Since getting to the trailhead involves a significant drive on gravel road, this hike sees fewer boots than trails leaving from Paradise and Sunrise. Spray Falls is attainable by most day hikers, but the gain up to Spray Park is a good test of your fitness level! Your reward on a clear day will be views, views, views of Echo Rock, Observation Rock and Mount Rainier.
You’ll spot the trailhead just to the left of the privvy at the Mowich Lake walk-in campground. For the first three-tenths of a mile, you’ll be hiking the Wonderland Trail, the 93-mile route that encircles Mount Rainier. Luckily, your hike today is considerably shorter. Keep left at the first signed junction as the rolling trail continues through dense forest. Come to a short side trip down to a viewpoint at Eagle Cliff, and your first full-on view of Mount Rainier to the southeast. Back on the main trail, you’ll pass Eagle’s Roost Camp and a lovely creek and waterfall that serves as the campers’ water supply.
After a little over two miles of hiking, you’ll be at a junction where the Spray Park Trail switchbacks steeply along Grant Creek. Decision time! Those with creaky knees or small children might want to take the short side trip to Spray Falls, then call it a day. But the best scenery lies at the end of those switchbacks, so have a quick snack and a drink, and get to climbing.
Your reward begins as Grant Creek goes out of earshot and you come to open meadow after open meadow, surrounded by forest that thins out the higher you go. Start looking left for climbers scaling Hessong Rock and Fay Peak. Now look right — Rainier comes into view and makes all those switchbacks worth it! Notice several blocked social trails where hikers have trampled through the heather in search of marginally better views. You can set a better example by keeping to the main trail and walking and lunching on rock whenever it’s available.
Roughly two miles from the junction with Spray Falls Trail, Echo Rock and Observation Rock come into view, with Tahoma (the Native American name for Rainier) large in the background. You’re near your turnaround point. Instead of climbing up to Seattle Park, look left for a path to a viewpoint down to Mist Park — one of the author’s “Happy Places.” Refuel and return the way you came.
If you’re a more seasoned hiker and up for a challenge, it’s possible to piece together a loop hike that includes the Spray Park Trail. Sometimes called “Around Mother Mountain” (check the map and you’ll see why), the hike starts and ends at Mowich Lake. You’ll start north from the lake, hiking mostly level on the Wonderland Trail, steeply down from Ipsut Pass, level again along the Carbon River, across the Carbon on a sand bar with log footbridges, then again on a suspension bridge, then up Up UP along the Spray Park Trail through Seattle Park and Spray Park. It’s a 16-mile, 4,400 foot-gain thigh burner that’ll leave you grinning from ear to ear.
WTA Pro Tip: Consider packing a cooler in the car to enjoy lunch at one of the many picnic tables at the Mowich Lake walk-in campground. Be mindful though, and clean up thoroughly afterward. As evidenced by the bear poles and food lockers, the campground is frequented by wildlife in search of human food.
- 8.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 1,700 feet
- Highest Point
- 6,500 feet
Hiking Spray Park
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 46.9327, -121.8636 Open in Google Maps