Third Mt. Rainier Hike, Comet Falls and Van Trump Park

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.

IMG_4195My 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.

IMG_4196The trail starts below Christine Falls, and after about the first .3 miles it crosses the bridge there that is visible from the road.

IMG_4203Looking up from the bridge.

IMG_4212It 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.

IMG_4217Bruce’s sister, Cheryl, joined us on this one.

I saw wildflowers on this hike that I hadn’t seen around Paradise.

IMG_4223It was a nice forest trail, just like I remembered, with spots of sunshine where we could get all hot and sweaty.

IMG_4226It was gorgeous, but the bugs were fierce. But I had bug repellant.

IMG_4230The trail had every kind of rough condition: stairs, rocks, roots, mud, and everything that required constant vigilance.

IMG_4235I’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.
IMG_4242Photos don’t reflect how steep the trail was.

IMG_4244I’d never seen a tiger lily before at the park.

IMG_4247We had frequent views of Van Trump Creek (I think)  coming down from the falls.

IMG_4250“Whale rock.” A good place to rest.

IMG_4265A log bridge, not too far from the falls. “Far” being a relative term.

IMG_4260View from that bridge of Bloucher Falls.

IMG_4278Finally, after a couple of hours or more of that trail, the view of Comet Falls!

IMG_4274It 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.

IMG_4283We stopped at the first good viewpoint and had some snacks, then proceeded a bit farther where we could cool off in the spray.

IMG_4287 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.

IMG_4292I 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.

IMG_4293Bear grass.

IMG_4295If you click on this one, there’s Mt. St. Helens again. So I saw these other mountains three days in a row!

IMG_4296Avalanche lily.

IMG_4302We’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.


IMG_4308And yet another view of Mt. Adams! Looking over the Tatoosh Range one more time.

IMG_4312The view of Mt. Rainier is very different from here, farther west from Paradise.

IMG_4318Using the telephoto setting.

IMG_4320A 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.”

IMG_4321Van Trump Park is a gorgeous sub-alpine meadow.

IMG_4337I saw more bear grass there than I had seen anywhere else up to that point.



IMG_4347There 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.

IMG_4354There 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.


IMG_4369Yellow paintbrush with heather.

IMG_4371It 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.

IMG_4373Back across the bridge.

IMG_4198And finally, a couple of hours later, back to the bridge over Christine Falls.

IMG_4375Then 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!




22 responses to “Third Mt. Rainier Hike, Comet Falls and Van Trump Park

  1. Whew!! What an undertaking. I’m hot and worn out from just reading waayy back here. Lots of gorgeous pictures, Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  2. thanks so much for sharing your wonderful hikes. That path looks truly hellish! Christine Falls eh? Who’d have thought!!

  3. These are outstanding!! Brings back all the memories. You described it perfectly. Thanks for all the photos. I feel like I just got back!

  4. I have friends visiting this park area right now. These amazing photos give me an idea of what they’re seeing. Thanks.

  5. That’s a tough call. I love climbing mountains but then I also love waterfalls as well. I’ve never been hiking in the NW US and it looks superb. Thanks for sharing, more please! 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are so many places to hike and climb, but Mt. Rainier has been a family favorite for so long, and has so many places to explore, that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it!

  6. Wonderful scenery, Jeanne. What I find interesting is that every mountain range throughout the world has its plants and rocks that sets it apart from the others and gives it a uniqueness. That really is a unique environment you have there. Some of those paths look uniquely rocky too!
    All the best, Alen

    • Yes, and the way the plants change with the change in elevation fascinates me.
      I remember when I was on Inishbofin, we were told that some of the plants there were actually high altitude mountain plants, which gives some insight about how long those plants have been around… really interesting to think about. And yes, that was the rockiest trail ever! I can’t imagine what it would be like to try and maintain it.

  7. This is one of my favorite Rainier hikes I’ve ever done. But I’ve only gotten to go there once, because there was the huge storm washout in that disastrous winter that decimated the Park before the next time I wanted to go, and it wasn’t reopened until quite a bit later. I know that the lower parts of the trail were accessible much sooner, but the whole point of that hike, for me, was the incredible alpine wildflower explosion as you came over the rise into the Van Trump meadows—probably the most spectacular I remember seeing anywhere in the Park. And I do love the waterfall trails, since being such a weenie I get hot and tired easily and am very glad to hang out in their spray for a while listening to their music, to get up the gumption to go forward. That this not-many-views, fairly steep hike has several such nice spots makes it more bearable and worth the climb to Van Trump. But I’d be interested to see if I still felt that way if I get the chance to go there again. There are so many great day hikes in the Park it’s hard to choose!! Richard’s favorite is probably Eagle Peak, but I find that one has less rewarding views until you get all the way there, and it’s more unrelieved strenuousness, in my book. I’m a fan of the variety found at Ohanapecosh/Silver Falls and some of the meadows right close both at Paradise and Sunrise, and my best fawn sightings have been right in the ‘spa’ meadow at Longmire! It’s an endlessly interesting and fantastic place and your sharing of it is a great joy when I can’t get there myself! Thanks!!

    • We saw plenty of evidence of those floods from a few years ago, it was interesting. And while the wildflowers were good, I think we were still a tad early at the end of July, even, to call them GREAT. I’m sure you’ve been to Myrtle Falls and Edith Creek? I like going up there early in the morning before the crowds hit. My dad often spoke about Eagle Peak, and I know Bruce is familiar with it, but I’ve never done it. How does it compare to these? Never been to Ohanepecosh, either. Clearly I need to be there more often!
      My dad used to ride around the Trail of the Shadows on his bike. He told me once he rode his bike up from Seattle on a bike with no seat, and rode around that trail 16 times waiting for his family to arrive…. not gonna try that one!

  8. Jeanne, some excellent photos there. Brings back memories of my short trip to this area a few years back. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jeanne, How wonderful for you to have had the chance to make these climbs, you photos are so inviting, I’m inspired to plan a hike of my own in the Northwest part of the country.

  10. christinelaennec

    Hats off to you Jeanne! I really enjoyed your three hikes. What spectacular weather you had. And I was glad you didn’t take undue risks. As you say, the mountains can be unforgiving. I miss the beautiful Northwest…

  11. what an incredible walk. And seeing those bright greens just make me realise how much I’m looking forward to seeing them again this Spring. It certainly looks a beautiful trail to walk, I can imagine the peace and quiet and well just everything! I’m wondering do you have any more walks planned for this year?

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure yet what this year will bring. If I can get back to the west coast, I’m sure I’ll be doing one of those hikes again, but I think my priority would be to get to the saddle at Pinnacle Peak.

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