Burroughs Mountains

Area: Sunrise
Hike Type: Mountain views Pass: Natl. Park Pass
Distance: 5.4 mi RT Duration: 3-4 hrs Difficulty Level: Moderate
Elevation Start: 6,385 Elevation End: 7,828 Elevation Gain: 1,443
Snow-Free: Late-July – September  

EDITOR’S NOTE: 5.4 miles, RT is the distance to 2nd Burroughs.

To get as close to the ‘Mountain’ without being ON the ‘Mountain’, the Burroughs Mts. Trail is the one to take. This hike takes you into tundra-like terrain unlike any of the other hikes in the area. However, this tundra is also extremely fragile so please stay on the trail.

There are three mountains on this ridge, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Burroughs, each taking you a little closer to Mt. Rainier. Little Tahoma Peak, the Emmons Glacier and the Russell Cliff are so close that you feel like you could reach out and touch them. From here you can clearly see mountain climbers crossing “The Wedge” on their way to Camp Schurman, the base camp where they stay the night to summit the mountain the following day.

The trailhead to this hike starts out above the Sunrise Visitors Center parking lot behind the restrooms. After taking a left at the Y, you hike along the Sourdough Ridge, 1.5 miles to Frozen Lake. Here is a 5-way junction… just follow the signs. From Frozen Lake, it is 0.7 miles to the top of 1st Burroughs (at 7,300 ft) and another 0.6 miles to the top of 2nd Burroughs (at 7,400 ft). Both are a steady uphill climbs on rocky terrain. Early in the season, there may still be deep snow on the slopes making it impassable. At the top of 2nd Burroughs, someone built a very interesting dome bench. (Also, from here, there is a 2.4-mile trail that descends to the Glacier Basin Trail.)

The first two mountains are well traveled and the third is reachable if you still have the energy and lots of time. It’s not listed on the map, so the distance to the top is not measured, but my best guess is that it is another 1+ miles from the top of 2nd Burroughs to the top of 3rd Burroughs (at 7,828 ft). The last stretch is very steep and soft… determination got us there only once. The incredible view of the Winthrop Glacier was spread out in front of us for 10-15 minutes before clouds spoiled the moment. Mystic Lake can be seen from here as well.

We have had lunch and turned back before reaching the top of 3rd Burroughs twice: the first time, we ran out of steam, and the second time, a nasty storm came in fast and we decided we had better turn back. The weather can turn from good to bad and bad to worse in very little time. Even though we hated to turn back yet again, it was the right decision at the time.

You can return the way you came or make a loop via the Sunrise Rim trail, at the top of 1st Burroughs, back to the parking lot (2.6 miles). This trail follows the Emmons Moraine; only you are 3,000 ft. above it. You will pass the Glacier Overlook, Sunrise Camp and Shadow Lake… all nice places to get awesome pictures. You arrive back at the Sunrise parking lot from the south.

These mountains are a favorite hang out for mountain goats. We have seen herds of 20-25 goats a few times. They are amazing creatures and we are always on the look-out for them when we are here. We have seen them on Mt. Fremont, too. Make sure you bring the binoculars.

– Mary Janosik, Visit Rainier Hiking Expert


Starting Point: 46.915833, -121.643750
Notable Waypoints:

Trailhead: N 46° 54′ 53, W 121° 38′ 32