Washington Hikes: Carter and Madcap Falls

We set out yesterday morning to hike Narada Falls to Reflection Lake in Mt. Rainier National Park. However, despite arriving just as the gate opened, there was absolutely no parking left at Narada Falls when we arrived. I either sorely underestimated the popularity of this hike, or I simply underestimated the number of people who — like us! — were planning to take advantage of the beautiful weather.

In any event, we returned to Longmire to regroup and decide on a plan B. Brian pulled up Gaia, and we decided to head a new direction on the Wonderland Trail and see how far we felt like hiking!

The trail was completely covered in snow from the onset so we pulled on our microspikes right away. The spikes plus our trekking poles ended up being the perfect pairing for this hike — we would have been sliding all over the place without them, especially on the way back to the car as the temperature was rising and the sun was melting some of the top layer.

Enough people had hiked the trail that it was easy to follow and the snow was well packed — there were only a couple sections where people had post holed through the snow on either side of the trail.

I really enjoyed the sections of trail through the woods — there were some amazing old growth trees and picturesque viewpoints along the river. We came out of the tree cover by a sign and parking area for Carter (and Madcap) Falls and decided we would use the falls as our turnaround point.

We crossed an open area and wooden bridge before making a modest climb to the viewpoints for the falls. They were a bit hard to see given the amount of snow and ice covering them right now, but we managed to catch some glimpses through the trees.

The clearing near the parking area for Carter Falls was busy on our hike back to Longmire — there were lots of people out enjoying the snow and the gorgeous views of the summit!

Our hike ended up clocking in at 6 miles roundtrip hike with 948 feet of gain. It took us just over 2.5 hours with about 10 minutes of stopping to take photos.

I’m still looking forward to hiking Narada Falls to Reflection Lake at some point, but now we know we can set off from the Carter Falls parking area if the Narada Falls lot is full — next time we’ll be prepared! Although our original plan fell through this trip, our backup plan ended up being perfect and we had a great time enjoying the sun and warmer weather on the mountain!

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