The 35 mile Northern Loop in Mt. Rainier National Park is a great and solid backpack. The 90+ mile Wonderland Loop goes all the way around, but the Northern Loop covers the wildest part of the park in a 4-day route in which flat and level trail is at a premium. A hill of less than 1000 feet is an easy one.
Nonetheless, it takes in all kinds of terrain. There are glaciers and mountain views while on the one segment of it that is also on the Wonderland Trail. Then it loops back farther from the mountain, lacking views, but with nice lakes, valleys, meadows, and forests.
We did this Sept 1-4, 2010, and got the weather perfect. It rained just before we arrived so the trails were damp but not muddy, and clouds were moving in as we left. I couldn't imagine doing a route like this without being able to enjoy the views. I was joined by my friend Greg who flew out from Colorado for the trip. Our trailhead was Sunrise, and our camps were Granite Creek, Carbon River, and Fire Creek.
At the trailhead just above Sunrise. We got started at about 4:15.
A marmot sees us off.
Clouds from the previous storm were clearing on our first afternoon. They were gone by sunset.
In the morning we had a slightly obstructed view of Mt. Rainier.
Greg enjoying the view of Winthrop Glacier below Mt. Rainier
One ice slab on the side of the Winthrop Glacier. Although it's hard to see, there was a spring of running water coming right out of the middle of this ice. These internal flows of water are a major part of what is melting glaciers around the world.
The main outlet from Winthrop Glacier
The bridge over Winthrop Creek.
The large debris basin to the east of Winthrop Glacier.
Forest trail - a lot of the hike is like this.