Baker, Glacier, Adams, Rainier, St. Helens and Hood wait patiently for you to climb the more-than-moderately steep path to the summit of Crystal Peak, where you can take in beautiful snow-capped majesty from the top.
Begin at an unmarked trailhead on the left-hand side of Highway 410. The trail immediately crosses a delightful stream, which you’ll be even more thankful for on the way down; it’s a great spot to stop and dip your feet after four miles of relentless downhill. Cross the water using a footlog with a handrail, and get ready to climb. Quite a bit of elevation is gained in the first mile and a half, using switchbacks that zig zag through a less-than-inspiring second-growth forest. The best part about this section is the shade, and occasional peek-a-boo views of Rainier.
Reach a signed junction at the 1.5 mile mark, and take the right trail to Crystal Peak. It’s counterintuitive, since the trail to the peak descends while the left-hand trail to Crystal Lake climbs, but don’t worry, you’ll make up that elevation loss, and then some.
This section is your only reprieve from near-constant uphill. You can enjoy the forest here, which becomes slightly more pastoral, with vanilla leaf and queens cup creating a green carpet under the trees. Break out onto a talus slope shortly after the junction and take in the views -- at the end of the slope you’ll re-enter forest and resume your uphill trudge.
Continue through this forest for another mile, and finally begin hiking through lush green meadows. From here on out you have uninterrupted views of Rainier, and closer to hand, a plethora of wildflowers. Beargrass, tiger lilies, lupine, phlox, even magenta indian paintbrush (endemic to Mount Rainier National Park) accompany you on your climb.
And climb you will. As you complete several long switchbacks across the south-facing slope, your view is ever-changing. St. Helens is the first to come into view, then Hood. Glacier and Baker appear at a west-facing rocky outcropping just short of the summit with evidence of the lookout that used to sit atop Crystal Peak. Turn around here and see Adams looming at you to the east. The last push to the summit is quite steep, but thankfully quite short, where you can take in all six peaks, as well as Crystal Lakes far below you.
Crystal Mountain and Sourdough Gap are to the north, while the Cowlitz Chimneys and Shriner Peak are southeast-facing landmarks. Take time at lunch to peruse your map and try to identify as many other landmarks as you can.
- 8.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 3,100 feet
- Highest Point
- 6,595 feet
Hiking Crystal Peak
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 46.9227, -121.5336 Open in Google Maps