|Area: Longmire||Hike Type: Mountain views||Pass: Natl. Park Pass|
|Distance: 14 mi RT||Duration: 7-8 hrs||Difficulty Level: Strenuous|
|Elevation Start: 2,400||Elevation End: 5,600||Elevation Gain: 3,200|
|Snow-Free: Mid-July – Mid-Oct|
If you’re up a strenuous hike to see one of Mount Rainier National Park’s classic wildflower meadows, then the hike to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground through Rampart Ridge is the trip for you. Named for a Cowlitz Indian who hunted goats in the 1870s, the area is an assortment of beautiful meadows that showcase the mountain’s mantle of glaciers — Tahoma, Pyramid, Success, and Kautz.
After arriving at the park’s Nisqually entrance via Highway 706, drive 6 miles to Longmire and park in the lot behind the National Park Inn. The trail begins on the Trail of the Shadows directly across the main road from the Inn. Walk that loop clockwise (to the left) 1/4 of a mile to the well-signed Rampart Ridge trailhead.
Proceed on Rampart Ridge trail, heading uphill through deep forest on steep switchbacks for about 1.5 miles. The slope lessens slightly. Soon, you’ll get to a place where you can see 4,678-foot Tumtum Peak looming to the west over the far side of the Kautz Creek drainage. You’re about 1.75 miles into the hike at this point. A little bit farther, follow a spur trail to a viewpoint of Mt. Rainier, Eagle Peak, the Longmire area, and a huge part of the Nisqually drainage.
The trail has been climbing constantly since Longmire and it’s undoubtedly been a bit of a strain. But it’s not over. Keep your mind on the prize (Indian Henry’s). The path flattens out and follows upward on a ridge top northeast, right toward Rainier’s summit, for more than a mile. Occasionally, there are views on the left of the Kautz drainage. At mile 3, turn left (north) at the Wonderland Trail junction, dropping down to a crossing of Kautz Creek and march back up to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground. This side trip has added more than 2,100 vertical ft to your trek, and a little over 9 miles to your roundtrip.
Keeping Kautz Creek in view, you cross it high on the mountain’s flanks. Be grateful you didn’t start your hike at Kautz Creek. That’s a real grind, up a precipitous unnamed ridge that many have named, “Never ending.” You gain almost 4,000 ft on that one, and then drop down about 1,000 to get to Indian Henry’s.
You’ve reached this extremely lovely, vast alpine meadowland via Rampart Ridge. In season, Indian Henry’s is a blaze of flowers. A highlight is the view of Mt. Rainier from Mirror Lake, a scene made famous on a 1934 postage stamp, from an Asahel Curtis’ photo. The lake is reached from a 0.7-mile spur trail that starts in the big meadow below the patrol cabin.
Venture on beyond Mirror Lake, and you wind your way toward Pyramid Peak, providing extraordinary views of the mountain. If you have enough time, climb the peak or, if you brought tents and other gear to spend a night in the nearby wilderness camp area, save the ascent of Pyramid until the next day.
If, however, you’re heading back, enjoy the descent to Longmire, filled with memories of a good day of strenuous hiking and rich rewards. If you’re hungry, upon your return to Longmire, refuel and relax at the National Park Inn.
– Mary Janosik
|Starting Point: 46.753611, -121.813611|
Trailhead: N 46° 45′ 13, W 121° 48′ 49