Spray Park Trail is in the Mount Rainier National Park. It is hiking of 6-8 miles with around 2000 feet of elevation gain. To get to the trailhead, one first drive on a long gravel road, which is also adventurous by itself. Spray Park Trail is one of the popular summer destinations in Washington. It is not far from the Seattle area, so many Seattle residents can get to it on foot.
Summer weekends are jam-packed here, so you may not find solitude. The crowds are, however, manageable, unlike the multitude at Mount Rainier. Stunning views are plenty once you move outside of the woods. Hikers who get here in late July or early August get to experience a hike through lovely wildflowers.
Those who come towards the end of summer see lots of blueberries. The blueberry bushes are bright red in September. There are also incredible waterfalls, shady woodlands, rushing creeks, and, of course, the view of Mount Rainier.
There is a campground at Mowich Lake right at the trailhead where backpackers can withdraw to have quiet moments in summer. Hiking Spray Park is not for the faint-hearted. It is literally ‘an uphill task.’ On your way back, you still have to climb an uphill towards the end.
While the trail starts easy, it gets more challenging the more you go.
To see a further breakdown of the Spray Park trail, please visit the official page for the Washington Trails Association. Link to the relevant page on wta.org for the hike.
Spray Park Trail History
Mount Rainier National Park, where Spray Park is situated, was established in 1899. That was 17 years before National Park Service was formed. John Muir, a conservationist, relentlessly campaigned to ensure this unique place achieved a park status so that its amazing forests and glaciers could be saved from the dangers of mineral extraction and logging.
Mount Rainier National Park was originally inhabited by the Cowlitz Nisqually, Puyallup, Yakahama, Muckleshoot, and Squaxin tribes. These tribes always preserved the park, only taking from it the resources they needed for their day-to-day needs.
Mount Rainier, the main center of attraction, is a volcanic mountain said to have last erupted 1000 years ago.
The first trip to the mountain by non-natives was made towards the end of the 18th century by European mount climbers determined to get to the top of the mountain.
Captain George Vancouver, a British explorer, was in the eager group. He later named the mountain after Rear Admiral Peter Rainer of the British Royal Navy, his close friend. That was in 1792.
However, other Americans who later settled around the region called it Mount Tacoma.
Getting to the Trail
The Spray Park is at Mowich Lake in one of the remote corners of the northwest sides of Rainier National Park. To get to the trail, drive east on Highway 410, heading to Mount Rainier. On reaching between Enumclaw and Bonney Lake, but before reaching the town of Buckley, you should take the right turn (south). This is on Highway 165 and heads to Carbonado and Wilkeson.
The road will become a fork when you get to the Southside of the small town of Carbonado. Please do not take the left road because it heads to the Carbon River Ranger Station. You should travel the right road, which goes towards Mowich Lake. On entering the park, you first have to drive on a gravel road for miles. At the end of it, you will arrive at Mowich Lake where the trailhead is.
If you do not have a parking pass already, do not forget to stop at the Paul Peak Trailhead on your way to purchase one. Anyway, at Mowich Lake, walk past the restrooms, and you will see many hikers traveling left along the lake towards Tolmie Peak, which is another trail in the area. You should head right where you see the pit latrines. You will get to a campground. Before you even get to it, you will see a signboard pointing right to Spray Park Trail.
Park Facilities and Regulations
Spray Park Trail is only reachable when the Mowich Lake road is open. This is usually from July to mid-October. One pays $30 to enter Mount Rainier National Park. Alternatively, one only needs to display an America the Beautiful Pass to enter.
There are no facilities worth mentioning at Mowich Lake, save for a pit latrine. This place is for “survivors.” You should bring your own food and water. You should buy food and other stuff while in Carbonado town. There are ice cream, pizzas, etc.
You better get here very early on weekends to secure a slot for your car; the parking is small. But you can park along one side of the road if you miss a slot in the parking lot. It is allowed, although it is dusty. However, the weekdays are less busy.
Again, the area is known to have poor cell phone service, so do not depend on your cell phone in case of emergency.
If you are coming between July and August, find ways to protect yourself from mosquitoes and biting flies because they can be a nuisance. There can be patches of snow and ice along the trails, depending on the season. This calls for good shoes.
Dogs are not allowed on any trail in the Mount Rainier National Park. You are urged to stay on the Spray Park Trail to protect the fragile wildflower meadows. Do not go astray.
Navigating the Spray Park Trail
1 Popular Trail For Starters
Spray Park Trail starts on the Wonderland Trail, which is the 93-mile trail that goes around Mount Rainier. The Spray Park Trail first takes you down into the forest. The common woods include Douglas fir, silver fir, noble fir, and western red cedar.
Before you reach half a mile, you will cross a log bridge and get to a trail junction. A sign there says it’s 2.8 miles to Spray Park. The Wonderland trail still continues to the right. You should head left and hike towards Spray Park.
The trail continues through the cool forest. You get to see lush lovage, Mertensia, monkshood, corydalis, and groundsel. You will soon come to a short spur trail where there is a mandatory stop to have a lovely view of Mount Rainier’s north slopes. This is the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint.
Two miles into the trail, one passes a side trail for Eagle’s Roost camp. The camp is popular with backpackers who love backcountry camping. After trekking for a while from the camp, there is yet another trail junction.
There is a short trail from there leading to the massive, breathtaking Spray Falls, which is one of the most beautiful features in Mount Rainier National Park. It is the Spray Creek.
If you get there in the season when the water level is down, you may cross the creek to get a better view of the fall from the other point. If that is not possible, stay put and watch the waters tumble down. It is a wide and steep 350-ft waterfall.
It is better to watch the fall in the evening; it is glorious at sunset. For that reason, you may want to postpone visiting here until on your way from Spray Park.
Once you have had enough of viewing and taking pictures (you should have a camera), return to the main trail and head right. You climb up a series of switchbacks (steep) for two miles. This is through a forested hillside heading to Spray Park.
After one mile past the Spray Falls and three miles from the trailhead, you will come out of the forest to the lovely sight of wildflowers and berry bushes. Right before you will be the fabulous view of Mount Rainier. This is the Spray Park.
The type of wildflowers that you see depends on the time you visit. Avalanche lily is just one type of wildflowers you get to see if it is in season. This particular wildflower springs forth soon after the snowing and lasts for only a week, creating a lovely bed of flowers across the entire meadow.
The trail continues through Spray Park, climbing gently through the berry bushes and the wildflowers. There are also trees in between. You can spot a bear somewhere. Spray Park is safe, but you better stay alert because bears are sometimes unpredictable.
There is no official turnaround point on the Spray Park Trail. It goes on and on, and soon becomes the Mother Mountain Loop. Therefore, you should decide where to turn back. After wandering for about half a mile in Spray Park, you should find a place to sit and rest while taking some snacks, then return towards the trailhead. Spray Park is an excellent place for a picnic.
An Alternative Trail for the Experienced Hikers
Another option to navigate the Spray Park Trail is to make a loop of it through Knapsack Pass. It is a 6-mile round trip heading to the lower meadows around Spray Park.
To have expansive mountain views, you should continue to the trail’s high point.
Mt Rainier is known for its snowcapped summit. It is also snowed on its high sides. You can see rocks and glaciers on the mountain.
It rises above a meadow in Spray Park. The trees around the place are evergreen, regardless of what season you go hiking there. The hillside is forested, so it is a spectacular view.