A breathtaking hike, both sometimes in effort and scenery. This takes you past iconic Comet Falls to one of the grandest views of Mount Rainier in the park.

The Van Trump Park Download

Highlights: Several cascades and waterfalls, including Comet, the most photogenic in the park, on the way to flower-filled meadows, a knockout view of Mount Rainier and probably some marmots and pika.

Travel Time (from Urban Centers to Park/Trailhead): Almost two hours from Seattle, about 1 ½ hours from Tacoma, 3 hours 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: Some stretches of dedicated climbing, especially at the end (whew!), and some traverses over rocks.

Distance: 7.6 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: 5,815 feet.

Elevation Gain: 2,726 feet.

Trailhead Waypoint: 46.7790, -121.7823

Maps: Green Trails Mount Rainier West No. 269, USGS Mount Rainier West.

Getting There: From the Nisqually entrance to the park, drive about 10 miles to the Comet Falls trailhead, which is by a large pullout on the left side of the road.

(NOTE: Clicking on an image opens full-sized version).

Sometimes I feel like I take all the fun out of hiking because I lug some 35 pounds or so of camera gear. I have mixed feelings about this one, though. Just look at the rainbows I caught at Comet Falls, after all.

From the trailhead at the top of the stairs, cross a wooden bridge over Van Trump Creek. Stop and watch the creek tumble toward Christine Falls, which you’ll have to go see when you’re finished with the hike.

The trail follows Van Trump Creek through nice, shady forests with a series of cute cascades. At about 1.5 miles, you’ll turn into three-tiered Bloucher Falls. It’s nice, though I’ve heard some mistake it for Comet Falls, which would be a slight disappointment. You’ll see in about 0.2 of a mile. You can walk right up to Comet and, as you continue on, you’ll still get nice views of it from the trail.

At 2.7 miles, you’ll come to a fork. Right is to Van Trump Park, where there is a nice meadow with Mount Rainier as a stunning background and often views of Mount Adams and St. Helen’s. Head left to Mildred Point. You’ll cross back over Van Trump Creek, before it tumbles over Comet falls.

The final ascent to Mildred Point is a slog, up a sandy gully with overgrown grass brushing against your presumably exposed legs (if it’s summer). So here’s the thing: The view you’ll reach is more awesome than beautiful. Mount Rainier is unobstructed, but it’s a geological view of what is left of Kautz Glacier and the rocky Kautz Creek Valley.

But, hey, you accomplished something. And the rewards will be nice views of the toothy Tatoosh.

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