Spray Park, Mt. Rainier National Park Trip Report
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August 19, 2006
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Directions: From Puyallup drive 13 miles east on Highway 410 to Buckley. Turn right (south) onto Highway 165 and proceed through Carbonado. Just beyond the Carbon River Gorge bridge, bear right onto Mowich lake Road. Follow the road about 17 miles to its end; the trail head is at the far end of the Mowich lake Campground.
Trail Notes: Wow has Spray Park become a popular destination - that was my first thought upon reaching Mowich Lake. A quick count of the cars at the trail head yielded a number of over 100. I noticed only one car nearest the Tolmie Peak trail head and was tempted to do this hike rather than Spray Park fearing the crowds would be unbearable. However, not having done this hike in a couple years thought better or it...that combined with my last experience on Tolmie Peak. Not a bad hike at all, just a bad personal experience.
So I started off doing the decent to get around Hessong rock. Almost immediately I ran into quite a few people, and even more bugs which surprised me given the lateness of the season. At any event, the bugs were mostly black flies which while bothersome don't seem to bite very often. Also the occasional horse fly which are equally impaired when it comes to taking chunks out of you. After about 30-40 minutes I reached Eagles Roost lookout which is the spot I have taken my favorite picture of all time. I highly recommend stopping by this on the way back since the light it better then.
So I opted to continue along enjoying the relatively level part of the trail which abruptly comes to an end right past Spray Falls which is a worthwhile couple minute jaunt. I similarly didn't stop here on the way up, instead opting to get the uphill out of the way... with hopes of some wind at the top to knock down the bugs. I don't know what happened on the uphill, but for some reason found the going very tough. I woke up dizzy this morning so maybe that was it...or maybe it was the Taco bus from the day before. Regardless I continues on up to Spray Park. The sign advertises it as .8 miles from Spray Falls, though it isn't clear to me where exactly Spray Park begins. To my way of thinking it is just past the fist footbridge where you enter the park.
For some reason the sky was very hazy today which made for hazy pics... Even being only a couple miles from Mt. Rainier the pictures were hazy. And the wildflowers too are well beyond their prime. So without much adew I continued on up through the park. As I hiked along I notice several groups of people taking their leisure along the trail. It looks like a goodly amount of people get to the first part of Spray park and call it good. Continuing along the populations of people continued to diminish until at the crest of Spray and Seattle Parks I found myself alone. First time that has happened at the crest...and with 100+ cars in the parking lot. Go figure
The wind did pick up as I progressed up the meadows in Spray Park. At the crest I opted to go up the spur trail which ultimately leads to Echo and Observation rocks albeit crossing snow fields is required. After about 15 minutes or so along this trail I picked a nice spot to pull off enjoy the scenery and have lunch. Surprisingly even on this warm day the wind was strong enough to make me feel cold after a while.
So I started my return, not much to report. I did stop off at Eagle Roost and did get a couple nice pictures there. The flies seemed pretty bad there, I maybe it is the continued meal ticket at that spot which makes them so numerous. And another 30-45 minutes later I was back to the trail head. A nice hike. The people weren't as numerous as I had initially thought they would be, however the flies were more numerous.
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You don't want to do this hike
Reviewed By: FabulousFreddyFarkwater on Monday, August 15, 2011 @ 03:25:15 PM
See, I set the rating to poor and the difficulty to strenuous so as to turn off more hikers to what is without question the very best hike in the park. There are 10000k of hikers who crowd this trail and parking and even if you get there real early you'll park about 3 miles from the TH and come back to your dust and dirt covered vehicle. But of course that's after you've stuck your hot feet into Mowich and kooled them very nicely. I guess if I really had to say something bad about this it's the bugs so take bug juice and enjoy sticking your hot, tired radials into Mowich. Can't hide it forever. All seriously now, go when the wild flowers are at the peak and when you summit over the last little ridge before being (in what I call Spray Park) you will get the most beautiful fragrance you've ever come across provided the wind is blowing down the hill. Take the side journies to OB and Echo rocks and climb them a bit if you can (about 500' if I recall correctly) and you'll see a grand site. Not to mention the mountain of course. Enjoy!
