Monday, August 1, 2016

Rampart Ridge Loop

Kathy and I intended to hike the Rampart Ridge Loop during our first visit three years ago, but didn’t due to heavy rain on the last day of our trip. Given that the hike offers great views of Mt. Rainier, and the fact that it was already snow free, it was near the top of our list of hikes for our mid-June visit this year.

The loop hike begins across the street from the National Park Inn at Longmire. Once on the other side of the road you’ll gain access to the Trail of the Shadows, a short loop trail that visits an old homestead cabin. Even though the arrow points to the right, you’ll want to turn left to proceed directly towards the Rampart Ridge Trail. You’ll reach the Rampart Ridge Trail junction in less than two-tenths of a mile.

Just past the junction we passed the 25-foot stump of a large dead tree that had several saplings growing out of the top. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything like this before:

From the junction the trail climbs moderately through a beautiful old-growth forest. For me, this was one of the most pleasant hikes one could take just about anywhere. Although this might be a bit of hyperbole, it seems that the trail is so well manicured that you could practically ride a road bike on it.

Rampart Ridge, also known as "The Ramparts," is the remnant of an ancient lava flow that originated from the summit of Mt. Rainier.

At just under 2 miles hikers will reach a side trail that leads to an overlook of the Nisqually River Valley. Look for a sign that reads “Viewpoint 200 feet”.

Just beyond the viewpoint the trail reaches its highest point, and at roughly 2.25 miles, will make a sharp bend towards the left. Peer through the trees at this bend and you’ll notice a rock outcropping not far off the trail. Although there are a few trees around, this vantage point still offers some outstanding views of Mt. Rainier. This is probably the best place for an extended break on this hike.

Roughly 50 yards beyond the rock outcropping, as the trail begins to make a sharp descent, you’ll enjoy some unobstructed views of Mt. Rainier. This will be your most scenic view on the hike. A short distance from here the trail heads back into the forest.

At 3.1 miles hikers will reach the Wonderland Trail, an epic 93-mile trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. To complete this loop you’ll have to take a right here. From the junction the Wonderland Trail begins to descend fairly rapidly towards the Nisqually River.

As you descend you’ll travel along a stretch of trail that passes through some ancient trees, many of which appear to be several hundred years old.

At roughly 4.9 miles you’ll cross over to the south side of the main park road, and shortly thereafter, will return to the parking area at Longmire.

Trail: Rampart Ridge Loop
RT Distance: 5.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1340 feet
Max Elevation: 4050 feet
TH Location: Longmire
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.


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