wanted to get up into the mountains. I was game. How about a second
trip to Mt. Rainier National Park in two weeks? This time we had an
early start. We met in Bellevue at 6:30 am and headed south. We reached
the 2400' parking lot at Kautz Creek at 9:20 am. It was very cold. The
parking lot was white with frost. We were the first vehicle in the lot.
From the bridge over Kautz Creek we had a great view of Mt. Rainier. I
have been to Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds and Pyramid Peak in the
summer via the abandoned Tahoma Creek trail. I have been up to Mildred
Point via Rampart Ridge in the fall. I had never been on the Kautz
The first 1 1/4 miles is nearly flat. The little snow there was packed
down and slick. We soon stopped to put on microspikes to help keep us
upright. There are a few places where the floods have taken out the
trail and it has been slightly rerouted. The creek bed is very wide but
the creek is currently just a trickle. The route across the bed is a
winding trail. We found a treasure trove of frost in the creek bed. The
frost took on a number of interesting shapes. Slow progress through
After crossing the creek we began to ascend. The route is gentle most
of the way. The hillside is steep higher up but the trail maintains a
steady grade. Snow and bare ground alternated but soon it was all snow.
We carried snowshoes. Al the way up and then down. The snow was frozen
solid and easy to walk in without much sinking. When we crossed the
creek on a bridge the snow was immediately deeper. A few inches became
a few feet. The trail was a little hard to see in places lower down but
higher up the track was easy to follow. Once out of the Kautz Creek
Valley it warmed up nicely. Still sub freezing but not sub 20 degrees.
One steep section of hillside led to a flat and then another steep.
There was one bad spot of trail where the postholing was more than knee
deep. We detoured around it on the way down. Up on the ridge the forest
became smaller and we were out in the sunshine a little. The warmth was
appreciated. We reached the high point at about 5150' then dropped a
short way. This brought us to an open view across the mt. Rainier. A
really terrific viewpoint. This angle of the summit is unusual. It
appears to be two summits rather than the dome seen from most sides.
All the fresh snow made for a great vista. The trail contours a partly
open slope from here to Indian Henry's. Very little avalanche danger up
to here but with the wrong conditions going on could be dangerous. The
low snow cover and cold temperature made for low danger this day.
We had hoped to get to or near Mt. Ararat but it was clear we did not
have enough time to get there and back before dark. I doubt the view of
Rainier would be much better. At 4.45 miles per the GPS we stopped.
Sitting in the sunshine with Rainier in front of us made for a great
lunch spot. A really great lunch spot. The last spot in the sun before
returning to deep forest meant another stop. I hated to leave the warm
sun for the dark forest. Ah well... It was great while it lasted.
Coming down was much faster.
Clouds flowed in much like my visit the week before. When we reached
the parking lot we walked over to the road bridge and could not longer
see the mountain. We passed one group heading up as we neared Kautz
Creek. that was it for the day. Ho crowding on this trail. Once again
the temperature dropped markedly as we neared the bottom of the valley.
It was frigid back at the car. No matter as we were soon on our way.
The drive home was half in the rain. It was not supposed to come in
until late evening but it was early. That made our day in the sunshine
that much better. I doubt Seattle ever cleared up. It's always fun to
hike a trail for the first time. We did not see a whole lot of dirt
this day but the route was easy to follow. The gentle grade made the
2800' of gain pretty easy. No steep sections. The firm snow allowed us
to keep our snowshoes on our packs not on our feet. The view at our
turn around point was outstanding. I'm glad Janet talked me into
visiting Mt. Rainier two weeks in a row. It was a great day at the
Click on thumbnails to get
Snowy Parking Lot
View From Road
Kautz Creek Bridge
First Rainier Trail View
Unusual Rainier View
Icy Snow - Microspikes
More Snow Patterns
Reddish Brown Creek