Washington Hikes: Sunrise Rim, Burroughs Mountain and Sourdough Ridge Trails

IMG_2925_LUCiDWe celebrated our anniversary weekend at Mt. Rainier National Park, hiking around Sunrise and Paradise and spending the night at the historic Paradise Inn.

We stopped at the Black Diamond Bakery for an amazing breakfast on our way down to the park and arrived at Sunrise around 9:30 a.m. to begin our hiking adventures.

Although we had driven through Mt. Rainier National Park once before, it had been years and we had only done some light hiking to the Grove of the Patriarchs and other spots easily accessible from the road. Because we were spending the night in the park this trip, we had a lot more time to tackle some longer hikes.

Prior to our trip I looked up several trail options at Sunrise, which is where we wanted to spend the majority of our first day. However, once we arrived, Brian thought we should dream big and take on the longer Sunrise Rim Trail given the elements—the sun was out, the sky was blue, and Mt. Rainier’s massive summit loomed so close ahead of us we felt like we could reach out and touch it!

We headed clockwise on the Sunrise Rim Trail, initially passing through some lovely wooded sections that overlapped with the Wonderland Trail, which circles the base of Mt. Rainier. The tree cover slowly waned and before we knew it we were making our way up a steep incline that circled around to a stunning viewpoint.

Along the way we passed a park volunteer who caught up to us as we were taking pictures of the summit and surrounding area. She thought we were hiking in the correct direction as the next leg of our journey was up a rocky incline that she described as ‘treacherous’ during inclement weather. The trail is exposed and as we made our way up it, I could see what she meant—there was virtually no protection from the elements, including wind gusts, and nothing to keep you from toppling over the mountainside to our left. I was thankful we were there on a picture-perfect day with nothing to fear!

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The top of this rocky section of trail brought us to some signage indicating we were switching paths to follow First Burroughs Mountain Trail toward Mt. Rainier’s summit through an area of alpine tundra similar to what’s found in the arctic regions.

Once we crested First Burroughs, we had an even more spectacular view of the summit. A couple making their way counterclockwise on the trail took my favorite picture of us on this trip, featured below!

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From here the trail leveled out, continuing toward the summit before veering right and looping back toward the Sunrise lodge and parking lot. We came to a fork in the trail with the option of continuing our loop to the right or heading out and back to our left via Second Burroughs Mountain Trail, which would add 1.2 miles to our hike.

As I looked out at the rocky, exposed trail winding steadily up the next hill, I admit that I advocated for continuing with our existing hike. Brian really wanted to add on this extra leg and prevailed—I couldn’t argue with his rationale that we should take this opportunity to get even closer to the summit on a day when the weather was so perfect. It could change in a heartbeat, and we could never have the opportunity again. So off we went! Yolo!

The additional leg really wasn’t bad and the views of the summit, Glacier Basin and the surrounding area were even more clear. Another volunteer was staked out in this area and after we had quenched our thirst, I went and asked him what summits we were seeing along the horizon. I could hardly believe it when he turned me around and pointed out the Olympic Mountains—I had no idea we would be able to see them from Mt. Rainier. It was absolutely incredible.

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The remainder of our loop took us along Sourdough Ridge Trail, away from the summit and primarily downhill via a rocky ridge trail heading back toward Sunrise.

We had one little adventure along the way when some hikers coming the opposite direction mentioned that a black bear and her cub were just down the side of the hill we were hiking! We looked down and sure enough, they were heading away from the trail and along some bushes, foraging for food. They were too far away for my phone to capture a clear picture, but it was fun resting for a moment and watching them.

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We swung by Frozen Lake and eventually came back to the parking area—just in time to watch two deer launch themselves across the trail and into the woods! We saw them startle and head in different directions, but then the one realized it needed to catch up with the other and bounded back across the trail. Quite the series of wildlife sightings to conclude our hike!

All together our hike was 6.6 miles with 1,330 feet of gain, reaching a max elevation of 7,392. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day for hiking at Sunrise– thank you, Mt. Rainier!

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