There was one more hike I had time to take at Mt. Rainier, the Comet Falls Trail. I also wanted to see Van Trump Park, since my dad had spoken of it so often and I wasn’t sure I’d ever been that far. Van Trump Park is on the same trail, past the falls, just a lot farther.
My last hike to the falls was when we had a family reunion to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary in 1992. My aunt and uncle and my dad and I took this hike, and all I remember about going up was that it lasted forever. I’ll tell you about the going down later.
The trail starts below Christine Falls, and after about the first .3 miles it crosses the bridge there that is visible from the road.
Looking up from the bridge.
It was extremely strenuous and very steep. Keep in mind that I’d just done two major hikes the previous two days, so I wasn’t exactly pain-free at this point.
We gained 1000 feet in just the first mile.
Bruce’s sister, Cheryl, joined us on this one.
I saw wildflowers on this hike that I hadn’t seen around Paradise.
It was a nice forest trail, just like I remembered, with spots of sunshine where we could get all hot and sweaty.
It was gorgeous, but the bugs were fierce. But I had bug repellant.
The trail had every kind of rough condition: stairs, rocks, roots, mud, and everything that required constant vigilance.
I’m not sure how long it took to get to this view, but it was good to see it. Bruce told us stories of the times he had taken this trail, even camping up there in the winter. He estimated 30- 35 times doing that trail, if you counted all the times they did it as kids.
Photos don’t reflect how steep the trail was.
I’d never seen a tiger lily before at the park.
We had frequent views of Van Trump Creek (I think) coming down from the falls.
“Whale rock.” A good place to rest.
A log bridge, not too far from the falls. “Far” being a relative term.
View from that bridge of Bloucher Falls.
Finally, after a couple of hours or more of that trail, the view of Comet Falls!
It was higher than I remembered, and had more water than the last time I’d seen it. Quite spectacular! The main part of the falls is about 320 feet long.
We stopped at the first good viewpoint and had some snacks, then proceeded a bit farther where we could cool off in the spray.
Bruce has a way of making things sound easier than they are. He said Van Trump Park was only a bit farther. As it turned out, the hike to Comet Falls was about two-thirds of the trip, and it was two more miles to Van Trump Park. We also gained another 11oo feet of elevation.
I was getting a bit more tired and didn’t take as many pictures on the next stretch. But we all managed to get the whole way there.
If you click on this one, there’s Mt. St. Helens again. So I saw these other mountains three days in a row!
We’d come 2.5 miles by this time. There were a couple of patches of snow by the side of the trail, handy for stuffing down my neck and under my hat.
And yet another view of Mt. Adams! Looking over the Tatoosh Range one more time.
The view of Mt. Rainier is very different from here, farther west from Paradise.
Using the telephoto setting.
A place to rest near the camping area close to the end of the maintained trail. “Cross-county camping opportunities exist for skilled minimum impact backpackers who seek a primitive experience.”
Van Trump Park is a gorgeous sub-alpine meadow.
I saw more bear grass there than I had seen anywhere else up to that point.
There were mountain goat on that rocky patch, but it was so far away we could only see them with binoculars. They’re frequently seen in this area.
There is a trail that goes farther, but it’s not a maintained trail, it’s more like a footpath. We all agreed that we had gone far enough, and being in the sun wasn’t appealing. We stayed up here for about 20 minutes, enjoying the view and the rest, but it was around 3:30 by then and time to start down.
Yellow paintbrush with heather.
It was a really long hard slog back, about three hours total without stopping. But I recalled the last time I’d done it. My dad had taken his “after-lunch pill” at Comet Falls, not really knowing what it was for, just that it was one he had to take. It turned out that it was one that he took to help him rest for a while. Coming down that time took forever, because he basically lost strength in his legs and had to lean on my arm taking baby steps all the way. By the time we got down (of course, I knew that it would never, ever end) the meds had worn off and he was fine. But it wasn’t a good experience. Compared to that, coming down this time was just hot, exhausting, and lengthy. I was really glad to have replaced that memory with one that was less stressful. At least this time I knew I would eventually reach the trail head.
Back across the bridge.
And finally, a couple of hours later, back to the bridge over Christine Falls.
Then entire hike took us ab0ut 8 hours, 5 up and 3 down. Andrea’s fitness tracker said we’d gone about 8 miles round trip, although the sign didn’t say it was that far.
I enjoyed this hike a lot, but if I were pressed for time, I probably would skip it in favor of another one. It was just really really difficult without the views of the mountain along the way. In retrospect, Pinnacle Peak up to the saddle was more fun. It just depends on whether you want to see a really big waterfall or more mountain views.
Here’s a link to someone else’s trail photos and descriptions. I love comparing other people’s hiking photos because the weather conditions make the light different and the time of year changes things, too.
And here’s a really great map. I like it because you can zoom in and see how the trail goes up so far and zoom out to see where this trail actually is positioned on the mountain:
When I got back to the hotel for dinner, I could barely even move. A short flight of steps up to my room seemed almost impossible. And yet, I only got one small blister, and no injuries, so I consider the entire three days an enormous success!
I hope you enjoyed my three Mt. Rainier hikes for 2014!