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Hike of the week: Comet Falls and Van Trump Park Trail

Hike description: On a clear day, this Mount Rainier National Park hike is a true Northwest treasure.

Featured around the halfway point are two waterfalls, one with a stunning 300-foot drop.

Hikers that persevere to Van Trump Park are rewarded with magnificent views across the valley and of Mount Rainier.

For the first half mile, the path climbs quickly through old growth forest until reaching a high bridge over Van Trump Creek.

From there, the uphill march continues, often crossing avalanche chutes populated with vine maple which are quite colorful in mid-October.

Around mile two, the trail crosses Falls Creek. Don’t mistake these falls for the more spectacular Comet Falls which first come into view just 200 feet farther on.

After leaving Comet Falls, the pitch increases a bit, ascending the last two miles to the end of the maintained trail and the vast meadow called Van Trump Park.

Directions: Drive state Route 7 to Elbe where you pick up state Route 706 to the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, passing through Ashford.

Continue about 10 miles to the small trailhead parking area on the left (north side) just before the Christine Falls bridge.

Difficulty rating: 5 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round-trip: 7

Elevation: 2,300 feet

Best time of year: July to October

Map: Green Trails Mount Rainier West, No. 269

Pass: Mount Rainier or national park week or annual pass

Also: Arrive early in the day. This is a popular summer hike and trailhead parking is limited. On summer weekends, there is the option of taking a free shuttle from Ashford into the park, dropping you off at Longmire where you can catch a shuttle to the Comet Falls Trailhead. The Longmire-Paradise shuttle also runs on Fridays during the summer. Check the park website for the shuttle schedules. Public toilets are in Longmire near the Longmire Museum.

Practice Leave No Trace hiking and pack out all your own trash, as well as any stray litter you find on this popular trail. The 10 Essentials should always be in your pack for any wilderness outing.

Info: For current road and trail conditions, and the summer weekend shuttle schedule: www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm; Longmire Wilderness Information Center, 360-569-4453; “Day Hiking Mount Rainier,” Mountaineers Books

Hike of the Week is presented by Hiking/Backpacking Committees of the Olympia and Tacoma Branches of The Mountaineers.

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