Carbon Glacier, Mt. Rainier National Park Trip Report
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October 17, 2004
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Directions: From Puyallup drive 13 miles east on Highway 410 to Buckley. Turn right (south) onto Highway 165. Proceed to the bridge over the Carbon River Gorge and then bear left to Mount Rainier National Parks Carbon River entrance. Proceed five miles to the trailhead at the roads end at Ipsut Creek Campground.
Trail notes: Decided to take a quick hike today and hadn't been to the Carbon Glacier in a while so thought we would make a go of it. The Carbon Glacier is the lowest glacier in the Continental United States.
The trail itself is quite level and the going is very easy. There is only one section which isn't very easy, and still it is not even moderate. The total time to the Glacier is about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the pace. Overall this is a good hike for the shoulder season, and for times you are really looking more to enjoy the surroundings than climb up the scenery.
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Reviewed By: Nick B. on Saturday, August 25, 2007 @ 11:14:59 AM
Beautiful hike, but a long day. The road to the trail head is closed because it was washed out in the Dec. storm, and looks pretty impossible to fix, so don't wait for it to open anytime soon, if ever. This means you have to walk 5 miles to the trailhead, which adds 10 miles roundtrip to your hike. Don't do this hike unless you are in good shape. Bring more than one bottle of water along with lunch and snacks. Once you get to the trailhead, it's a beautiful hike thru lot's of lush vegitation. Elevation is not high, you go up, but gradually. The hike to the suspension bridge takes longer than it looks on the map, as well as what other hikers will tell you. But the payoff is great. A terrific view of the glacier and a fun walk over the bridge. (If you are very afraid of heights, don't go over the bridge). If you choose not to do the bridge, walk only a 1/2 mile staight up to a magnificant view of the glacier and Mt. Ranier. Going back is an easy hike, but by the time you get to the trailhead, and have another 5 miles to go back to your car, you will be very tired. Total hike took 8 hours, for a total of 17-18 miles round trip, so start early.
Still a good hike
Reviewed By: WhoNut on Monday, July 16, 2007 @ 08:04:04 PM
My son and I hiked this on Saturday. The road from the Ranger station to Ipsut CG (about 5 miles) is closed due to last December's floods, and I can't imagine it being rebuilt. Chalk one up for Mother Nature! Anyway, we rode our bikes up the old road, and hiked from the described trailhead. Make sure you get updated maps, as the floods have also changed the glacier approach. The hike itself is fairly mundane, with only a couple of brief glimpses at the mountaintop. Some of the river crossings are interesting, including one log bridge without a handrail. Be careful...I seem to remember a fatality here recently. The glacier is a nice payoff, with some great spots for lunch. Bottom line for me: 10 miles biking + 7 miles hiking = No Crowds!
Reviewed By: carol on Saturday, June 17, 2006 @ 11:34:41 PM
Review: Lots of vehicles at the trailhead and lots of people on the trail today! The trail is flat, wide, and in good condition. What I liked most was the suspension bridge on this trail. The glacier itself does not look like your typical glacier, it looks dirty! This trail has lots of options, if you continue past Carbon Glacier, it goes to Moraine Park and then to Mystic Lake. Or it branches off to Spray or Seattle Park. 1.25 hrs up and 1.5 hrs down.
Reviewed By: Akela on Thursday, March 30, 2006 @ 12:20:42 PM
The journey in to the trailhead was a difficult one on the vehicles, and it saddens me that the subsequent erosion is going to lead to the eventual inaccessability of this point by vehicle travel. We did this trail in June, and even at that time of year foot traffic was not all that heavy. I rated it a difficulty of 3 because there are parts that are definitely a workout. Other parts are quite easy, and in all the trail provides quite a variety. It's a very doable hike for educated novices, as I took a group of 10-year-old Webelos Scouts on this one for their first *real* hike. Very few complaints from the kids. The length of the hike and the variety of grade (as well as use of this site!) allowed for ample pre-hike planning by the kids, as well as plenty of good views to look at and keep their interest. Wonderful views of the glacier at the end provided a great reward. There is plenty of devil's club growing along the lower half, so that's also a good opportunity to teach kids what to look for and avoid.
See it now, while you can
Reviewed By: beth elliott on Monday, August 16, 2004 @ 05:40:34 PM
Review: At some point, the road to this trailhead will get washed out beyond repair, and there will be no detour cut in the small temperate rain forest through which it passes. Bummer. The view of the glacier with Rainier's peak above it is something you won't get this close to an urban area anywhere else, and any endorphins left unreleased by climbing 1400' in 3.5 miles will certainly kick loose at the sight.
Most of the trail is forest floor, with stretches of it along the rushing, milky Carbon River. There's another view upward to a craggy peak along the trail, which is dotted with wildflowers here and there. The suggested counterclockwise loop takes you over a quaint suspension footbridge before you head onto a steep stretch for the best glacier view (or to continue further for a serious rear-end-kicking hike).
Overall, this is a good workout in very pleasant surroundings (at least during the brief NW sun season), with a couple of breath-taking views, river and bird sounds, and a short spur to a pretty waterfall.
There were a fair number of people on the trail on a weekday, but it wasn't a freeway. I'm told, though, that this is a popular trail and weekends may be a different story.
Two hiker rating: It's very doable, but 7 mi R/T and 1400' climb is more than a Sunday stroll. Four star rating: The visual payoff may not be sudden Deity-invocation level, but the glacier view is both a rarity and a cool sight in its own right.
A hike on this trail makes for a day that's exhilarating, both physically and aesthetically, one that's worth checking out while the road from ranger station to trail head holds in that one iffy spot (August 2004: take care with the rocks and dips in that one stretch; nothing really treacherous for the non-stupid).
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