Rampart Ridge Trail, also known as The Ramparts, is a busy 7.5 KM loop trail near Longmire in Washington. Hikers and snowshoeing fans troop to the trail mainly between June and October.
It is considered a moderate trail and features a river. Whatever difficulties one may experience while ascending this steep trail are generously compensated by the superb panoramic views once at the top. If it’s a clear day, Mount Rainier can be seen, as well as Iron Mountain, Eagle Peak, Nisqually River Valley, Kautz Creek, and the Longmire area.
Because it’s steep, not so many people are eager to hike on it; hence you don’t get to see the large crowds that turn up for a hike on plain, easy trails. This makes Rampart Ridge trail the go-to trail when looking for some quiet and solitude.
Other features along the trail are birding, a waterfall, a river, and wildlife. The ridge has an elevation of 4,114 feet on the higher side and 2,838 feet on the lower side. The elevation range stands at 1,276 feet.
To see a further breakdown of the Rampart Ridge trail, please visit the official page for the Washington Trails Association. Link to the relevant page on wta.org for the hike.
The Rampart Ridge Trail History
Rampart Ridge Trail is a formation of jagged rocks that were products of ancient lava flows from the summit of Mount Rainier. It is estimated the last lava flow happened 1000 years ago.
Getting to the Rampart Ridge Trail
From SR-7 of Elbe, you turn east to SR-706. Both the places are better known as National Park Highway, which goes to the Mount Rainier National Park via the Nisqually Entrance. After paying the entry fee for the national park, drive for 6.5 miles. The next destination is Longmire, which stands at 2,750 feet.
From here, you can access the trail in two ways:
It is the most common way to the Rampart Ridge trail. From across the road through the National Park Inn in Longmire, a visitor heading to this trail travels for about 0.24 miles on the west end of the Trail of Shadows in the anticlockwise direction, and then turns right (westward) to start ascending the steep ridge.
Along the way are giant trees, swamps, horsetail, and skunk cabbages.
Another means to the Rampart Ridge trail is by going clockwise on the Trail of Shadows. This is the shorter route because you get to walk .4 miles less, but it is not the preferred route.
In either of the routes, there are direction signs to guide you to the trail.
Park Facilities and Regulations (330)
Rampart Ridge trail is within Mount Rainier National Park, which charges an entry fee per vehicle or motorcycle. The visitors entering on foot, bike, or horse are charged per head. Some visitors do not have to pay at the entrance because they have an active annual pass that allows them to visit parks freely.
In winter, the drivers to the park must carry with them snow chains or traction devices. This applies even to those with 4-wheel or all-wheel vehicles. The visitors heading past Longmire must install the 4-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle. It is recommended that you check current trail conditions before you head out because wooden footbridges are usually washed away in winter. Other weather conditions can also affect the trail, so one should not assume things.
It is best to carry along spikes or snowshoes because the trail gets slick in some places after the first mile. Having poles can also be helpful. The Longmire Visitor complex where the parking is situated gets overcrowded, so you better arrive early to secure parking. If you do not enjoy hiking with large crowds, the more the reason you should arrive early.
Coming in the morning may also enable one to see the lovely Cascade Fox in the meadows near the Trail of Shadows. The complex has restrooms, a hotel museum, and a collection of interesting historical jargon about the park.
Officially there is no area designated for camping along the trail or on top of the Rampart Ridge. It is not the best place one would choose for camping. However, those who wish to camp must get permits. The camping should not be within 100 feet of water.
Fires are not allowed, but you can use a stove. Pets are not permitted on the trails, so do not come with the dog. Those hoping to find fishing sites will also be disappointed because no fishing is available on Rampart Ridge.
The water is untreated so treat if you must drink it. Better still, come with plenty of your water. However, not too much water; the trail is steep, yes, but much of the trail is shaded by the huge forest trees, so hikers are shielded from the intense, dehydrating heat on a sunny day.
Navigating the Rampart Ridge Trail
You can hike the loop in either direction, but the right way to hike Rampart Ridge Trail with ease is to go in the clockwise direction. The clockwise hiking also put Mount Rainier in your view at some point more time.
It is about a 2.3 miles walk to the top, which takes an average of 1¼ hours. That is about 5000 steps. The round trip, to the end of the trail and back, takes about 2.5 hours.
The hike starts steeply, heading through a thick forest. The common trees hikers get to see are Western cedar and Douglas fir. Pheasants Tall Grass is also plenty. Also, lovely sights of Goatsbeard lichen clinging to the tree branches greet the eyes.
After the first mile, the trail gets more steep and narrow. Don’t move too fast. It’s more tiring. Take your time. Look around at the jungle and take photos. Along the way, you will see an interesting tree that seems to be growing backward into the ground.
Meanwhile, mineral springs bubble right off the trail. The signages are there to give information about the trees. Towards the top at 1.2 miles, one sees a junction of trails. The trail to your right goes to Longmire Building Complex where you came from.
At 1.8 miles, there is a spot one can view the Nisqually River Valley. The booming of the grouse and the tapping sounds of woodpeckers fill the ears. You can also occasionally see or meet a deer. Lichens and mosses nicely cling to trees.
Another viewpoint lets you catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier, but this depends on how clear the day is. If it’s foggy, there is little to discern no matter how keenly you watch. You can also see the peak of Mount Rainier when atop the ridge.
At the top, the trail intersects the Wonderland trail. From there, you turn right, then hike back on the back of The Ramparts to Longmire to complete the loop, but this time on Wonderland Trail. The journey back is approximately 1.3 miles.
Along the way back, one sees the peaks of Iron Mountain and the Cougar Rock in the distance. But close within along the way are the broadleaf lupine and Magenta Paintbrush. Then you right back in the dense forest. There are creeks and birds to see as well. And the deer.
The trail is also wider on your descend. The trees get taller the more you go down. Some hikers who have completed the Rampart Ridge insist that the journey back is better than the first up to the top, in terms of the features to view. Towards the bottom, the trail crosses the Paradise – Longmire Road and runs parallel to it up to the Wonderland trail end, which is near the Longmire Museum.
The Wonderland Trail goes for over 93 miles around Mount Rainier, so it is worth hiking, but that’s for another day.
Rampart Ridge Trail suits the hikers looking for a more challenging hike. Coming with kids may compound matters for you.
There are rare times you may need to have tick sprays. If you are a seasoned hiker, then you know wearing sturdy shoes is essential for this type of hiking. Get for yourself poles for support. Do not forget to carry your camera. You cannot afford to take such a memorable trip minus a camera in this social media generation.
When you go hiking, stick to hiking. Any other good fun concept you might have up your sleeves should wait for another time or place.
Why? Because there are activities that are not permitted on any trail within the Mount Rainier National Park. While you can use a stove, no other fire is allowed. You should also not ride a bicycle on the trails. Obviously, this can disturb or inconvenience other hikers.
The use of firearms, arrows/bows, slingshots are also not permitted. While hiking, you are likely to meet deer and other animals. Please do not feed or disturb them. Hunting them is also unlawful.
When hiking, also stick to the trail; do not look for shortcuts. First, you can get lost. Secondly, trampling on the grass away from the trail is considered part of disturbing the wildlife. Thirdly, sticking to the trail is for your own safety.