Mount Si Day Hike

8 miles round-trip / 3150′ elevation gain

Mount Si

View from Mount Si looking west

With a forecast of abundant sunshine on the last official day of summer, my husband and I planned a day hike to Mount Si.  At the beginning of the summer I was concerned Mount Si would be too challenging for my hiking abilities, but now I had gained the confidence I needed to reach the summit.  We woke up extra early to ensure we had a parking spot at the trail-head with hopes of having the trail mostly to ourselves.  We arrived at the parking lot around 8:00 am, and to our surprise it was still mostly empty.


Mount Si view

As I try to describe the four mile ascent to the top of Mount Si, all I can think of is up, up, up!  The first two miles begin with a slow, easy climb switching back and forth through the thick, old growth forest.  As we made our way into the last two miles, the pathway became more steep with shorter switchbacks still climbing up through the forest.  It had been a good decision to start our day early because only a handful of hikers interrupted the peacefulness of the empty, quiet trail.  Once we finally reached the last few steps of the trail, endless 360° views finally came into sight.  The cities of Seattle and Bellevue seemed to be tiny mirages in the far distance to the west of Mount Si.  Several hikers were scattered about the summit in different locations, each one taking in the views in their own way.  Some hikers rest atop rocks enjoying the conversations of their fellow comrades and new friends, while others take delight in solitude.


Haystack scramble

A sign warning about the dangers of the Haystack scramble to the true summit let us know that we had not made it to the top.  Feeling content with my decision to stay and enjoy my idea of the mountain summit, my husband decided to make the scramble to the tip top.  I enjoyed the moments alone watching the persistent birds and squirrels as they hassled day hikers for their lunches.


A view of Rattlesnake Ridge from Mount Si

Regrouped and reenergized, my husband and I began our descent, our sore legs thankful to be trekking downhill.  As more and more hikers poured onto the trail, we were once again reminded of why we had started our journey so early in the morning.  Finally back at the parking lot, I felt a sense of accomplishment after completing a hike I once believed to be too difficult for my abilities.  It may be the end of the summer, but the fall will bring new adventures.


Spray Park Trail Backpacking

2 days, 1 night / 13.6 miles round trip / <2800′ elevation gain

Spray Park Trail

A view of Mount Rainier from Spray Park trail


One of the many log crossings along Spray Park Trail

The early bird gets the worm, or in this case the first-come, first serve wilderness permit.  My husband and I arrived at the Carbon River Ranger Station just after 8:30 am in hopes of obtaining a wilderness permit for an overnight backpacking trip in Mount Rainier National Park.  After discussing the perfect conditions of Spray Park Trail with the park ranger, we decided to spend the night at Cataract Valley backpackers camp.  After a slow, bumpy 20+ mile drive down Mowich Lake Road, we arrived at Mowich Lake campground where trailhead parking was available.


Mount Rainier view along Spray Park Trail


Mount Rainier view near the mountain pass


As soon as we started hiking, the trail  started to slowly dip down making its way through a small forested valley.  With fresh legs and an easy downhill hike, it wasn’t difficult to become complacent with the ease at which we were travelling.  Complacency didn’t last long once we started climbing our way up towards Spray Park.  We made our way through the forest switching back from time to time.  After a while of hiking uphill, the trail started to flatten out and open up more and more.  It wasn’t long until we were surrounded by large green meadows speckled with fields of late season flowers.  Once the trees parted, glorious picturesque views of Mount Rainier start to appear.  As we made our way over the top of the mountain pass I felt an anxiety thinking of the two snow fields ahead.


One of the two snowfields across Spray Park Trail


A valley view from Spray Park Trail

My husband and I carefully maneuvered our way down towards the snow fields through the rocky mountain pass trail.  Each step we took had the sound of walking on top of broken plates.  Once we reached the edge of the snowfields my anxieties were washed away by the sight of a well worn path through a fairly flat field of snow.  By the second snow field my confidence had grown allowing me to feel comfortable and safe as I made my way down.


Spray Park Trail 3

The view from the top of Spray Park Trail


A small creek across Spray Park Trail

We stopped for lunch at the top of the mountain pass taking in views as far as the eyes can see in every direction.  The sky was so clear that Mount Baker was in plain sight to the North with Mount Rainier hovering over us to the South.  Once we were well rested and refueled we were ready to start making our way down towards Cataract Valley.  A rocky trail turned to a dirt path and open skies turned to forested surroundings as we switched back and forth down into the valley.  A few times my husband and I exchanged jokes about passing up the camp because the descent seemed to continue on and on.


A small mushroom near Cataract Valley backpackers campground

After around five hours of trekking along Spray Park Trail, we had finally made it to the Cataract Valley backpackers camp.  After checking out all of the sites, and a small tip from a group of backpackers we met at the mountain pass, we decided Site 6 would be our home for the evening.  We spent some time resting on the rocks above camp listening to the pikas warn their friends of our arrival.  As the sun started to dip below the mountains, we decided it was time to set up camp and get dinner started. Once twilight made its way to camp we found comfort in our tents for the night.  After a little paranoia caused by curious mice just outside our tents, we fell fast asleep to the faint sound of barking pikas and nearby creek.


A black bear near our campground at Cataract Valley

The next morning began with the usual camp routine.  As we cleaned our dishes from breakfast, my husband noticed something rustling in the bushes near the rocks where we were resting the day before.  As soon as I looked up I knew immediately that it was a black bear – and it seemed to be coming right for our camp.  I instantly remembered to “make myself large” and I yelled “Hey bear!”  It stopped moving towards us and started to slowly make its way up the rock valley eating berries at every opportunity and turning over logs.  A few moments later we heard more rustling in the bushes and learned that the bear was not alone – she had two bear cubs following her!  They followed their mothers path a little more slowly also enjoying sweet huckleberries along the way.  The family of bears made their way out of sight leaving us with only a few photos and the memories of their visit.


Two black bear cubs near our campground at Cataract Valley

Still excited from our morning visitors, we packed up camp and began to prepare for another day of hiking.  Reluctantly, we put our packs back on our now sore bodies from the previous days’ hike.  Although our muscles ached, we were ready for the challenge of trekking back up Spray Park Trail.  The familiarity of the trail gave me a sense of comfort as we hiked back towards the trailhead.  The first few miles are strenuous heading back up towards the mountain pass but we were rewarded with another cloudless day and abundant views of Mount Rainier.


Another view of Mount Rainier from the trail




The anxieties I faced the day before had turned into excitement as we crossed snowfields and rocky terrain once again back over the mountain pass.  We took several small breaks along the way making sure to take lots of photographs.  We enjoyed the ease of the downhill for the last few miles before having to make the last push up towards Mowich Lake.  After losing the weight of our packs, we enjoyed a moment watching the stillness of the lake.


Mowich Lake, Mount Rainier National Park