Camping at Mowich Lake versus Ipsut Creek
When it comes to camping at Mount Rainier National Park visitors have so many campgrounds and backcountry sites to choose from. Recently a visitor asked
“I only have time to camp at one spot. I’m torn between Mowich Lake or Ipsut Creek. Is one better than the other? Which one should I camp at?”
When choosing the perfect campsite your personal preferences along with what time of year you plan to camp and availability play a major role in your decision. Let’s review the two different sites. Both are rustic, beautiful, remote locations.
Camping at Mowich
PROS: beautiful lake, lots of great hiking, 13 campsites, picnic tables, and vault toilets. You can bring a kayak and go out on the lake. Views of Rainier. Easy access to hike to Spray Falls and Tolmie Peak. Mowich has easy access to subalpine meadows/Spray Park Meadow, please note this area is not typically in full bloom until late July/early August.
CONS: no potable water, requires driving a bumpy 16 mile road to get there. All 13 campsites are first-come-first-serve. Reservations are not accepted. No RV hookups. Campfires not allowed.
Don’t miss reading the official Mowich Lake page on the Mount Rainier National Park website, the content is helpful. You don’t drive right up to your campsite. You’ll need to carry your gear to your site. Planning to camp prior to July 1st? If so we recommend Ipsut campsite over Mowich since there will still be a lot of snow around the Mowich lake area until around the 4th of July weekend. Self registration at the campground kiosk. You’ll need a national park pass. There is no additional fee to camp.
Insider tip: if you camp on a weekend in the busy summer months you may be wise to bring your own toilet paper.
Camping at Ipsut
PROS: easy access to the Carbon River Ranger Station which is convenient for families and first-time backpackers. Close to Ipsut falls. Has a storage area to store food safely away from bears. Approximately 20 campsites. This area is known for the beautiful Carbon River, ancient forest (which is snow free much earlier in the season than the Mowich area), and has a popular hike to Green Lake.
CONS: campfires are not allowed, it’s a 5 mile hike to the camping area, no pets allowed
This area is sometimes thought to be part of the Northern Loop Trail but really it’s part of the Mother Mountain Loop in Mount Rainier National Park. Ipsut Creek campsite does not have vault toilets so you would have to pick-up bluebags when you register for the backcountry permit at the Carbon River Ranger Station, which is also where you would park your vehicle overnight.
Make sure to post your National Park Pass in your car window even while parking on the road. They do check and ticket.
For more information
For additional insight into visiting this area please visit the Mount Rainier National Park website. Another fantastic resource make sure to visit the official Trails and Backcountry Camp Conditions page on the NPS website. The page is updated during the summer and early fall season, it’s incredibly valuable when planning your camping and backpacking trips. Want to chat with a park ranger about the two areas? Call the park information line at 360-569-6575 or fill out the “contact us” form to email the park.