Distance: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Pass: National Parks Pass
In my mission to find easy, yet rewarding hikes during this pregnancy, I finally had the opportunity to mark this one off my bucket list! I first learned about the Emmons Moraine hike a couple years ago during my 52 Hike Challenge, but generally opted for longer, more challenging hikes feeling like I needed to push myself. This time, however, was the opposite— Since I am having twins, I have to be a little more careful of how much I push myself on hikes and when you’re pumping so much extra blood for two extra humans, even easy things become more difficult.
I am so grateful I waited for a beautiful, clear sunny day to attempt this one! Located in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier, this is a pleasant and rewarding hike with big pay off for relatively lower effort. It also pairs nicely with the Glacier Basin hike (which we skipped this time, but I will be back to do when I am not 23 weeks pregnant)! I have seen photos of the turquoise blue lake on less sunny days, and I don’t think it does it justice. The water really is that color—stunning!
From Enumclaw, drive SR 410 east, then south to the park’s White River Entrance. Continue up Sunrise Park Road 5.3 miles to the White River Campground; turn left into the campground and climbers’ parking area.
The trail starts off at the Glacier Basin Trailhead in the White River Campground on the road to Sunrise. The trailhead is in the backend of the parking lot, but once you’re there it’s well marked.
On this wonderfully sunny (and hot) day, I was grateful for the generous amount of shade that the beginning of the trail has as you walk through a forest that smells like a pine car freshener.
Throughout the forest walk, there are peeks of Little Tahoma and Rainier— it felt like a teaser, but with shade. There’s also a fun cascading waterfall, but the trees keep it hidden and out of sight.
At about 1 mile, the trail opens up to this wide view of a rushing river in the foreground, a ridge of trees in the middle ground, with the giant views of Little Tahoma and Mount Rainier in the background. It’s stunning! You can see how the Inter Fork river has carved through this area over many, many years, creating its shape.
Shortly after reaching this wide open view, the trail will cross a junction that notes to go straight for Glacier Basin trail and left for Emmons Moraine.
After turning left, we crossed a log bridge over the river and walked up the dusty, rocky path onto the moraine itself. (Okay, I’ll be honest, I chose this hike for the turquoise blue water and views, but I didn’t quite understand what a moraine was, so I thought it’d be helpful for a little extra background… thanks to Wikipedia)!
Moraine: A moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris that occurs in both currently and formerly glaciated regions on Earth through geomorphological processes. Moraines are formed from debris previously carried along by a glacier, and normally consist of somewhat rounded particles ranging in size from large boulders to minute glacial flour.
So basically, in the previous open view, the middle ground with the ridge of trees is the Emmons Moraine, and the view we hiked up to is the Emmons Glacier.
After about a 1/2 mile longer, we were on top of the moraine overlooking the Emmons Glacier. We were a little unsure of which path to follow as there appeared to be three. There were rocks blocking two of the paths, so we took that as a sign to follow the third (furthest right) and it was the most obvious path. Once we were on this path, there were various pull-offs to overlook the valley for the view of the glacier. The water of the little lake is so vibrant, it was my favorite part.
The trail sort of peters out in the trees, and as we passed multiple groups of hikers, they said that the views were best in the area just after crossing the river versus heading to the very end of the path, so we hiked a little longer and turned around since we felt we had found what we were looking for (#camefortheviews)!
After enjoying the views, we returned the same way we came.
I briefly considered continuing to Glacier Basin (I hate leaving stones unturned while hiking, so to speak), but decided it was best for me and babies to head back and not push my luck.