Rainier Backpacking Trip Report (July 30 – August 2, 2021)
Backpacking Route: Sunrise Trailhead -> Berkeley Camp -> Glacier Basin Camp -> Sunrise Camp
By: Miyar Adventures Guide – Diem Duong
Day 1: Sunrise Trailhead to Berkeley Camp | Distance: 3.8miles | Elevation: 580 gain/1300 loss
Backpacking in Mount Rainier National Park is such a treat and I look forward to it every year. Today myself and my Co-guide Anne met our Miyar Adventures group for a gear check and then drove out to Sunrise Trailhead on the eastern side of Mount Rainier National Park to start our backpacking trip. We were going to backpack an awesome loop starting and ending at Sunrise.
As we made the hairpin turn at Sunrise view point, we saw an amazing view of Mount Rainier. The first of many beautiful views to come on this spectacular route. Before heading out on trail, we divided group gear (food, stoves, fuel), demonstrated how to pack a backpack, and how to put on/adjust backpacks.
Then we headed out on trail, gaining some elevation on our way to Frozen Lake on route to our group campsite at Berkeley Camp. With a quick stop at the lake, we were on our way, losing elevation gradually on our way to camp. It was a hot and sunny day but we were immediately rewarded with stunningly vibrant wildflowers and 2-3 small creeks in which to refill our water bottles.
We arrived at camp with plenty of time to set up tents, chat about Leave No Trace principles and finally eat some delicious Tasty Bites (Chana Masala and Vegetable Masala) with rice. Dinner was followed by soaking in the creek behind camp and dealing with the ever-tricky bear hangs in camp!
Day 2: Berkeley Camp to Glacier Basin Camp | Distance: 6.2miles | Elevation: 2350 gain/2000 loss
We woke up at 6am to a much cooler day. We heated up water for coffee and breakfast. Then our group took down camp and refined our packing skills. We had our first “day-brief” of our trip. We talked about travel time, elevation gain, and mileage. Right before leaving we did a camp sweep to make sure we left the campsite better than we found it.
As our group neared our first main junction, a group of hikers were on trail pointing up the hill. To our delightment, a group of mountain goats including two small baby goats walked along the rocks off to the right side of us. This was shortly followed by marmot sightings in the meadow on our left. Our day was off to an awesome start – only to get better.
On our way to Glacier Basin Camp, our group steadily gained elevation stopping at 1st Borough Mountain for photos and then onward to 2nd Burrough Mountain for lunch. The views of Mount Rainier were unobscured and magnificent. We took a long, well-deserved break and then thought it best to pack up and head down toward camp as the weather rolled in and the rain started! It was actually welcome weather after our hot 1st day. We were so thankful to have some cloud coverage and cooler temps as we hiked along the exposed and alpinesque environment of the boroughs!
After lunch at the top of the 2nd Burough, we dropped about 1700 ft in elevation and our knees were feeling it. Once we hit the Glacier Basin Trail, most of us were wishing we were at camp but we still had to push through a short section of gain that was only .7 miles long but felt more like 2 miles! Everyone slept early and solidly at camp because of all the trail time.
Day 3: Glacier Basin Camp to Sunrise Camp | Distance: 6.2miles | Elevation: 2350 gain/2000 loss
At breakfast, we sang happy birthday to one of our group members, Annie. What a wonderful way to celebrate – we felt very lucky to have been able to share the trail with her! After packing up, we said goodbye to our lovely basin campsite and headed down the hill to White River Camp on our way to Sunrise Camp. Even though it was smokey we still enjoyed some great views and were spoiled with even more wildflowers and even some blackberries. After lunch at White River, we steadily hiked up long switchbacks joining onto a section of the famous Wonderland Trail. This was especially a treat because some of our group wanted to come back one day to do the entire 93 mile long Wonderland Trail.
On our way to Sunrise Camp we saw a bear and its cub and one other lone bear! I’ve only seen bears two other times in Washington so I was surprised to see three in a stretch of trail that was less than a mile long. After settling into camp we had a lovely group dinner. We shared our favorite memories and learnings from our fours days together and then turned into our tents.
Day 4: Sunrise Camp to Sunrise Trailhead | Distance: 1.3 miles | Elevation: 250 gain/150 loss
After two big days, our group decided to sleep in and get some much needed relaxation and camp time. This was a great choice. It allowed everyone to recharge. Sometimes in larger groups, trips can feel like it’s all about packing, hiking, pacing, unpacking, setting up tents, and keeping to a schedule but I think it was so wonderful to take a moment to slow the pace! It reminded me of why we go out into the backcountry: to enjoy nature and spend time with your adventure partners.
Before packing up camp, we made the short jaunt up to the Glacier Overlook. What a view! There was even a marmot warming itself up on the stone trail wall. We said goodbye to our home for the last 4 days and headed back to Seattle. Stopping for coffee and a quick lunch on our way back.
I’ve been guiding the Miyar Adventures Mount Rainier backpacking trip for 3 years in a row now. It’s honestly one of my favorite trips. I’m already looking forward to the next!
Other helpful information if you’re considering backpacking this loop in Mount Rainier National Park:
- Berkeley Camp – Bear Hangs
- Glacier Basin Camp – Large Bear Bins
- Sunrise Camp – Bear Boxes
- Berkeley Camp – Outdoor pit toilet
- Glacier Basin Camp – Outdoor pit toilet
- Sunrise Camp – Outhouse with pit toilet
Interested in booking this trip? https://www.miyaradventures.com/trip/rainier-4-day-backpacking/
Reach out to us for any questions! [email protected]
Check out the 7 principles of Leave No Trace: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/
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