Carter Falls

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

After completing our hike to Comet Falls, perhaps the most impressive waterfall we’ve ever seen, we decided to do another waterfall hike later that afternoon. Our choice was Carter Falls and Madcap Falls, a hike that received a fairly high user rating on the Washington Trails Association website.

This short hike begins just below the Cougar Rock Campground. Hikers will follow the Wonderland Trail to reach both waterfalls. The 93-mile Wonderland Trail is an epic backpacking route that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier.

From the trailhead hikers will pass through glacial debris littered along the Nisqually River. Although it appears to be a short distance, it does take a little bit of time to walk through the maze of rocks and boulders. You’ll have to do a little bit of route finding at times, but it’s pretty straight forward. On clear days you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Mt. Rainier from the river basin.

After crossing the Nisqually you’ll notice that the Paradise River feeds into the Nisqually just downstream from the footbridge. Once on the other side the trail begins to follow along the north bank of the Paradise River to reach both waterfalls.

During the first six-tenths of a mile the trail travels over mostly flat terrain, but then begins to climb a moderate grade towards the falls. As the trail proceeds higher you’ll pass through an old-growth forest where some of the trees appear to be several hundred years old.

At just 1.25 miles you’ll reach Carter Falls. Unfortunately, due to the trees, you won’t have a clear view of the 53-foot high waterfall. The waterfall was named for Henry Carter, a guide who built the first trail to Paradise.

Roughly 100 yards upstream from Carter Falls is the 34-foot high Madcap Falls:

If you’ve already done most of the hikes in the park, and are looking for something new, this is certainly a decent hike to consider. However, if you’re relatively new to the park, there are many other hikes that offer far more scenic destinations than this one.

Trail: Wonderland Trail
RT Distance: 2.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Max Elevation: 3700 feet
TH Location: Cougar Rock
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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