Kautz Creek

Janet 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 Creek trail.

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 here.

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 mountain.

Snowy Parking Lot
View From Road
Missing Trail
Snow Patterns
Kautz Creek Bridge
Snow Deepens
Mt. Adams
First Rainier Trail View
Unusual Rainier View
Heading Down
Icy Snow - Microspikes
Snowy Logs
More Snow Patterns
Reddish Brown Creek
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2011