Owyhigh Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park Trip Report
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July 2, 2006
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From Enumclaw drive 43 miles east on Highway 410 to the Mount Rainier National Park White River Entrance Station. Follow the Sunrise Road about 3-4 miles from the entry. If you see signage for Summerland you have gone too far.
Sunrise has just opened up and since it was the first weekend decided that I would try for one of the lesser known hikes in the area - Owyhigh Lakes. I have driven by this hike countless times, but really was never that curious since it lacks views of Mt. Rainer, and after all that is why we are at the Mt. Rainier NP is to view Mt. Rainier right?
I couldn't be more pleased with this hike, the first thing you will notice is that the grade of the slope is exceedingly even and never harse. The track of the trail itself is smooth and soft. The enrivons are old growth fir and cedar. And the ambience is tranquility, with song birds singing soprano. Just very nice. The skinny on Owyhigh Lakes is that you hike for about 1.5-2 hours to get to what looks to be a cirque basin. Near the entry to the basin is a foot bridge, beyond that is level terrain to the cirque lakes.
The lakes themselves aren't really anything special, infact they are a little disappointing. However, the overall experience of seeing so few people is itself some kind of reward. If you are looking for a relatively easy hike with some solitude this hike might just be what you are looking for.
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There is a trail?
Reviewed By: Jared on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 @ 12:17:16 AM
As the previous reviewer mentioned, just about anyone and everyone can get from the Sunrise Road to the Tamanos Creek Campground (or at least to the bridge just before the campground). Very uneventful portion of the trail, pretty but uneventful. This was the 4th day of our groups 5 day trip which began at the Carbon River Ranger Station (open) following the Wonderland Trail until jumping over onto the Owyhigh Lakes Trail and finally hiking a section of the Eastside Trail ending at the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station (closed). This was by far my favorite day of the trip. The funs begins after the Tamanos Creek Campground. The next 3.5 miles passing the Owyhigh Lakes and continuing on toward Deer Creek Campground has 90% snow cover with very few traces of the actual trail. As we left the White River Campground that morning the ranger told us that we would have to route find over an area where an avalanche had taken out the trail. What an understatement. Obviously not many people if any had been through the area. We encountered no less than 7 different avalanche areas which completely covered the trail, still under 4-8ft of snow, with 'mountains' of debri. A Map and Compass are useful if unfamiliar with the surrounding topography or traveling in poor conditions. However, between the ridge lines and the main SE flowing creek to follow, the general pathway from the pass at the South end of the Owyhigh Lakes to where the trail picks up again 2 miles from Deer Creek is quite obvious even without a trail to follow. The highlight of the day came as we crossed the first avalanche area into the meadow above the Owyhigh Lakes. As we entered a small undamaged section of trees we were startled by a farely large black bear rooting about in the meadow about 50-75 yards away, positioned between the lake and the trail. We noticed the bear a few moments before he sensed that we were there. Half of our group was approx. 5 minutes behind and as they approached the bear promply stood up on it's hind legs and began to weave back and forth looking around the trees. I sensed a great deal of intelligence in the way the bear acted. As soon as the other half on the group came into the bear's view he immediately dropped back down to all four and began looking for more things to snack on. We were of no interest to him at all. Even so, we decided to increase the distance between our party and the bear before we stopped to take pictures and gawk (easy with a good pair of binoculars). The bear was quite large for a black bear and had still not shed the excess fur from winter even though it was now the 28th of July. We eventually moved on and left the bear in the meadow. After passing the lakes it was pretty much all downhill from there. We kept to the east side of the creek, traversing through snow buried trees and glissading down snow fields. This was very fun for many in the group that had never experienced any level of true route finding or navigation. Those in the group that had been quite tired after 3 days of hiking found renewed energies. We avoided several snow bridges that were quite unsafe. We regained the trail and passed several wonderful little waterfalls before coming to the Boundary Creek Crossing. There is a large volume of water flowing very swiftly at the crossing and the original log crossing has been broken. The original log is still spanning 90% of the creek. The NPS has a new log in place but it has not been scored and cut. It is not recommend to cross here. Possibly because we were not thinking very clearly from the euphoria of our hike to that point, most of the group crossed on the old broken log and I crossed on the newly placed uncut log. Looking back we probably should have gone upstream to find a safer crossing but based on the flow of the river that may have been quite a distance upstream. The views of the creeks converging in this area culminating in spectacular waterfalls were amazing. We continued on to the Deer Creek Campground making a brief side trip of 0.8 miles up to the road and back to get some great views of a very impressive tall waterfall. The campground at Deer Creek was the favorite of the trip with the clear creek rushing by. The Owyhigh Lakes Trail rivaled anything we had experienced on the highly touted Wonderland Trail. I would highly recommend this trail to anyone.
Owyhigh Lakes, or the Trail of Fallen Trees
Reviewed By: Milt on Friday, September 24, 2010 @ 09:02:09 PM
I really didn't want to go on this trail. After passing the trailhead sign for it many, many times on the way to Sunrise, I thought I'd do it just check it off the list. It seems that the trail books just mention going to Owyhigh Lakes from the Sunrise road and then heading back the same way. The map says that the Owyhigh trail keeps going another 4-5 miles and connects to highway 123. We decided to do the one way route. We dropped one car off at the highway 123/Owyhigh trailhead. There is no parking lot here, just a turnout for about 5 cars. We then took my car back around to the road to Sunrise and then parked at the north end of the Owyhigh trail. After triple checking to make sure we had car keys to our car at the end of the trail (we are not walking back!), we were off. The first two miles of this trail is amazing. Four foot wide and nary a rock or tree root to trip over. This grade "A" trail could almost be considered wheelchair accessible (it's that good). Good trails don't last forever and this trail started getting ragged around the edges the last mile and a half to the lakes. There is a campground and toilet before the lakes.
The weird thing about the trail is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of falled trees. They are everywhere. Broken trees, shattered trees, snapped trees and pleanty of rotted out trees of all kinds. Very strange. We finally got to the lakes. They were very shallow and surrounded by several high peaks (just like Crystal Lake to the northeast). The trail did not go directly to the lakes. It just arched its way arounded them from a distance. We could not see a trail to them at all. We found out farther down that the trail to the water is on the very south end of the lakes. Most people at this point would have turned around, but we were going one way to highway 123. This is where the trail gets really nasty. It's totally unmaintained for almost a mile and a half. At times we were wondering if we were on a trail at all. Lots of deer/elk footprints in the mud as we hiked through tall bushes and grass. The trail cuts through a mountain pass (very windy) and passes an unnamed falls which had no trail to it. :( Then, to our surprise, the trail started looking like an actual trail again! We hit the afterburners to make up for lost time and took a break at a viewpoint high above some falls that looked pretty spectacular (no trail to them though). If you knew where to look, you could also see the Shriner Peak lookout off to the southwest. The last mile of the trail was a jackpot of three creeks running into each other with waterfalls at every turn. The very last half mile was all uphill to the highway. We were tired and burnt out by then. When we got to the highway and looked at the trail sign, it said that it was 9.7 miles to the Sunrise road. Wow, I thought it would be around 8 miles one way, but 9.7 is not what I wanted to see. Anyway, if you want a quiet, lonely trail to spend an entire day on, then do the two car shuttle. Either way, (hiking N to S or S to N) you will get a workout.
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