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John is an avid hiker, spending a goodly portion of his time up in the hills, or sitting in front of a computer.
Trail Notes: Since the Westside road was washed out, or more accurately undercut the road ends in about 3.3 miles. From here you must hike up the road for about an hour. The views aren't bad going easy. Knowing that you saved a bunch of time from taking the Kautz Creek entrance and get to cross a killer suspension bridge going this way makes it all the more pleasant. As you are moving along as you near the one hour mark make sure to look for the trail to the North (right side) of the road. It is somewhat easy to miss as it isn't formally endorsed as the main entrance to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground. The trail starts out in a hairpin turn which as you are heading up the road is to your left. Don't worry you won't miss it! When we were there a government vehicle was parked there. No doubt the Rangers take this route to Indian Henry's as it is more fun and shorter.
Having found the trail begin following it. It is somewhat rough as it isn't maintained, though the trail is still in good shape. As you make your way along the trail within the first 20-30 minutes you come to a washed out section which has a temporary type trail through the landslide. After this section the trails continues along at a rather gentle grade through old growth forest for about 30-40 minutes. As you make your way along Tahoma creek you can observe the damage caused by the 19xx blah resulting in the radical erosion of the river channel and sidewalls. About this time you reach another washed out section of the trail, this one necessitating a climb up an over it. Again a trail still exists but caution should be exercised as it is quite steep and losing control could be quite costly.
With that behind you it is still about another 40 minutes to the junction with the Wonderland Loop Trail. During these 40 minutes the trail continues on much like it has at a nice easy going clip. The views across Tahoma Creek continue to get better and better though no real views of Mt. Rainier are to be had.
Upon reaching the Wonderland trail it is only a short 5 minutes or so to the suspension bridge crossing Tahoma creek. I had been looking forward to crossing this bridge for a long time. If you like the suspension bridge crossing the Carbon River you will love this one. It is much longer maybe 250ft and is about that far up from the river. I am a little phobic about heights and felt uncomfortable stopping mid-span and taking my camera out for a mid-span shot but felt quite safe walking across the bridge. It really is super fun and not to be missed. Unless you have serious aversion to heights or have small children in which case it is probably best to take the Kautz Creek trail to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground.
Across the bridge the trail take a series of switchbacks to gain the ridge. I found this section to be interesting in that the undergrowth was markedly absent and the rock mostly erratic and about 3 inches across. Once you have crested the switchback which only takes about 15 minutes you are offered your first real view of Mt. Rainier and is it ever a view. Can only make you look all that much more forward to what lies ahead.
From here on the trail continues through old growth forest with varying degrees of steepness from almost flat to pretty steep. As is almost always the case the steep sections aren't very long. You will know you are getting close to the ridge when the trees begin giving way to Alpine meadows. At this point it is only about another 20 minutes or so to go.
Having gained the ridge now in full meadows with Mt. Rainier as big as can be right in front of you you think why haven't I done this one sooner. It is spectacular. Shortly thereafter you will come upon a junction with a side trail to Mirror Lakes. Definitely take this as the view from the lake is very nice and following the trail beyond affords an excellent place to have some lunch.
After that we headed back to the main trail and towards the Indian Henry's Hunting Ground rangers Cabin which again proved to be an excellent destination well worth the trivial amount of additional energy to make it there. With a little planning one could do an incredible loop starting from the Westside road going up to Indian Henry's and then down Kautz Creek...or visa versa. Either way two vehicles or at least a bike should be placed at one of the entrances at the road distance would be several miles. This is a super hike. If you have done the Kautz Creek route please leave a review about that!
|Best Time to Hike|
|June through October|
|Hike Time||Difficulty||Rating||Distance||Elevation Gained||Max Elevation|
|6 Hours||13.0 Miles Round Trip||2,800 Feet||5,600 Feet|
|Miles Away||User Rating|
|Indian Henry's Hunting Ground||0.0|
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