If you are looking for one of the best hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, the Naches Peak Loop Trail is short, family-friendly, and moderate in difficulty. In distance, the round-trip is 3.5 miles with an elevation gain of 500 feet. With outstanding views of Mount Rainier the whole hike, this adventure is sure to please everyone.
Walk through the hillside above the valley, pausing for views of the lake below. Hike through grassy meadows filled with seasonal wildflowers. All while enjoying up-close views of the towering Mount Rainier.
In season, you may even enjoy picking a handful of huckleberries. In the fall, it’s a colorful celebration to behold starting in September and lasting till the snow falls. Whenever you visit you will enjoy outstanding vistas and a fun hike.
About The Naches Peak Loop Trail: Fast Facts
- Location: Mount Rainier National Park
- Length: 3.29mi (AllTrails),3.0mi (WTA)
- Elevation Change: 636.48ft (AllTrails), 600ft (WTA)
- Highest Point: 5850ft (per the Washington Trails Association)
- Type of Hike: Loop
Naches Peak Loop Trail History
Naches Peak Loop Trail is a part of the Naches Trail, a 12.26-mile-long trail from Western Washington to Eastern Washington state through the Naches Pass. Naches Peak Loop trail was originally used by wagon trains in the mid-1800s. Naches Peak Loop trail intersects the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail extending from Mexico to Canada.
Before Europeans arrived, this area was home to many indigenous people. The National Park Service contracted with Washington State University in 1963 to study the history of Native American tribes in the Mount Rainier Park. Their study found evidence of pre-historic humans inhabiting the area from 8,000 to 4,500 BCE.
After that time period, no continuous permanent habitation was discovered. Native American tribes used the park for hunting, gathering, and spirit quests. The park was divided between five tribes along the watershed boundaries as outlined in treaties between the tribes and the USA dated 1854 and 1855.
Congress passed a bill establishing Mount Rainier National Park in 1899 making it the fifth national park and the first national forest. The bill was signed into law by President William Mckinley after he received assurance the land was unsuitable for either farming or mining and the government would not be required to appropriate funds for its management.
The park opened in 1931 with a small visitor’s center and one road. The following years saw much work in the park from the CCC, building campgrounds, trails, and facilities such as boat launches, picnic tables, pavilions, and restrooms. Locals and tourists alike began frequenting the park regularly.
Since its inception, Mount Rainier National Park draws an average of 2 million visitors a year making it one of our nation’s most beloved parks. In 1997, the entire park was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its consistently high standards of park design and preservation.
Getting to the Trail
Drive State Highway 410 (Chinook Pass Highway) to Lake Tipsoo parking area, 0.5 miles west of Chinook Pass. Facilities are available in the parking area.
Arrive early to ensure parking at this seasonally busy recreational area. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking and entry.
PARK FACILITIES AND REGULATIONS
Mount Rainier National Park is a designated wilderness area and as such, has a list of items and activities prohibited on the trails and in the backcountry of the park. Please note the following prohibitions:
- Fire – white-gas, iso-butane cartridge, or alcohol stoves are allowed. No bio-fuel fires utilizing woods, sticks, pinecones, weeds, etc. allowed
- Use of firearms
- Bows/arrows or slingshots
- Destroying or disturbing any natural, cultural, or archeological feature
- Feeding, disturbing, or hunting wildlife
- Short-cutting the switchbacks on any trail
- Polluting or contaminating any water source (with soap or human waste, etc.)
- Camping within 100 feet of water (except in designated campgrounds)
- Leaving trash in pit toilets or elsewhere in the wilderness
Also please note the following:
- ALL trash must be packed out
- Anyone remaining overnight must have a wilderness permit or a climbing pass
- Camp only at the site designated on your permit and only on the date allowed
- Be advised party size limitations and backcountry regulations are strictly enforced.
Any activity which damages or disturbs the natural resources of Mount Ranier National Park is prohibited. Stay on the trail to avoid damaging the fragile vegetation. Follow the above regulations, including the Leave No Trace principles, and maximize your efforts to minimize damage. You will be rewarded with a memorable wilderness experience and know you are preserving a similar experience for generations yet to come. Mount Rainier is a timeless national treasure.
