Hiking is a thing in the PNW. People get really [REALLY] psyched on it. And while Rattlesnake Ridge and Mount Si are definitely two of those “you must do this once” things, they’re also typically completely overrun with people in most of the peak hiking months. In an effort to try to get a little quieter with our adventure, my boyfriend and I hit up the all-knowing Google for “places near Seattle where I can hike and not be run over by crowds.” Up popped this little gem: Crystal Lakes Trail.
First of all, the drive out from Seattle is pretty beautiful in spots, especially after you enter the cove of trees that covers Mount Rainier National Park. The trailhead is a bit hidden, but its general location did pop up on my GPS, and a few parked cars tipped me off as to where I needed to stop.
The trail is only about 6 miles, out and back, but the elevation is what gets you. There are two lakes – lower and upper. They’re marked by signs on the trail. I had heard that the most beautiful views lay with the upper lake, so we set that as our goal.
Oh. My. God. If you read reviews of the trail, a lot of people talk about the elevation. They were right. It’s 80% switchbacks and a moderate to difficult climb the whole way. Definitely didn’t need to go to the gym for a couple of days. But the views at the top were completely worth it. About 0.3 miles from the top, we started seeing a lot of wildflowers and listening to cicadas and locusts hum. Just when we thought we couldn’t go anymore, we walked over a little ridge and right down to the lake, pictured here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a glassy body of water. We found some large boulders and crawled up to eat lunch.
It took us about two hours up, and an hour back. Not too shabby!
I’m convinced that all of the bees and flies in Mount Rainer Nat’l. congregate here. Bring something with longsleeves if you’re squeamish about such things.