Hike description: You’ll hike to one of the lookout towers in Mount Rainier National Park from within the park itself. Guidebook descriptions take you to Gobblers Knob from west of the park via a trail that is a bit shorter and with less elevation gain. Take the harder route to see more of the park and the forces that constantly remodel the landscape. You hike the Westside Road, part of a long-abandoned plan to construct a ring road around Mount Rainier. Mother Nature vetoed that.
The Westside Road has washed out one too many times, and is now open in the summer for hikers to drive 3.2 miles to the gate at Dry Creek. When you leave the parking lot, you cross a log bridge and then hike up the forested road, in 1.8 miles reaching an unmarked trailhead for the unmaintained Tahoma Creek Trail. Continue up the road, passing the signed Tahoma Vista where drivers could walk out for a view of Tahoma Glacier. At 3.8 miles from the car, you will come to Round Pass and the Lake George Trailhead.
Your trail continues into Lake George, a pleasant lunch spot. From Lake George it is another 1.2 miles to the Gobblers Knob trail junction and from there 0.4 miles up to the lookout, a grand place for another break to take in the views.
Directions: Take state Route 7 south to Elbe. As you leave Elbe, you’ll head left and pick up state Route 706 that takes you to the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Continue on the road about one mile and turn left onto the Westside Road. Drive the Westside Road 3.2 miles to the gate at Dry Creek. Park here, but don’t block the rangers’ access gate at the north end of the dirt parking lot.
Difficulty rating: 5 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 12.4
Elevation: 2,565 feet
Best time of year: July to October
Map: Green Trails 269 Mount Rainier West, 269S Mount Rainier Wonderland
Pass: Mount Rainier or national park annual or week pass
Also: The Westside Road is open to hikers and bicycles, with a bike rack located at the Lake George trailhead.
Info: “Day Hiking Mount Rainier,” Mountaineers Books; check the Park website for current weather, trail and road information: www.nps.gov/mora
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch.