One of the most beautiful hikes at Mount Rainier National Park is Naches Peak Loop. At just over three miles roundtrip, this is an easy hike suitable for most people. I saw people on social media doing this year after year, so I finally decided to commit to hiking Naches Peak Loop trail this year.
I left my house at 4 am to get here for sunrise, and I’m glad I did – this is now easily one of my favorite hikes at Mount Rainier! You have stunning views throughout it, it’s easy to follow, and it has wildflowers in the summer and fall foliage in the fall, so you may even want to do it twice in one year.
This article covers how to get to Naches Peak trail, what to know ahead of time, and what you can expect along the way during your hike.
Getting to Naches Peak Trail
Naches Peak Loop is only about two hours away from Seattle, making it fairly easy to get to for a Seattle day trip. The trail is on the northeast part of the park, so you’ll follow WA-410 E all the way until you see the parking lot for it (if you hit Chinook Pass, you’ve gone too far).
I recommend putting directions to the trail in Google Maps to see how close you are with the little blue GPS dot. I did have cell service for part of this hike, but I always assume I won’t have it when getting to trailheads and know how to read my map.
There isn’t any sign on 410 (that I noticed at least), but you’ll see a parking lot with a bathroom on the left side of the road. This is the main parking lot and what the directions in this post will be from, but there are also two other smaller areas to park along 410 from which you can access the trail.
What to Know Before Hiking Naches Peak Loop
Here are a few facts about the Naches Peak Loop hike.
Distance: 3.2 miles
Elevation gain: 600 feet
Pass required: Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful pass
As with any hike, check the trail reports before you go to see the weather conditions. This can tell you when the snow starts to melt mid-summer, when the wildflowers are at their peak (making it one of the best Washington hikes), and other important things to know.
This hike is a bit different than others in the area, as half of it is in Mount Rainier National Park while the other half isn’t. This means you can only bring dogs on a portion of the trail, so it’s best to leave your pets at home.
A fun fact about this trail is the part that isn’t in the park is on the Pacific Crest Trail, the famous trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. You may see some PCT hikers while hiking as I did, so make sure to yield to them so they can be on their way (they have a long day of hiking ahead!).
Plenty of wild animals here want to share the trail with you, including mountain goats and bears, so be aware of your surroundings.
That said, here are a few things you might want to bring with you on your hike:
- There may be a ton of bugs by the water, so load up on bug spray just in case.
- Although you’ll likely not need to use it, some people feel more comfortable bringing bear spray when in bear territory.
- I always wear a baseball hat when hiking, especially on trails like this, where more than half is exposed.
Which Way to Hike Naches Peak
If you read any reviews of this hike, one thing that will stand out is everyone recommends hiking counterclockwise on this trail. I completely agree with that advice for several reasons.
First, you’ll get some uphill parts out of the way so you can enjoy going mainly downhill for the last mile. Second, once you turn a little over halfway to complete the loop, you’ll have a view of Mount Rainier in front of you the whole time.
When to Hike Naches Peak Loop
Late summer to early fall are the best times to visit (albeit most popular), as the meadows explode with wildflowers in late July to August and then turn into stunning fall foliage. The snow tends to come by the end of October, so you have a short window to hike Naches Peak.
The Naches Peak Loop hike has a parking lot to fit several dozen cars, but this can fill up quickly on the weekend since it’s a very popular trail because it is an easy hike in Washington that most people can do. That’s why I recommend going on the weekday or getting there early on the weekend. A bathroom is available at the trailhead as well.
Since it’s a short hike, you’ll still have plenty of time to spend a day at Mount Rainier if you want to explore other hikes.
Naches Peak Loop Hike Details
To start the trail counterclockwise, you’ll head to the left into the woods (away from 410). Depending on the time of year you visit, beautiful wildflowers might greet you as you walk on the trail.
The trail then loops around to 410, where you’ll cross a bridge over it. You’ll get stunning views of Chinook Pass from here, so it’s a great photo-op. The hike will then take you into the woods again for a bit, so enjoy the shade.
Next, you’ll enter the part which I think is the best for sunrise photos. You’ll be on the side of the mountain where the sun starts to come up over the tree line, so plan accordingly if you can.
After that, you come to the part I think is one of the best photo spots with this beautiful little lake. I’m not sure if it actually has a name, but you’ll want to take the time to get a shot with the trees reflecting in the lake.
You can go down a small path to the lake, but I knew there would be bugs when I went, so I chose to continue on the trail.
You’ll then go on some switchbacks as you get to the highest part of the hike before you start to go downhill. If you want to extend your hike, you can follow signs to Dewey Lake and add on an extra six miles (about three miles one way to the lake). Otherwise, continue on to finish the Naches Peak hike.
Once you get to this point, you’ll see why I recommend going counterclockwise – it’s endless views of Mount Rainier for your remaining mile.
The iconic shot of this trail where you’ll have the mountain and a lake in the same shot is about two miles in counterclockwise/one mile in clockwise. This is an excellent place to take a break if you need it, but be aware that the bugs can be nasty by the water in peak summer. Unfortunately for me, they were so bad at 7 am that I couldn’t take almost any of the photos I originally planned.
After this, you’ll spend the next mile in and out of the forest. While it’s not as scenic as other parts, it’s a nice break to start going downhill to get back to the parking lot. I saw bear tracks when I hiked, so I did this part pretty quickly because I wasn’t in the mood to meet a bear eating breakfast.
You’ll then reach 410, where you’ll need to cross it to get to Tipsoo Lake and complete the hike. You can choose to go on a path around the lake if you want to see more of the area.
After that, it’s just a minute’s walk up the hill, and you’ll be back at the parking lot. Congrats, you completed your Naches Peak loop hike! Now head out into the park to explore many more beautiful areas around the mountain.