This is the most breathtaking hike of the summer
Reviewed By: Anonymous on Saturday, November 4, 2006 @ 09:41:34 PM
We did this hike with our friends and 5 year old daughter- although a little slower than our usual pace due to all the switchbacks- she made it up just great! There are so many picture opportunities on this hike and the falls are worth the hike- just as you are beginning the entrance to Spray park the wild blueberries are abundant!! I have never tasted a blueberry so sweet and juicy!! We stopped at a small hidden lake with an amazing view of majestic Rainier! Definately worth the hike up to this beautiful alpine meadow.
Reviewed By: Glenn on Wednesday, July 26, 2006 @ 06:24:29 PM
Completed the Lake Mowich to Spray Park hike on 26 July 2006 (about 6.0 miles (+/-) roundtrip). The adventure really begins with the final 17 mile drive on a rough gravel road once you leave Highway 165 enroute to Lake Mowich. In addition to testing your automobile's suspension system, your car will look like the trail vehicle in an Afrika Korps convoy due to the dust. Once on foot from the Mowich Lake trailhead (4,925 feet), the trail is easy to locate and is 3.0 (+/-) miles to the edge of Spray Park. The first 2.0 miles have the typical downhill, level, and uphill segments common to many Mount Rainier trails. The shaded trail is rough with rocks and tree roots eager to snag the inattentive hiker. There are multiple water sources on the trail (but always purify first). If you've not broken a sweat by the time you reach the Eagle Roost campsite area (about the 2.0 mile mark/4,885 feet)), don't worry. The final 1.0 mile to Spray Park begins with a series of sweat inducing switchbacks that climb steadily for about 1/2 mile before the trail eases to a gradual uphill climb as your enter Spray Park (5,833 feet). Today, the wildflowers were in full bloom but past their peak. Some scattered snow patches are visible but the itself trail was clear and easy to traverse. The trail within Spray Park never really "levels off", but continues to gradually climb. There are also multiple side trails off the main trail that appear legitimate/Ranger approved and take hikers to small ponds and great lunch spots with drop dead views of Mount Rainier. The flying bugs were active today including horseflys more tenacious then an IRS audit. I hiked the main trail within Spray Park uphill another 20 minutes until I reached 6,144 feet and stopped for lunch at a vista overlooking Mist Park to the north (with Mount Rainier to the east). At the higher elevation, there was a nice breeze and fewer insects. Several groups, both dayhikers and backcountry transients, were using Spray Park as a lunch stop. No bears were sighted. My roundtrip travel time was 4 hours and 10 minutes and included about an hour within Spray Park. For fellow hikers, bring your camera, binoculars, and bug spray in addition to your standard hiking equipment. I counted 50+ vehicles at the Mowich trailhead and the trail had a steady stream of hikers even for a Wednesday. Although Spray Park is described as "moderately difficult", it's not a stroll around Seattle's Green Lake or along Tacoma's Ruston Way. If Uncle Ernie has trouble getting to his seat in the 300 level at Safeco Field, give him a bye on this hike. It won't reduce you to tears but will give you a good workout and some spectacular views for your efforts. Happy Trails!
Beautiful summer hike!
Reviewed By: Mario Kratz on Sunday, July 31, 2005 @ 12:21:54 AM
Review: We loved every aspect of this hike. We did it on the last Saturday in July. The weather was perfect, a blue sky without a cloud. As expected there were quite a few people on the trail, but not to the extend that it bothered us. The trail itself is in really good condition: kudos and 'Thanks' to the trail teams that worked here! Although the elevation gain of 2600 feet might make a lot of people think that this is a strenouus hike, we both felt that it actually is not as it is never really steep. Also, if you feel you are getting tired, you could just do the shorter 6-mile roundtrip to the beginning of Spray park and back; this would still be a very enjoyable day hike. What we liked particularly about this hike is the really neat mix of great views (Rainer; Central Cascades, which can be seen only if you climb all the way up), colourful wildflowers everywhere, walks in the forest, and water (Mowich Lake and Spray Falls).
Very much recommended, particularly on a nice, clear summer day!
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