Mystic Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park Trip Report
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October 11, 2003
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This hike was a lot of fun though the rain really did have an impact near the top of the hike. The temperature was about 25 degrees with winds of about 25 mph. Just the right condition for hypothermia to reach full effect.
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: Many a North westerner got his or her first close rub with a glacier here, on a trail that can be an easy day hike to the Carbon Glacier or an overnight trip/exhausting day hike to Mystic Lake. The Carbon Glacier Trail, actually part of Rainiers Wonderland Trail, leads gradually upward two miles from Ipsut Creek Campground to a junction with the Northern Loop Trail and then turns upward along the Carbon River to a junction with the Spray Park/Seattle Park Trail at about three miles. Just beyond here you come to a rather lanky suspension bridge over the river. The bridge is not for the faint-hearted, who can bypass it by backtracking, hiking east OJ mile on the Northern Loop Trail, then turning right and proceeding up the other side of the river on the Mystic Lake Trail. Once safely across, turn right and follow the moraine steeply upward to an excellent viewpoint of the glacier, the lowest-elevation glacier in the Lower 48 states and one of the more melt-resistant ice fingers on Rainier. Most people stop here at about 3.5 miles; the trail beyond shows why, as it gets steep, rocky, and downright ornery for approximately the next mile up to Dick Creek Camp.
Beyond, you enter the delightful Moraine Park area, where wildflowers and views collide to leave you spellbound. Continue onward and upward on the Wonderland Trail toward Curtis Ridge and you find yourself at Mystic Lake, so named because early explorers noticed an unexplained whirlpool in the water. Look for it yourself by plunging your head into the icy water, removing it, then screaming quite loudly. Shake your head and close your eyes. See the spinning water? We thought you would. When you recover, gaze south at to-die-for views of Rainiers extremely handsome north face, marked by the unmistakable, 3,500-foot rock face known as the Willis Wall. You also find a summer ranger camp here and, rest assured, the ranger will remind you to camp in designated sites one-half mile farther down the trail, not at the lake. Heed the advice.
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Mystic Lake Via Carbon River entrance
Reviewed By: David Martinusen on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 @ 12:22:27 AM
8/29/2010 I was looking for a somewhat challenging day hike. 15.8 miles seemed reasonable. But when I got to the Carbon River ranger station the day before my planned hike, I found out that the 5 mile road to the Ipsut Creek Campground was washed out several years ago, and that there is no plan to repair it any time soon. The road is totally passable, on foot, but of course, that turns this into a 26 mile hike RT.
Well, I was already here, but I didn't have a tent or sleeping bag since I was just out here on a business trip and was planning on squeezing in some day hikes on the weekend. So I went to sleep early, before the sun went down, then got up and started my "day hike" at midnight. The downside was that I missed much scenery hiking in the dark, but I figured, I would see it all on the way back, so there was no great loss. I got to the suspension bridge in the dark. It started getting light by the time I was getting near the Carbon Glacier. It was a long cold morning, the temps started in the 50's and dipped down to the 40's as I got higher and higher. I'm told that the overnight low at the lake was in the low 30's, but it was pretty nice by the time I got there. I made it to the lake at about 9:30am. There were no mosquitos. Just a marmot. The lake was nice, nothing spectacular. The real high point was the views of Rainier and the surrounding mountains. The waterfalls along the way were also great. I made it back to the ranger station by about 4:00pm.
I would totally do this hike again. It was fun. But the biggest reason that I wrote this review was to let you all know about the extra 10 miles. It certainly makes a difference for trip planning. Enjoy.
Reviewed By: Anonymous on Thursday, June 22, 2006 @ 09:35:58 PM
My wife and I did this hike as a short overnight mid June, 2006. The Mt. Rainier web site said the trail was open (which I incorrectly interpreted as meaning clear of snow - silly me), so we hit the road, arriving at about 1pm. The walk to the glacier was easy, and the bridge was no big deal. The view of the glacier from the trail was awesome - a big river flowing from underneath it and lots of rock slides. The trail gets steep from that point, with lots of switchbacks that aren't noted on the topo maps. My understanding is that the trail has since been changed some. No biggy, though - just keep going up. We hit snow at the top of the ridge, and it continued all the way to Mystic lake. There were lots of open spots, so keeping the trail was no big deal. We ran into lots of Marmots and a wolf along the way. Reaching the lake, we made it to the eastern side and promply lost the trail for good. I have no idea what direction it went, but the sign pointed east, and the only trail we could find was one headed west to the Ranger station. And that's when we noticed the bear prints in the snow, so we headed for the ranger station and called it good there. Two black bears walked by in the next hour, so we ate dinner, hung our food, stowed our packs out back, and hit the hay. Or at least we layed there listening for bears till our bodies gave out. Woke up bright and early to find that nothing had visited us during the night, so we packed up and left.
Summary: An ok, sweaty hike. The lake was nothing special, and I understand that the campsites are 1/4-1/2 mile from the lake, so you're probably not going to have a view. No bugs yet, but I think I'll take bugs over bears anyday. Also, brush up on bear camping before you go. We were warned that there were bears in the area, but honestly never expected to see any. If you go for any reason at all, go see the glacier. It's pretty wild.
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