Mount Rainier – Camp Muir

Mount Rainier – Camp Muir

Location:  Washington, Mount Rainier National Park
Distance: 10.5 miles, 4,650 feet
Difficulty:  Strenuous
Type: Loop
Season: Year round, but highly dependent on conditions in winter and spring
Date Hiked:  July 28, 2018
Permits and Fees:  $15 park entrance fee.  Climbers must obtain a climbing permit to hike beyond Camp Muir, but no other permits are required to hike to Camp Muir itself.
Description: A long climb up to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier’s southern face, with great views of the Nisqually Glacier, Paradise, and the Tatoosh Range

Camp Muir is a high camp located just above 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier.  The camp is a popular stopover for mountaineers attempting a summit from the south side of the mountain.  The camp includes facilities operated by the park service and private guide services.  Climbers continuing past Camp Muir must have climbing permits, but anyone can day hike to the camp.

In late July, 2018, in preparation for an upcoming summit climb in August, I hiked up to Muir camp as a conditioning hike.

Paradise

I started early Saturday morning around 7 am from Paradise. There were already plenty of people making their way up the mountain, or simply exploring the maze of trails around Paradise.  I followed the Skyline Loop clockwise up to Panorama Point.  The meadows were in full bloom and this whole section was very pretty.  The trails closest to the lodge were paved, but still steep.  About halfway to Panorama Point the trail transitions to dirt paths.

Mount Rainier’s south side from Paradise.

The Muir Snowfield

Beyond Panorama Point, the trail starts its traverse up the Muir Snowfield.  The snowfield, at this time of year, was about 2.5 miles long, and climbed about 2,500 feet in elevation.

Hikers heading up to the Muir Snowfield.

The snow portion of the hike was somewhat slower going, but still provided great views of the Nisqually Glacier.  Many times during the climb I heard ice or rock crack off and crash down the mountain in large slides.  After a few hours of slogging up the snow, Camp Muir began to come into view.

Camp Muir sits at the top of the Muir Snowfield.

I spent about an hour at the top checking out the views and eating my lunch.  The camp itself was very busy, but the views were awesome.  We had a little haze in the distance, but I could see the Goat Rocks, the Tatoosh Range, Paradise, and all the impressive formations that surround Camp Muir.

A large group arriving at Camp Muir.

Beyond Camp Muir you can see the guide trail that crosses the Cowlitz Glacier before continuing on to Disappointment Cleaver.   Gibraltar Rock and Cathedral rocks stand above this trail and were impressive to look at.

Cathedral Rock above the Cowlitz Glacier.

Descent and Return to Paradise

My climb down the Muir Snowfield was greatly aided by a few excellent glissade chutes on the way down.  These chutes were fairly mellow and I never hit any out-of-control speeds.  By glissading, it took me about 1 hour to complete what had taken me 3 hours earlier in the morning.

Glissade chutes on the descent.

Once I got back to Panorama Point, I took a little extra time to explore other parts of the Skyline and Golden Gate trails.  The wild flowers were in full effect, and I wanted to take advantage of the remaining afternoon to enjoy the scenery.  It was pretty hard to take a bad picture here.

Wildflowers in Paradise.

I saw many marmots in Paradise, including this little baby guy.

Awww, a baby marmot!

While I could have beelined back to the trailhead, I spend an extra couple hours shooting pictures along the Skyline Trail.  The meadows were too nice to rush past, so I took my time and nerded out with the camera.

Small waterfall in the Paradise meadows.

I got back to my van around 6pm, and after slipping into some cotton shorts, a  comfy tee shirt and a pair of Crocs, I was back on the road to Portland.

Overall this was a great hike.  The expansive views and the drama of the glaciers make this hike extremely satisfying, even if strenuous.  I recommend.

Additional Information

The Washington Trails Association provides excellent information on the Camp Muir hike on their Camp Muir page.  I found their trip reports very useful.

Washington Trails Association – Camp Muir

Camp Muir is maintained by the Mount Rainier National Park.  Various useful  Mount Rainier National Park links are provided below:

Mount Rainier National Park – General information

Mount Rainier National Park – Specific information about the Camp Muir Trail

Mount Rainier National Park – 2 page PDF with general Camp Muir Trail information and useful compass bearings

 

 

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