This is one of those glad-I-went-there, destination hikes, requiring effort for the payoff.
The Indian Henry Download
Highlights: Rolling meadows with wildflowers (in season) and views of Mount Rainier and, on clear days, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens.
Travel Time (from Urban Centers to Park/Trailhead): Almost two hours from Seattle, about 1 hour 15 minutes from Tacoma, 3 hours 25 minutes from Portland.
Nearby Supplies and Gas: Eatonville and Ashford.
Must Stop Along the Way: Cottage Bakery in Eatonville for the best maple bars ever, packed lunches.
Difficulty: There is a four-mile stretch that is a pretty unrelenting climb (and descent), so you’ll need cardio capacity and trekking poles.
Distance: 11.5 miles (out and back).
Entrance Fees: $25 per vehicle (as of May 27, 2016), $10 per individual (if walk, bike, etc.), various passes.
Top Elevation: 5,335 feet.
Elevation Gain: 3,759 feet.
Trailhead Waypoint: 46.7364, -121.8555
Maps: Green Trails Mount Rainier No. 269.
Getting There: From the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, drive about three miles to the Kautz Creek parking area (with restrooms and picnic tables) on the right. The trailhead is across the street.
(NOTE: Clicking on an image opens full-sized version).
After the initial, one-mile approach to Kautz Creek, you cross two half-log footbridges and then the real journey begins. The next four or so miles is a pretty unrelenting climb. Most is through old-growth forest, so there is a little temperature break even on hot days. About 3 1/2 miles up are vertical meadows and the trail narrows. The growth along the trail makes it difficult for trekking poles, if you’re using them.
At the very end of July, the rolling meadows leading to the descent into Indian Henry’s were filled with Bear Grass, Columbine, Penstemon, Lupine, Paintbrush, Broadleaf Amica — among the species I could identify.
There were some snow patches in the meadows, as well as tons of mosquitoes and flies. Come prepared!
Just beyond, north of the intersection with the Wonderland Trail, the trail continues to the Mirror Lakes.