This out and back will guide you through the splendid White River Valley to near the base of one of the few remaining glaciers in the Lower 48. This route was once an old mining road which was rehabilitated for trail use. It follows the White River for about three miles.
Drive through the White River Entrance Station and continue five miles to the White River Campground. Be sure to park in the hiker/climber parking area and not in a campsite. The trail begins at the upper end of the campground.
From the campground, start up the trail as it parallels the cold, glacially fed waters of the White River. At first, the ascent is gradual, but becomes steeper on the final section before entering Glacier Basin. One mile beyond the trailhead is a junction with the Emmons Moraine
Trail. This one-mile round-trip spur trail leads to a viewpoint which overlooks the Emmons Glacier, the largest glacier in the 48 contiguous United States.
For this hike, keep right at the fork with the Emmons Moraine
Trail to stay on the Glacier Basin Trail. Continue your ascent along the White River and take in the splendid views along the way. Some sections of the trail are more rugged than others due to the history of flooding in this valley.
At mile 2.5, you'll encounter the Burroughs Mountain Trail
which branches off to the right and ascends steeply to the top of the valley's northern ridge. Continue for another half mile past this junction to Glacier Basin, the official end of this trail. From Glacier Basin, look for mountain goats on the surrounding slopes and climbers ascending the Inter Glacier to Steamboat Prow.
A climber's track continues past Glacier Basin camp, passing through an area of fragile wetland plants to the base of the Inter Glacier. If you choose to continue on this track, please stay on the trail to protect the vegetation.
Campsites at Glacier Basin are popular with climbers who are beginning their ascent of Mount Rainier. The sites are located in the trees as one approaches the open meadows of the basin. Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available park-wide from wilderness information centers, ranger stations, visitor centers and on our web site.
Dense riparian forest transitions into open subalpine meadows along this route. Wildflowers abound in late spring and summer.
Keep an eye out for mountain goats in Glacier Basin. In contrast to their shaggy all-white coats, Mountain Goats have black lips, eyes, noses, and hooves. A dense warm undercoat allows them to live comfortably at high elevations even during winter. Their hooves have a hard outer ring with a spongy center that helps them "stick" to rocks. Mountain goats are nimble climbers, easily traversing steep rock slopes and cliffs. Both males and females have slim black horns. In males, the horns thicken and curl backwards as the goat ages. Mountain goats will range between subalpine and alpine regions in the park. They eat mosses, lichens, shrubs, some grasses and other vegetation.
Although an effort was made to mine copper ore in this area in the late 1800s, nothing of commercial value was ever extracted and mining efforts were eventually suspended.