Northern Loop Trail
- Distance, round trip: 40 miles
- Elevation gain: 8500 feet
- Hiking time, round trip: 3-4 days
- Wilderness Camps: Ipsut Creek, Carbon River, Dick Creek, Mystic Camp, Granite Creek, Berkeley Park, Fire Creek, Lake James, Yellowstone Cliffs
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.
Along the Trail
Hike the Carbon River Road 5 miles to Ipsut Campground. From there, follow the Wonderland Trail 1.7 miles to a log bridge crossing over the Carbon River, continuing on to the Northern Loop trail junction. At a junction take the left fork across the Carbon River and on the far bank turn left again, downstream. Then begins a series of steep switchbacks, climbing 3,000 feet, mostly in cool forest. Pass Yellowstone Cliffs campsite, with views of Tyee Peak and the Yellowstone Cliffs. Continue onto to Windy Gap, at an elevation of 5,600 feet.
At a few hundred yards beyond the top of Windy Gap a side trail leads to Natural Bridge, a 1.75 mile round trip. (This is not a maintained trail.)
The Northern Loop trail descends 1,400 feet in two miles from Windy Gap to a camp at Lake James, at 4,370 feet.
From Lake James, the route drops to a crossing of the West Fork of the White River, then climbing 2,500 feet towards Grand Park. Along the climb at 4.5 miles, a side trail leads to Fire Creek Camp. 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.
From Berkeley Park Camp climb 1 mile through meadows to a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Turn right and cross 6,740-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 2,100 feet to the snout of the Winthrop Glacier. Cross Winthrop Creek, a tributary of the White River, then climb 1,200 feet to Mystic Camp at 5,700 feet.
To complete the remaining 8 miles of the loop back to Ipsut Creek Campground, the trail climbs 400 feet to a 6,100-foot pass and then descends through Moraine Park. Cross the Carbon River on the log bridge, then follow the Wonderland Trail back to Ipsut Creek Campground, returning to the park entrance via the Carbon River Road.Backpacking
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.