Indian Bar Trail


Indian Bar Trail

  • Distance, round trip: 14.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2900 feet in, 800 feet out
  • Hiking time, round trip: about 2 days
  • Wilderness Camps: Indian Bar, Nickel Creek

Trail Description
Drive the Stevens Canyon Road west 10 miles from the Stevens Canyon Entrance, or east 11 miles from the Longmire-Paradise road, to the parking lot at Box Canyon (elevation 3050 feet). Find the signed gravel trail directly across the highway from the parking area. Do not take the paved nature trail by mistake.

This is a unique section of the Wonderland Trail along miles of ridge, through subalpine meadows, with views of the southeast side of Mount Rainier. It ends in a broad green valley into which pour a dozen waterfalls. One of the legendary places in the park. A great spot to sit in the moonlight on a late-August night and listen to the bull elk bugling. Generally snow-free late July through September.

NOTE: Always check current trail conditions before heading out. Log footbridges frequently wash out during the winter or other conditions could be affecting the trail.

Along the Trail
The first one mile is easy walking on a moderate grade to Nickel Creek. Good campsites along the stream and on the far bank. In another 0.5 mile is a small creek, the last water before Indian Bar. From Nickel Creek the trail climbs steadily to the Cowlitz Divide, reaching the crest approximately 3 miles from the road. Here are junctions with the abandoned Backbone Ridge Trail and the trail from Ohanapecosh.

The next 4.5 miles are along the crest of the Cowlitz Divide, going up and over some bumps and contouring around others. At times the way is very steep. First, there are glimpses of the mountain through trees. Then the trail climbs higher, the meadows grow larger, and finally, atop a 5914 foot knoll, the mountain comes completely and grandly into the open. To the southeast is Bald Knob. Beyond is Shriner Peak. From the knoll, the trail drops 800 feet to Indian Bar at 5120 foot elevation.

The Ohanapecosh River divides the large green meadow. The shelter cabin is on the west side of the river. At the valley head are small remnants of the Ohanapecosh Glacier. In early summer numerous waterfalls splash down the lava cliffs. Just 100 feet below the shelter is Wauhaukaupauken Falls, a name almost larger than the falls.

Don't forget the considerable elevation gain on the return hike. If transportation can be arranged, Indian Bar can be combined with hiking the Summerland Trail for a beautiful one-way trip of 17 miles.

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.


Last updated: November 20, 2020

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