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Trip Report

Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge - Emerald Ridge Loop — Friday, Aug. 28, 2020

Mount Rainier Area
After 0.6 mile of creek bed walking

The Westside Road parking area is now just before the Dry Creek crossing, not after. Parking is a lot more limited.

On the MRNP website, the Tahoma Creek Trail is both “closed” and “not recommended”. More helpful is the description as “an area with high risk of geohazards such as flooding and debris flows”.

The Tahoma Creek Trail is washed out in several places, definitely worse that previous washouts. If you find the trail early on, you will discover that it leads you back into the creek bed in one washout after another. The best approach is to walk the creek bed for the first mile, not even looking inland to find the trail. (For much of the way, climbing from the creek bed to the forest is not even practical.) But at about one mile, you can even see the trail from the creek bed, where it is easily accessible. Be watchful, and go there. If you travel too far in the creek bed, the trail starts climbing quickly, and you will have missed it. So this mile of creek bed walking is the exposure to possible geohazards.

Once you’re on the trail, there are a couple of places where the trail gets quite dicey, half of it washed away, leaving a steep drop-off. But we would later see the same thing along the Wonderland Trail after Emerald Ridge, and that trail is maintained! Once you’re on the trail, most of it is just fine. And when you join the Wonderland Trail, be sure to take a short side trip to the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. That’s always the highlight of the trip for me.

The climb up to Emerald Ridge opens up to a desolate but beautiful landscape, with numerous moraines and eskers visible. One finger of the Tahoma Glacier, then another, come into view. At Emerald Ridge, you can look down onto the grit-covered Tahoma Glacier and see the muddy brown water gushing out from under it. The water is the same color as some of the rocks, so it is hard to see in a still photo. My third photo is a closeup of this muddy water.

The trail follows the muddy South Puyallup River downstream. Where the South Puyallup Trail begins, the Wonderland Trail heads north on a stout wooden bridge over the river. It’s a short distance from the trail junction, and worth a look.

A few more minutes down the trail, there is a striking vertical rock face of columnar andesite on your left, visible from the trail.

When you reach the next junction, you have a choice. You can take a short access trail to the Westside Road, or follow the Round Pass Trail 0.6 mile to Round Pass. Either way, you must gain 335 feet. The trail is in the shade.

Once on Westside Road, follow the circuitous road 2.6 miles to the Tahoma Creek Trailhead, and then the final 1.4 miles to the parking area.

Tahoma Glacier, South Puyallup River
Source of the muddy water
Andesite columns