Navigating Naches Peak Loop Trail
This hike follows the Pacific Crest Trail on the northern flank of Naches Peak and the Naches Peak Loop[ Trail along the southern flank. Good advice for hiking this trail is to hike the trail clockwise. When traveling in that direction, awesome views of Mount Rainier are in front of you the whole time instead of behind your back.
The Naches Peak Loop Trail begins at Tipsoo Lake and covers 3.5 miles, round-trip. With an elevation gain of 500 feet, this easy hike can be completed in just two hours. The trailhead begins at the Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial on the east side of Mount Rainier. The trail flows in a circle around the side of Naches Peak until you loop back to the east side of Naches Peak again.
Beginning the trail at Tipsoo Lake ascend a gentle slope revealing a view of the valley below. At peak times of the year, this valley is wildflower heaven displaying a flower festival of blue lupine, white bistort, and bright magenta paintbrush. Lingering longer into the season are mountain daisies and pearly everlastings which bloom through November at low mountain elevations.
As the trail contours Naches Peak it skirts an unnamed lake-let, a good place to sit and linger with your toes in the chilly water. Nearby you will see a group of rocky outcroppings, seemingly perfect for an Instagram-worthy shot, but stick to the trail to avoid damage to the fragile vegetation. The view of the lake is lovely.
As the loop trail continues, you come to a viewpoint of Dewey Lake, 600 feet below. The smooth rock bench here invites you to linger longer but it is a popular spot with hikers so you may have to share. Just after the Dewey Lake viewpoint, the Pacific Coast Trail intersects with the Naches Peak Loop Trail. Stay to the right and follow the trail around the southern side of Naches Peak, Here you will cross an alpine meadow and enjoy outstanding views of Mount Rainier.
This is a very picturesque spot with many photos online of this very view. No wonder! Take a few fantastic photos here and continue on the trail back to the Lake Tipsoo parking lot where you began. If you do not have two hours for the Naches Peak Loop Trail hike, you can take the half mile nature walk at Tipsoo Lake, a picturesque tarn shaped by glaciers.
Whether you hike the loop trail or take the nature walk, be sure to visit the Stephen T. Mather memorial at the upper end of the picnic area at Tipsoo Lake. Mather first visited the area in the early 1900s. Falling in love with the area, he became involved with efforts to make Mount Rainier a national park. Mather was named the first park director in 1917. The Mathers Memorial Parkway ( a section of State Route 410) is named in his honor as well.
For more incredible hikes in Mount Rainier, check out our guide to Finding the 10 Best Hikes In Mount Rainier National Park.
If you’re planning a trip to Mount Rainier and are looking for a great place to stay, look no further than The 6 Best Hotels Near Mt Rainier National Park: Our Picks.
Mount Rainier was not the mountain’s original name. Native American tribes called the mountain Tacoma or Tahoma, according to their dialect, meaning “the source of nourishment from the many streams coming from the slopes”. Captain George Vancouver sailed into the Puget Sound in 1792 and upon seeing the mountain named after his friend Peter Rainier who served as a Royal Navy officer in the Revolutionary War.
Mount Rainier became a National Park in 1899, a full 17 years before the United States even had a park service. John Muir, the famous naturalist, and Bailey Willis, a US geological survey worker, led the efforts to declare Mount Rainier a national park because of the natural beauty of the area.
The longevity of Mount Rainier National Park reflects America’s evolving relationship with the environment. During the early years, park administrators were concerned with attracting visitors before protecting the natural resources. Hotels were built in alpine meadows and forests were cleared to build roads. Treatment of the land as a natural resource to be protected supports the mission of the park service today. Mount Rainier has been honored for its dedication to preserving the land and its inhabitants.
The park is home to over 280 species of wildlife. Deer, marmots, pikas, jays, and much more call the park home. The tireless efforts of the dedicated park rangers and volunteers ensure the wildlife will continue to thrive for years to come. Making Mount Rainier National Park a national treasure to be enjoyed and shared by all. Be sure to add a visit to your bucket list.
Next, check out the other top hikes in Mount Rainier National Park outside the Naches Peak Loop Trail by following the links below: