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

    Mount Rainier

    National Park Washington

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    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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Windy Gap Trail

Traill route from Carbon River entrance to Windy Gap/ NW.
A map of the Windy Gap Trail route from Carbon River entrance. Use of a topographic map of the area is recommended.
 

Trail Description:

Windy Gap

Lake James

Distance, round-trip:

19 miles

22 miles

Elevation gain:

3450 feet

Hiking time, round-trip:

7 hours

9 hours

Wilderness camps:

Isput Creek
Yellowstone Cliffs

Isput Creek
Yellowstone Cliffs
Lake James

As hikers often discover for themselves, Windy Gap is aptly named.



The trailhead now begins at the Carbon River entrance station because flooding damaged the roadbed to Isput Creek Campground.

Reach Ipsut Creek Campground from the Carbon River entrance roadbed, then find the Wonderland Trail above it. Hike two miles up a gentel grade to the junction with the Northern Loop Trail. Cross the Carbon River on a log bridge and turn left at another junction on the far side of the river. The trail soon begins a steep climb up numerous switchbacks through open, dry forest until finally reaching the subalpine meadows at Yellowstone Cliffs. From here the trail climbs for an additional one mile before it enters the beautiful, boulder-strewn meadows of Windy Gap. Beyond the gap, the route descends 1.5 miles to Lake James and the forest below.


Along the Trail:


Mountain goats frequent the Tyee Peak and Crescent Mountain areas near Windy Gap. Binoculars are recommended. Follow the short spur trail known as the Independence Ridge Trail (the junction can be found approximately one mile west of Windy Gap) to a unique natural bridge.


Backpacking:


There are trailside camps at Yellowstone Cliffs, located 10.8 miles from the entrance, and at Lake James Ranger Cabin, 13.5 miles from the entrance. Crosscountry camping opportunities also exist for experienced minimum impact backpackers. Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available park-wide from wilderness information centers, ranger stations, and visitor centers. Fires are prohibited. No pets on trails. Treat water before drinking.

Did You Know?

Volunteers from Japan working on the Kautz boardwalk accessible trail.

Mount Fuji in Japan is Mount Rainier's sister mountain. Visitors from Japan have noted a strong resemblance between the two volcanoes. Mount Rainier is honored to have a contingent of volunteers from Japan come to the park each year for two weeks to work on a project.