• Mount Rainier peeks through clouds, viewed across subalpine wildflowers and glacial moraine.

    Mount Rainier

    National Park Washington

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  • Expect delays due to road construction.

    Road construction is underway from the Nisqually Entrance to Longmire. The road has very rough areas. All vehicles should proceed with caution. Mon to Fri expect up to 30 minute delays and slow travel for 7 miles. More »

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Northern Loop Trail

Trail route from Carbon River entrance to the round-trip Northern Loop/ NE.
A map of the Northern Loop Trail/NW route from Carbon River entrance.  Use of a topographic map of area is recommended.

Trail Description:

Distance, round-trip:

40 miles

Elevation gain:

8500 feet

Hiking time, round-trip:

40 hours

Wilderness camps:

Ipsut Creek
Lake James
Mystic Camp

This is a long loop hike through the most pristine wilderness of the park, through forests and meadows, over rivers, under a cliff of colorful rocks, near the Natural Bridge, past numerous mountain lakes, in ever-changing views of Mount Rainier and its glaciers.

This hike now begins at Carbon River entrance station because of flood damage to the roadbed leading to Ipsut Creek Campground. At the upper boundary of the campground, continue on this section of the Wonderland Trail.

Along the

Hike five miles to Isput Creek Campground. Above the campground, the next two miles lie along the valley floor, close to river elevation. At a junction take the left fork across the Carbon River. On the far bank turn left again, downstream. Then begins a series of countless switchbacks, climbing 3,000 feet, mostly in cool forest on a smooth and soft path. At 5.25 miles from Ipsut Creek Campground, pass Yellowstone Cliffs campsite. Above the trail are Tyee Peak and the Yellowstone Cliffs; beside it, a pair of small lakes to the left and another to the right. The tundra of 5800-foot Windy Gap (6 miles from Ipsut Creek) offers wide views, well worth a lengthy lunch stop.

At a few hundred yards beyond the top of Windy Gap is a side trail to Natural Bridge, a 1.75 mile round trip.

The Northern Loop descends 1400 feet in two miles to a camp at Lake James, 4370 feet. Here, 7.2 miles from Ipsut Creek, is the turnaround for overnighters.

From Lake James, the route drops to a crossing of the West Fork of the White River, where a 2500-foot climb begins, at 4.5 miles passing a side trail to Fire Creek Camp. Water is not dependable here; if camping is the plan, obtain water at Van Horn Falls near the West Fork. At 6 miles from Lake James is a junction with Grand Park trail. Continue right another 3 miles to a camp in lower Berkeley Park. Total distance from Lake James, 9 miles.

From Berkeley Park Camp climb 1 mile through meadows to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Turn right and cross 6740-foot Skyscraper Pass. Descend 800 feet to Granite Creek campsite, 4.5 miles from Berkeley Park. From Skyscraper Pass the trail drops a total of 2100 feet to the snout of the Winthrop Glacier and a crossing of Winthrop Creek, a tributary of the White River, then gains 1200 feet to Mystic Camp at 5700 feet, 10 miles from Berkeley Park.

To complete the remaining 8 miles of the loop, the trail climbs 400 feet to a 6100-foot pass and then descends through Moraine Park, crosses the Carbon River to Ipsut Creek, and returns to the starting point at the entrance station.


Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available at park-wide from wilderness information centers, ranger stations, and visitor centers. Treat water before drinking. Fires are prohibited. No pets on trails.

Did You Know?

Northwest face of Mount Rainier and Emmons Glacier as seen from Sunrise.

Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states at 35 square miles of snow and ice with Emmons Glacier being the largest by surface area with 4.3 square miles of ice. The Emmons is best viewed from Sunrise on the NE side of the mountain.