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Spray Park Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Avalanche lilies and Mother Mountain, Spray Park (bobcat)
Mt. Rainier from the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint (bobcat)
Hoary marmot munching on lupine, Spray Park (bobcat)
Hessong Rock from Spray Park (bobcat)
Bird's-beak lousewort (Pedicularis ornithorhyncha), Spray Park (bobcat)
Spray Park Trail shown in red (bobcat)
  • Start point: Mowich Lake Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Mist Park Viewpoint
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2610 feet
  • High Point: 6,340 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-summer to early Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes (designated campsites)
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

The Spray Park hike is one of the most popular excursions at Mount Rainier, being a good day hike distance from the Seattle area. Thus, you will have to deal with large numbers of your fellow humans at almost any time of the summer if you want to experience the shady montane woodlands, rushing creeks, stunning waterfall, high alpine meadows, and expansive views of Rainier’s northwest slopes. One option for avoiding the crowds is to camp at the campground at the Mowich Lake Trailhead and start early; another is to make a loop of it on a use trail via Knapsack Pass (not described here and not for beginners). It is 6 miles round-trip to the lower meadows at Spray Park, but it is recommended that you continue to the high point on the trail for expansive views of the mountain's north side; those with less time may just want to do the 3.8 mile in and out to Spray Falls.

First, pay a visit to the pretty shores of Mowich Lake. Then, walk past the restrooms at the Mowich Lake Campground and find the Wonderland Trail leading down steps into woods of mountain hemlock, noble fir, silver fir, Douglas-fir, and western red-cedar. Cross a log footbridge and reach the Wonderland-Spray Park Trail Junction, where the sign says it’s 2.8 miles to Spray Park.

Go left here and make a level traverse in cool forest interspersed with lush thickets of monkshood, groundsel, mertensia, lovage, and corydalis. The trail, lined with false hellebore, false bugbane, and spiraea, drops and crosses Lee Creek on a footbridge. Look up across an expanse of fireweed to Fay Peak. Head down and cross another creek and then rise below a mossy talus slope with its own pika population. Blueberries are ripe for the plucking here in late summer. A spur leads right to the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint with vistas across the Spray Creek/North Mowich River valleys to the heavily glaciated west and north slopes of Mount Rainier. Undulate along a wooded slope and pass the junction with the trail leading down the slope to Eagle’s Roost Camp. Cross a mossy creek and reach the Spray Park-Spray Falls Trail Junction.

Go right here for 0.2 mile trip to Spray Falls (If you are here in the afternoon, it might be better to wait to visit on the return, as the sunset experience at the falls is highly recommended). Cross Grant Creek and admire its mossy boulders blooming with monkey flower. Then head across a scree slope and reach Spray Creek. You can look up here to get a partial view of this 350-foot veiled fall. For better views, you’ll have to cross the creek and the conditions for this will vary by season and year (In summer 2013, a two-trunked tree was across the creek just below the trail. This made for an easy scoot across, and then we followed a rough tread up on loose scree for a full view of the falls).

Back on the Spray Park Trail, head up a series of nine switchbacks. In places, stone slabs make steps in the trail. This is mostly silver fir forest with a carpet of bear-grass. After the last switchback, there’s a long traverse in subalpine woodland before you recross Grant Creek and enter Spray Park. Keep to the trail here as these much-abused meadows are under the process of restoration. Magenta paintbrush, subalpine lupine, lovage, partridge-foot, heather, heliotrope, subalpine daisy and both bird’s-foot and Mt. Rainier lousewort bloom here in profusion. Avalanche lilies bloom throughout the park although lower down they are done by mid-summer. Copses of subalpine fir and mountain hemlock set off the lush meadows. Switchback twice up a ridge and get a broad view on the left to Hessong Rock and Mt. Pleasant. The stepped trail continues up through meadows of paintbrush, lupine and desert parsley. To the right you will begin to get clear views of Mount Rainier, pointed Observation Rock, and Echo Point, with the large Russell Glacier spilling down above them and little Flett Glacier below Ptarmigan Ridge. Eventually reach a high bench which will bloom with avalanche lilies late into the summer. Go left from the main trail at the east end of this bench to get an expansive view down to Mist Park, the Cataract Creek valley and the crags of Mother Mountain (The unofficial trail above this dropoff leads to Knapsack Pass and thence to Mowich Lake). Head up a gully on the main trail to the highest point, where you get more expansive views.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $25 National Park 7-day pass
  • No dogs on trails
  • Keep on the trail in Spray Park
  • Designated campsites only
  • In summer, the biting flies at Spray Park can be a minor nuisance

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Spray Park Trail (Mt. Rainier National Park)
  • National Park Service: Mount Rainier
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Rainier Wonderland #269S
  • Green Trails Maps: Mount Rainier West #269
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Day Hiking: Mount Rainier by Dan Nelson & Alan Bauer
  • Hiking Waterfalls in Washington by Roddy Scheer with Adam Sawyer
  • Best Short Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics by E.M. Sterling & Ira Spring
  • Washington: The Creaky Knees Guide by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Day Hike! Mount Rainier by Ron C. Judd
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Seattle by Andrew Weber & Bryce Stevens
  • 50 Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park by Ira Spring & Harvey Manning
  • 50 Hikes in Washington by Kai Huschke
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Mount Rainier National Park by Heidi Schneider & Mary Skjelset
  • Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail by Bette Filley
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades by Joan Burton
  • Exploring Washington's Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.