It’s no secret that there are tons of great hikes in Mount Rainier National Park, but the Naches Peak Loop trail is easily one of the best. Not only does it afford hikers incredible views of the domineering Mount Rainier, but it also boasts one of the best pay-offs to effort ratios.
This family-friendly trail is famous for its carpets of wildflowers in the summer months, its glassy alpine tarns, and the beautiful sunrises across Tipsoo Lake.
Most hikes with this type of scenery require hours of your time and plenty of labor, but Naches Peak Loop offers the best of both worlds: Incredible views without monumental effort.
Keep reading to access the complete guide on hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail.
Hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail
Distance: 3.3 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 637 feet
Pass: Pass required
Getting to Naches Peak Loop Trailhead
The Naches Peak Loop trailhead is about half a mile west of the Chinook Pass off of SR 410. The parking lot at Tipsoo Lake is where most people choose to start their hike. However, if this lot is full, there is designated parking along the highway shoulder.
There is also an additional lot just north of Tipsoo Lake and another at Chinook Pass. There are plenty of places you can access the trail, and because it is a loop, it doesn’t matter where you begin.
Because this trail is a relatively easy trek with some of the best views in the park, it is a bustling route. Be sure to arrive early in the morning if you hope to find a little bit of solitude along the trail.
Which Way to Hike Naches Peak?
No matter where you get on the trail, make sure you tackle it going clockwise. Not only are the inclines steadier, but the views are much more impressive in this direction. Mount Rainier will be in front of you for much of the hike if you travel clockwise, whereas hiking counterclockwise would put these incredible views at your back.
Naches Peak Loop Trail
Suppose you manage to find a parking spot at the Tipsoo Lake lot, head east, and then turn left at the junction near the trailhead. Alternatively, you could start your trek with the Tipsoo Lake Loop.
This short and sweet loop will add less than a mile (about 0.8 miles) to your journey, and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the two small lakes with Mount Rainier standing tall in the distance. If you hike in the morning, the glassy lakes perfectly reflect the towering Mount Rainier.
The Naches Peak Loop starts with a steady incline up a grassy hill. If you’re hiking in the summer, you can expect to see some vibrant wildflowers along this stretch.
After about a quarter of a mile of hiking through a verdant alpine forest, you’ll emerge onto a footbridge that crosses over the highway you just drove across. The bridge marks the boundary of Mount Rainier National Park, and you’ll be leaving this area behind for the next stretch of the hike.
The Naches Peak Loop Trail overlaps with the famous Pacific Crest Trail. About a mile into the hike, you’ll come across a small lake. This tarn may be unnamed, but it is a beautiful spot to take a break and enjoy the views. After the tarn, you’ll come to a ridge with fantastic views of the Cascade Mountains to your left.
After a series of switchbacks, you’ll reach the top of another ridge (about 1.5 miles into the hike). If the trail had a true summit, this would be it. At this point, the main climb is over, so take your time up here, soaking in the views of Dewy Lake below and the magnificent landscape that surrounds it.
As you begin your descent, Mount Rainer comes into view, and the best part of the hike starts. Not only is this portion of the trail incredibly scenic, but it’s also relatively easy as you are heading downhill.
About 1.7 miles into the hike, you’ll see a detour to Dewy Lake. This add-on is about 3 miles long and affords you some fantastic views of the alpine lakes you just saw from above.
Back on the main trail, take a right turn to continue along the Naches Peak Loop – the PCT continues straight. At about two miles in, the trail opens up the most stunning vistas of Mount Rainier. This is the highlight of the hike, and some consider it the best view in the entire state of Washington!
The last leg of the trail is a bit mediocre compared to the epic outlooks that you just experienced, but you’ll get a few extra looks at Mount Rainier peeking through the forest before you get back to Tipsoo Lake.
When to Hike Naches Peak Loop
Compared to some of the other hikes in Mount Rainier National Forest, you’ll have a relatively short window to hike the Naches Peak Loop. There is often snow present as late as July, and as early as October, so the ideal hiking window is only a few months long.
Late summer and early fall are the best times to hike the Naches Peak Loop. Peak wildflower season usually occurs around early August but may vary a few weeks from year to year.
The fall is also a great time to hike if the weather cooperates. The leaves begin to change colors, and the huckleberry bushes are ripe for the picking.
Beware of bears if you decide to hike in the fall – they also enjoy the huckleberries! If you see a bear along the trail, they will likely avoid you but give it a warning of your presence just in case. Calling out ‘hey bear!’ usually does the trick.
There is no bad time of day to hike the Naches Peak Loop trail. Some prefer early mornings, while others favor the evening for the sunsets. Note that if you are interested in photography, the morning is the best time to hike as the shadows start encompassing the trail in the afternoon.
Tips for Hiking Naches Peak Loop
- Pack plenty of bug spray – especially if you are hiking in the summer.
- Arrive early so you can get a parking spot at Tipsoo Lake.
- Hike during the week if you want to avoid the crowds – weekends and holidays are the busiest time
- The best time for photography is right after the sun comes up. This is also when Tipssoo Lake will be the glassiest for an epic reflection shot.
I’ve been perpetually traveling and living around the world for years but it’s hard to beat Washington and the PNW. After years of road-tripping the area, I guess you can say I know it pretty well! When I’m not writing guides for you, you can catch me somewhere petting a dog, attempting to surf, hiking a volcano, or stuffing my face with bread and cheese.