Get Your Hike On
Another 5 Western Washington Hikes
with Taylor Shimizu

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about my hiking chronicles, but here’s another five that were some fun trails, not too far from I-90 and close near Mt. Rainier.  If you’re looking for something not too crowded and a little off the beaten path these hikes are perfect. Remember to pack enough in your day pack: water, bug spray, sunglasses, sunscreen, towel, lunch, snacks, extra socks, a hammock, and a light jacket is usually my bag!

Enjoy the trails – the nature, the sounds of the birds and most of all, getting away from the city technology. Enjoy the company of the people you’re hiking with and live in the moment!


Hike 5: Otter Falls – Big Creek via Snoqualmie Lake Trailhead (13 miles)

If you are looking to ease your way back into hiking this is the trail for you. It’s a nice little walk in the forest with very little elevation gain.  Think nature walk.  We knew it was going to be a nice day so we thought why not go see some waterfalls!  We did not take pictures of the WTA trail report; that would come back and bite us in the end.

This trail head begins at the Snoqualmie Lake Trailhead; pass all the people at Mailbox Peak and Granite Creek and follow the road until it ends and you can’t go any farther. The parking lot isn’t big so go early in the morning to secure your spot.

Start off on the trail, past some good camping sites near Taylor Creek and just continue following the trail that winds around Taylor Creek until you come to a sign that says ‘OTTER FALLS This Way’.

Unfortunately we didn’t read the trail report thoroughly enough to recognize where this sign would be so we continued past it. We did however climb over a bridge, some creeks, big rocks, and drainage pipes and found a big paved bridge with Big Creek Falls; a smaller waterfall, but still a pretty one nonetheless. We continued down the trail to a fork where you could go a couple miles in each direction to 3 different alpine lakes! Definitely want to go back and see these lakes, but we had to get back so we turned around.

On our way back is when we finally saw the sign to Otter Falls! Total round trip to the fork of lakes and back was 13 miles! Definitely a must do for cool waterfalls, alpine lakes, great camping, and for a pretty leisure walk!


Hike 6: Silver Peak (8 miles)

This day was a beautiful 85 degrees out so we decided to go out and adventure to the Snoqualmie Pass area. We took exit 52 to Hyak and went up towards the Mt Catherine/Silver Peak trailhead. Problem was, there was still a good two feet of snow along the trail, two miles before the actual trailhead.  Luckily we had a 4Runner and were able to get up another half a mile before parking along the side of the road.  We had a nice snowy hike just to get to the trailhead. Spikes, snowshoes and poles were definitely needed! After about 1.5 miles through lots of snow, you eventually are connected with the Pacific Crest Trail. We sort of went the wrong way but ended up finding the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen!  You can see the entire cascade mountain range and we had it all to ourselves. 

Pro Tip: Bring a pre-packaged/homemade lunch to eat at your final destination and also a towel/blanket especially if there’s still snow! 

On the way back down the mountain we ran into a car that was stuck in the snow blocking the entire road down. We took our 4Runner and pushed it out of the snow. If you are driving to trailheads, beware of snow levels and traction for your car; always park on the side so other cars can get around you. It was a gorgeous day of sun, snow and mountains.  


Hike 7: Lake Eleanor to Grand Park – Mt Rainier National Park (10 miles)

One of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on!  Living here my entire life, I’ve never even gone close to Mt. Rainier National Park let alone the mountain itself. The directions to this hike actually are pretty easy: take SR 410 towards Enumclaw, stay there for like 25 miles, take a right and follow whatever that road is for another 9 miles, past Huckleberry Creek and a little bridge. Pass Eleanor Creek and just park somewhere on the side.

You DO NOT need any pass of any kind for this hike! And off you go toward Eleanor Creek – you reach the National Park sign about half a mile in, then it’s a steady climb between forest and views of the canyon of mountains.  The trail is in pretty good condition but be warned, lots of wildlife around the area… I mean you are in a national park.

There’s elk crossings everywhere closer towards the meadows. You’ll come across lots of elk, coyote, deer, or bear poop and tracks along the way. Once you reach Lake Eleanor most hikers will take a dip if it’s a nice sunny day or eat lunch. It’s a nice photo op, but keep moving towards Grand Park for the most spectacular views. Another couple miles through these beautiful open meadows, that are just like walking through a movie set, and then finally there she is – the gorgeous Mt. Rainier.

The trail will continue forward towards the mountain, but we veered off to the left and found the most epic picnic lunch spot ever and another sweeping view of Rainier.

Pro tip: Bring a selfie stick or a pop-it for your phone so you can take some beautiful photos!


Hike 8: Carbon River Trail – Mt Rainier National Park (5 miles)

This pretty easy and hike (nature walk) is located right past the Carbon River Ranger Station inside Mt. Rainier National Park. You do need a National Parks pass for this hike. There are many trails around the area so be mindful of where you are going.

Pro tip: Screenshot all the directions from the Washington Trails Association website because you likely won’t have service. You’ll be able to reference the screenshots later on the hike.

There’s a sign that says Carbon River Trail which we followed – the hike (more like nature walk) was super easy; more like a morning stroll.  We originally intended to find Florence Peak, which was actually before the trailhead, so be sure you find which trail you’re really looking for.  After about 3 miles of flat trail through the forest there will be a bend in the road heading right towards Green Lake or left towards Chenius Falls. Green Lake is another 3.5 miles, while Chenius Falls is just 3/4 of a mile in the opposite direction. 

If you’re looking for a great camp ground and some fun mountain biking trails this might be the way to go; otherwise it’s a nice nature walk without a huge elevation gain.


Hike 9: Mirror Lake (5 miles)

A great little hike right off I-90 exit 62 Stampede Pass! Follow the road and come to a lower parking lot.

Pro tip: Park in the lower parking lot and hike about a half mile up towards the upper lot. The path to the upper lots has a ton of big, sharp rocks that most cars will not get through.

The trail is marked with a little rock pile and sign above.  Follow the trail through the forest, across a couple streams and reach Cottonwood Lake – a good little stopping spot for some.  Continue another mile up a much steeper climb and reach Mirror Lake.  You can access Mirror Lake on the other side via the Pacific Crest Trail.  Head a little past the lake and you can see how the trail winds down and around towards the PCT and towards Silver Peak along the ridgeline. 

A short and easy hike with beautiful views!


Another 5 hikes in the books and another 11 to go to get to my goal of 20 hikes! It’s summer time so I need to get as many in as I can. I’m glad this time around I was able to get away from just Snoqualmie Pass. There are so many beautiful trails to mountains and lakes near Rainier National Park and even more east. I can’t wait to explore more.  Until next time!

This is part of a series on hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Read the entire series here.

Taylor Shimizu
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